Vacations have changed a bit amid the coronavirus pandemic. But it’s still possible to have a socially distant road trip by renting an RV.
While many RV rental companies saw up to a 1000% boost in RV bookings in early 2020, according to Forbes, not all services are created equal. Here’s how to scout the top RV rental companies for your next vacation.
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How to find the right RV rental for your next road trip
Consider a variety of factors when choosing a reliable RV for your next adventure:
Type of RV and how many people it sleeps. Size does matter. Choose an RV that’s large enough for your entire family or friend group to sleep in comfort. You’ll also need to decide whether you want a tow-behind or motorized RV.
Cost and fees. Aside from the rental price, take a look at the miscellaneous fees, including cleaning costs, service fees and insurance expenses to find an RV in your budget.
Minimum stay requirements. Check to see if there’s a minimum number of nights required to rent the RV.
Mileage limits and overage rates. Consider how far you can drive before you get dinged for going over your allotted mileage.
Trip cancellation coverage. Read the fine print to see if you’ll get billed if you need to unexpectedly cancel your trip.
Delivery. Some RV owners or rental agencies offer the option to have the RV delivered to you, while others require you to pick it up yourself.
Roadside assistance. Consider protection if you’re stranded or broken down by the side of the road.
Electrical systems. Make sure that your RV has enough battery systems to support all of your electronics.
Pet-friendly. Find an RV rental that welcomes your pets, too.
Extra features. Take note of any additional perks, including a fully stocked kitchen, camping chairs and linens and towels.
Reviews. Research how other renters feel about their experience.
How much does it cost to rent an RV?
An RV rental can cost anywhere from $50 to $450 per night, before fees and add-ons. Your ultimate price depends on several factors, including type, age and condition of the RV, as well as any extra features and amenities.
How does renting an RV work?
RV rental companies help connect RV owners with potential renters. Search and browse a few different RVs until you find one that fits your budget and vacation needs.
After you reserve the rental, enjoy your home away from home. Then, dump the sewer tanks, fill up the gas and return the RV.
What type of insurance do I need?
If your RV is on the road, you’ll need state-mandated liability insurance, which covers any costs if someone is injured or tries to sue you.
On the other hand, it might also be a good idea to supplement basic liability insurance with more comprehensive RV rental insurance, which covers you if you have an accident.
Your auto policy might extend liability coverage to a rented recreational vehicle. You can also purchase insurance through your rental company or a third-party insurer.
Do I need a special license to drive an RV?
Maybe. Your valid driver’s license should be enough to drive most RVs. Some states have special licensing requirements for large RVs, such as a commercial driver’s license (CDL) for vehicles over 26,000 pounds.
8 extra fees and costs that come with renting an RV
Aside from the daily rental fee, count on the following additional expenses:
Gas. Since RVs get between eight and 10 miles per gallon, budget for your gas bill based on the distance you’ll drive.
Insurance coverage. Some rental companies automatically include a form of insurance protection in your quote. Consider upgrading your insurance or get added coverage for an additional fee.
Security deposit. You might need a lump sum for the upfront security deposit, which the rental company or RV owner would use to cover costs if something goes wrong.
Mileage overage fee. You generally get a daily mileage allowance and a fee for each mile you go over.
Out-of-state fee. A fee if you cross state lines.
Extra amenities. Some companies charge a fee for amenities, including utensils and bedding.
Generator fee. Rental RVs typically allot several hours of generator use each day and a fee for each hour over.
Campground fees. If you’re looking to park your RV overnight at a campground, you’ll need to pay an RV campground rate.
Pros and cons of renting an RV
Renting an RV has distinct advantages and drawbacks:
Home away from home. Get outdoors and travel with all the luxuries of your home while social distancing. Read our guide to RV camping before you head out to ensure you’re prepared.
Browse before you buy. Renting allows you to test drive a few different models before purchasing.
No owner obligations. With renting, you’re free of loan payments, the headache of storing your RV when it’s not in use and RV maintenance and repairs.
Difficult to find parking. Parking is a bit more complicated in public parking lots, including restaurants, supermarkets and tourist attractions, because you’ll need to look for an area to safely leave a vehicle that’s over 20 feet long.
Planning. Vacationing in an RV requires careful planning to find an available campground to settle in for the night.
Low gas mileage. RVs run up steep gas bills because they generally only get about eight to 10 miles per gallon.
Difficult to drive. While you might not need a special license to drive an RV, they handle differently than cars.
How to rent an RV in 4 steps
Although the signup and renting process varies by service, you’ll generally need to:
Nail down what type of RV you want to rent. Determine how many people you’re looking to accommodate and what facilities and features you need to ensure you rent the best RV for your trip.
Compare your options from a few RV rental websites. Browse available listings and pick an RV that meets your needs.
Make your reservation. During this step, you’ll need to decide on a pickup location or whether you want the RV delivered to you.
Get to know the RV and hit the road. No matter if you’re picking it up or having it delivered, take the time to talk to the person you’re renting the RV from to get any questions answered to ensure you feel comfortable behind the wheel.
