What to Know Before Renting an RV for Your Next Vacation

I’ve never rented an RV or even driven in one, so when an idea came up recently to take an RV road trip, it got me thinking. I realized I wouldn’t even know where to begin with the what, where, when, or hows of renting a recreational vehicle. When full-time RVer Gaby Cuda from “Catch the Cudas” offered to write a guest post about tips for renting an RV  I thought, right on, now maybe I can learn something too! I hope you found this as helpful as I did in evaluating the different options.

Traveling in an RV (recreational vehicle) is an exhilarating and unique experience – road trips are full of twists and turns (literally) and always end up being a blast. For those of you who have never RVed before: you should try it out as soon as you can! There’s nothing better than exploring the country with all the creature comforts traveling along with you.

If you’ve been dreaming of RVing, I have great news for you: you don’t have to buy an RV to do it! Renting an RV is simple, safe, and affordable, and I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about it right here. If you do want to invest in an RV, be sure to read this to pick the best family RV.

Make sure to also check out this RV packing list to get ready for your trip and see my friend Bryanna’s tips for planning an RV trip.

tips for renting rv

Getting Started – Weighing Your RV Rental Options

You have several different options for renting an RV, each with pros and cons. What you end up choosing comes down to your travel needs and which service can meet them. You can rent an RV in the following ways:

  • Through a chain dealership service, like Cruise America. Chains are good if you want to look for relocation specials or one-way deals. However, their inventories are often limited, and the customer service isn’t always consistent.
  • From a smaller, family-owned RV rental business near you or your destination. You can expect great customer service and people that will go out of their way to make your experience amazing. However, smaller businesses sometimes have higher rates in order to cover overhead.
  • Via a peer to peer RV rental network, like RVshare. You’ll find an unlimited inventory, great rates, and wonderful customer service. If you’re looking for one-way rentals or relocation deals, however, you probably won’t find them here.

As you can see, it’s all about how you plan to travel and what features you value most. If you’re looking for a specific RV (or want something really cool), try a peer-to-peer network. If you want to drive across the country and fly back, check out a chain rental service.

Deciding Which RV is Right for You

If you haven’t done it already, you need to figure out what type of RV works best for your traveling family. There are thousands of different RV types and configurations, so it can seem a little daunting at first. Here are the basic things you should know:

  • Class A RVs are your quintessential motorhomes. They look like busses, drive like busses, and can be up to 45 feet in length! They usually have slideouts, which open up to create more space once you’ve parked for the night. You may want to take a test drive before renting a Class A, as driving one takes a bit of finesse.
  • Class Cs are another popular type of motorhome. They’re built on truck chassis’ and have beds over the driving area. You’ll often see these for rent at the large chains, as they’re the easiest to drive and therefore great for newcomers. They usually range between 25-30 feet, though diesel “Super C” models can be as long as 45 feet.
  • Class Bs are converted vans, AKA camper vans. They’re pretty compact (around 25 feet or less) and are best for one or two people. A camper van may or may not be self-contained, meaning you have a bathroom, kitchen, and a place to sleep. Usually, they’re not.
  • Travel trailers are towable RVs, which means you’ll need a truck to pull them. They have the biggest range size-wise and can be as little as 9 feet or as big as 43 feet. Travel trailers are more spacious because there’s no designated driving area. However, they can be difficult to tow since they attach on a tow hitch and pull behind the vehicle.
  • Fifth Wheels, like travel trailers, are towable. The difference is that fifth wheels attach into the bed of your truck, right over the axle. This makes them sturdier and easier to tow. Again, they vary quite a bit in size, but you’ll typically find them in the range of 25-40 feet.

When trying to decide what RV you want, consider your experience and family size. Class Cs are best for new RVers, since driving them is familiar. Class As offer more space and often have more luxurious amenities. Towable motorhomes are convenient because you can detach them if you need to make a quick run into town for errands.

How to Rent an RV

Now that you’ve decided which RV to rent and which service to use, I’ll to tell you how the whole process works. It’s going to be similar across the board, regardless of where you rent:

  • You’ll see available inventory based on your location and travel dates. Look through and find the RV you want. Make sure you look for discounts! You may find specials for longer rentals, off-season rentals, one-ways, or relocations.
  • Check the website or ad for restrictions. There are often limits on how many miles you can drive each day, and how long you can run the generator. You’ll have to pay extra if you go over the limits. There may also be contingencies on how many people you can fit in the RV and what you need to do before you return it (like dumping the holding tanks).
  • When you’re ready, you can usually reserve the RV through an online form. You’ll need to put down a security deposit, which you may or may not get back when you return the RV, depending on the rental terms.
  • You’ll need to get insurance. Most rental companies offer liability insurance and 24-hour roadside assistance. However, you’ll need auto insurance as well. You can either get a temporary binder through your insurance carrier, or in some cases, purchase insurance through the rental service.
  • When you pick up the RV, you’ll do a walkthrough and get a demonstration on how to use the systems. You’ll sign the paperwork, get the keys, and hit the road! Upon return, they’ll do another walkthrough to make sure there’s no damage or overages.

The Wrap Up

That’s it! It’s a pretty simple process for such a great payoff – a vacation on wheels! So what do you think? Have you ever rented an RV before? Would you rather rent from a big chain or an individual on RVshare? Share your thoughts in the comments!

About the Author

Gaby Cuda is a full-time RVer that has been traveling the U.S. with her husband and her Maltipoo. She has been to over 20 states and plans on tackling the east coast next year. During her down time, she enjoys hiking, making music with her husband, and sipping on flat whites.


Tips for renting an RV for your next family vacation from a full-time RVers -- where to look, what to get and what you need to know before your rent.

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Publish Date: December 19, 2016

1 thought on “What to Know Before Renting an RV for Your Next Vacation”

  1. Don’t forget ‘delivered RV rentals’. Some are peer to peer “by owner” options as on RVPlusYou.com and others are from small local family-owned operations that will deliver. Great option for those who want to “Go RVing” but don’t want to drive or tow!

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