Tips for Renting an RV or Camper for Your Summer Getaway

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Beautiful hispanic couple sitting in a camper van, looking out the window on a summer day.

If you are planning your summer vacation, you may be considering renting an RV or camper. The coronavirus pandemic has made them more appealing than ever. RVs and campers give you the freedom to travel and see multiple sights – while maintaining a private space that you control. There are plenty of factors you should consider before you rent an RV, especially if you are a first timer.

What to Know Before Renting an RV or Camper

To get the most of your RV rental and to make sure your vacation goes off without a hitch, follow these tips:  

Get to know different RV classes. One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make is what kind of RV you want to rent. Both towable RVs (often called campers) and motorized RVs are available. If you are interested in a camper, you’ll need a vehicle that can pull it. If you prefer a motorized RV, you should think about what kind of transportation you’ll need (if any) after the RV is parked.

Motorized RVs come in three separate classes: A, B, and C. You generally don’t need a special license to drive any RVs, but there are big differences in the way each class drives. Class A RVs are the largest and can measure up to 45 feet in length. They are also the hardest to maneuver because of their large size, and may not be suitable for someone who has never driven an RV before. Class B RVs fall between 16 and 22 feet long, and are best suited to a couple or individual. They are also the easiest to drive, since they handle like a large truck or van. Class C RVs are in between, usually sleeping four to six people and measuring 21 to 35 feet long. A Class C RV drives something like a moving truck, with no rear-view mirror capability.

Once you’ve decided what kind of RV best suits you and your traveling companions, you can then narrow your search to specific models within a class. Knowing what kind of RV you’ll be renting will also help you plan other aspects of your trip.

Budget your trip. Depending on the size of the RV, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $300 per night on average. Luxury Class A RVs can cost considerably more per night. However, coming up with a trip budget involves much more than just the rental price per night of the RV. You’ll also need to factor in insurance, gas, campground fees, food, and any additional activities you have planned for your trip. Keep in mind that RV rental companies often allot you a certain number of miles and generator time. If you go over the designated amounts, you’ll be charged for additional miles or time.

Choose a booking company. Once you know what kind of RV you want to rent and how much you can spend, you can begin browsing options with different booking companies. Here, too, you have several options. Some booking companies own their vehicles and offer standardized rates and experiences. Others work more like AirBNB; they have a wide variety of RVs owned and leased by individuals. Policies vary from business to business, and while some companies include things like mileage and insurance in their booking price, others offer them as add-ons that must be paid for separately. Be sure to read up on each booking company’s policies and look over past customer reviews before you do business with them.

Take a walkthrough. When you find an RV or camper you are interested in renting, it’s important to take a walkthrough tour. Not only will you be able to see if the RV measures up to its online description, you can also learn how to operate the RV. Take advantage of a walkthrough to find out how the generator and electrical hook ups work, how to dump water tanks, how to operate the awnings, or any other basic functions you are unsure about.  

Purchase insurance. If insurance isn’t included in the basic price of your RV rental, be sure to purchase it separately. Most states require at least liability insurance for motorized RVs. Campers are usually covered by your regular car insurance policy, but be sure to check with your insurance company to make sure. In any case, a good insurance policy will give you peace of mind and protection in case of accidents, bad weather, or theft.

Plan your route. Start planning your route by deciding where you will park your RV during your journey. If you want to park at a U.S. National Park, you’ll need to book well in advance, sometimes a year or more. You’ll also need to book in advance for state parks and privately-owned campgrounds. If you are new to driving an RV, you might want to choose pull-through parking spaces instead of spaces you’ll have to back in to. In addition, some hotels and other tourist destinations offer RV parking for visitors.

After you know where you’ll park, double check your chosen route to make sure it doesn’t include any narrow roads, low bridges, or tunnels that the RV won’t fit in or under. Keep the height of your RV in mind when you make pit stops, too. First time RV drivers sometimes forget about common low clearance situations, such as fast food drive-throughs.

Know what to bring. Amenities vary from one RV to another so make sure you know what’s included before you start packing. Some booking companies include things like sheets, utensils, and cookware, while others don’t. Knowing what is included will help you avoid packing non-essentials. It’s a good idea to pack a tool kit and a first aid kit, if these aren’t already on board the RV.

Learn to set up at campsites. Many seasoned RV renters advise arriving to your campsite early. It’s much easier to park and set up electric and water hook ups while there is still plenty of daylight. Read the RV manual before your trip to understand how to hook up at a campsite and how to dump wastewater. Keep in mind that dumping wastewater can be a messy experience, and many campers prefer to pay for dump services on site. This may be a preferable option if your campground provides this service. Other campers use public restrooms and showers to avoid dumping waste at all.

For More Information

Visit BBB.org to research booking companies before you rent an RV. Getting ready for a trip this summer, see the BBB’s tips on planning your next vacation and adapting travel plans for coronavirus.

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