Ask an expert: Advice for RV road trips during COVID-19
Cofounder and CMO of Outdoorsy
Here are a few tips for taking your first RV road trip during the coronavirus pandemic:
Don’t forget the essentials. Pack masks, hand sanitizers, gloves, and whatever other items you would use on a daily basis in your “new normal” routine at home.
Stock up on groceries before heading out. Try to stock up on groceries or any other items you’ll need ahead of time so you minimize your interaction with smaller communities you may be traveling through.
Practice washing your hands and social distancing. When you’re outside the RV, make sure you take the same precautions you would when you’re venturing out of your house – wash your hands after touching things like a gas nozzle and RV hookups, maintain your distance from park rangers and campground attendants to protect both you and them, don’t crowd others when you’re visiting a trailhead or waiting in line to get to an entrance of an attraction. And overall just be cognizant when you’re visiting smaller communities that it’s important to take measures to protect yourself, as well as the residents of the smaller communities you’re visiting that may not have the same supplies in their stores or the same healthcare infrastructure as big cities.
Ask the RV owner about their cleaning process. One of the beauties of being a peer-to-peer platform is you get to talk with real people and we highly encourage renters ask RV owners as many questions as they want in order to feel safer and more comfortable about their trip. Want to know more about their cleaning procedures? You can ask them before booking your trip. Want to know which campgrounds nearby are best for boondocking or dispersed camping/socially distant camping? You can ask them that too. Outdoorsy RV owners were once first-time RVers too, and more often than not they’re eager and excited to share their practices and road trip tips with potential renters.
RVs are generally split into two groups: motorized and towable.
Types of motorized RVs
You can drive and live in a motorized RV or motorhome — eliminating the hassle of hitching and unhitching the vehicle. Here are a few types of motorized RVs:
Class A. The largest of the motorized RV group with luxury features and spacious interiors.
Class B. A smaller RV, similar to a van, that’s easier to drive and more fuel-efficient than its Class A counterparts.
Class C. A midsize motorhome that’s a cross between Class A and Class B.
Types of towable RVs
Towable RVs are nonmotorized RVs that require you to hitch them from your car or truck. Here are a few categories of towable RVs:
Fifth-wheel trailers. The largest of the towable RVs, which can range from 20 to 40 feet long.
Travel trailers. A versatile RV with a wide range of amenities and floor plans.
Sport-utility trailers. These “toy haulers” combine living quarters and a pull-down ramp to transport sport vehicles or “toys,” including personal watercraft, ATVs, golf carts and motorcycles.
Truck campers. A cozy towable RV that sleeps two to four people with a bit of space for a kitchen, dining area, storage and a bathroom.
Pop-up campers. Compact trailers whose extendable sides fold up during transport. These campers are lighter and easier to maneuver than other trailers, but offer limited protection from the environment.
12 rookie mistakes to avoid on your next RV adventure
We asked skilled RVers with a combined total of over 87 years of RV experience for their expert advice on mistakes to avoid as you jet off on your first RV road trip.
Not test-driving your RV before hitting the road. If you are renting an RV for a long distance trip, I encourage you to take a few local trips to nearby campgrounds to get to know your RV and how it drives before you hit the open road. You can find even more tips for first-time RVers on RV Advisor’s blog. — Gigi Stetler, CEO of RV Sales and founder of RV Advisor with over 30 years of experience
Not researching where you want to go before you go. With the coronavirus pandemic, many campgrounds aren’t running at full speed like they have been. So it pays to do your research before heading to a state park that might be closed. Each day, we’re monitoring the news of campground reopenings taking place in each state and updating our list of state park systems and their status to reflect these developments. Daily updates can be found on Outdoorsy’s blog and, as always, we recommend following local guidelines and giving your local state park office a call for the most up-to-date information before planning a visit. — Jen Young, cofounder and CMO of Outdoorsy with 6 years of RV experience
Renting an RV that’s too big on your first go-around. Driving an RV should never be a case of “go big or go home” because you may just get so far and be very fearful of the trip back. Anything over 26 feet or 4,500 pounds will severely restrict your ability to drive, park, enjoy national parks, camp, etc. You don’t want to hate the experience, and it’s a guarantee you will once you add in some high winds, poor driving conditions, heavy traffic, and limited camping locations due to your oversize. You can find more safety tips for driving an RV on the Bowlus Road Chief blog. — Geneva Long, seasoned RVer and CEO of Bowlus — a luxury travel trailer company
Relying only on Google Maps. Google Maps might not take into account that you’re driving an RV so it can take you through roads with low branches, low clearance bridges or tunnels or even roads with weight limits. Always plan your route in advance and there are online tools available to plan routes specifically for RVs. — Edgar Arroyo, 10 years of experience in the tourism industry
Forgetting to do a thorough walk-around before leaving the campground. I’ve seen a few RVs driving with the sewer hose still connected and dragging on the ground. Or they try to drive off with the awning still open. So, be sure to do a walk-around of your RV and campsite. It’s not a bad idea to make a checklist so you aren’t forgetting anything. You can learn more about how to hook up and detach an RV sewer hose on Camper FAQs. — Tory Jon, owner of Camper FAQs who’s been RVing for over 10 years
Not taking advantage of boondocking. We found the cost of staying at RV parks was adding up quickly for our family. The solution was to start boondocking — or essentially dry camping on public land off the grid. It’s typically free, or you can stay at state parks for as little as $10 a night, sometimes with water and electricity. Not only was this decision the most cost effective, but we get to live in the most beautiful settings, surrounded by nature — something we love. — Michelle Knight, personal brand coach, marketing strategist and the founder of Brandmerry.com who’s been RVing for 1.5 years
Forgetting to download maps before heading off the beaten path. Smartphones usually have our backs when it comes to GPS, so many of us forget that large swaths of the country and world don’t have the greatest Internet. Before heading into rural areas or the deep wilderness, channel your inner MapQuest user like it’s 2005 and download your routes. For maximum preparedness, consider picking up a good old-fashioned physical map, too. — Jonathan Frey, CMO of Urban Bikes Direct
Not using mesh drain covers for your sink and shower. You need to stop the hair before it goes down the drain, as you are not in a house with public plumbing. It will get caught in the pipe and trust me, you will be standing outside knee deep in dirty water when you figure out how to unclog it. Or worse yet you will overflow your shower inside, and then you have wet tiles and mold. — Dr. Cali Estes, RVing for 4 years
Not understanding the complexities of your black and gray tanks. No one likes to talk about poop, but it is a part of RVing. Watch a few YouTube videos to understand why you need to drain the black tank first, how to flush the drains and how to avoid a “poop pyramid.” Best advice? Get your family to use campground toilets as often as possible! Find even more newbie tips for renting your first RV on Traveling Mom. — Silvana Clark, RVing for 5 years
Not using precaution when driving downhill. Going down steep grades in mountainous areas can be stressful and, if you do it wrong, can burn through brake pads. If you come down from a mountain pass, like I did, and can smell the tell-tale “you’ve used your brakes too much” smell, then you need to do something different next time. Here’s what to do, in four easy steps.
1. If you have no experience in “down-shifting,” talk with an old-timer or watch a YouTube video before you take your RV into the mountains.
2. When you know you are about to go down an extended steep grade, get in the right-hand lane and slow down as soon as the grade starts to steepen. A lot of cars and even trucks will whiz by you and that’s fine. Do your best to keep the speed down as you go, tapping your brakes when the speed picks up.
3. Downshift before you need to, in anticipation. It’s much easier to downshift when your RV is under your control and not flying down the mountain.
4. When you get to the bottom of a very steep extended decline, check on the smell coming from your wheels. If there is little or no smell, you did a great job. If there is a strong smell, you need to do something differently next time. — Michelle Fishburne, RVing for 14 years
Letting water stand in your RV for too long. Make a habit of draining any standing water from your RV’s sinks, toilet, and shower. Try to do this on a regular basis, but definitely dry your RV before storing it. Otherwise, you’re likely to attract mosquitos and other insects. You can find the best mosquito repellants to bring on your RV adventure over on Pest Strategies. — Ed Spicer, seasoned RVer and CEO of Pest Strategies
Overpacking. Making the mistake of overpacking in an RV can really change the mood of the trip with others and make things a bit uncomfortable. If you overpack, then every time you do anything, you will usually need to move everything. Make sure every item is considered and has an accessible home. If you’re going on a three-week road trip with your partner and you might golf once, leave the golf bag at home and rent from the course if you do decide to play. Another reason to be considerate of every item you bring is the movement of items on the road. Make sure they are living in a tight home with no room to move. The living size you deem necessary will also determine what sort of roads you will be able to drive. You can learn more about the different types of RVs available to rent over on VacationRenter’s blog.— Zander Buteux, RVing for 7 years and growth lead at VacationRenter
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Frequently asked questions about renting an RV
Here are even more answers to common questions about renting an RV.
How many people can sleep in an RV?
Most RVs sleep fewer than 10 people. But it’ll ultimately depend on what type of RV you get. Smaller RVs, such as truck campers, only accommodate two to four passengers, while larger RVs have sleeping accommodations for up to 10.
Are there RV rentals with unlimited mileage?
Yes. Some RV rentals have no mileage limit, so you can drive as far as the road will take you. The trade-off for more driving freedom is a higher rental price. You should also expect to have a higher gas bill, the more miles you burn.
How does a one-way RV rental work?
A one-way RV rental works similarly to a regular RV rental. You’ll browse for a vehicle that fits your needs and make a reservation. With one-way rentals, you’ll pick up your RV from your departure location, and instead of returning it to the same place, you’ll drop off your RV at your arrival location.
Kimberly Ellis is a writer at Finder. She hails from New York City with a BA from Queens College and a New York State teaching certificate. After teaching in both public and private schools, Kimberly decided to take the world by storm and dive into the media industry — where she covers everything from home loans and investing to K–12 education and shopping. She’s also an aspiring polyglot, always in a book and forever on the hunt for the perfect classic red lipstick.
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