Are you thinking of renting an RV for the first time? If so, you’re in for a fun and exciting experience!
However, there are a few things you need to know before hitting the open road.
Below we provide 15 tips for first-time RV renters that cover everything you need to know for your first road trip – from which type of RV to rent to planning out the trip. Plus, we threw in a checklist to help make the process easier.
Renting an RV can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to be prepared beforehand. So, let’s jump right in!
15 RV Rental Tips for Beginners
These tips will guide you through the entire RV rental vacation process, starting with planning the trip.
Outline Your Trip in Advance
Before booking your RV rental, you want to have at least a rough idea of the following:
- How long your trip will be
- Where you’ll be staying
- Who’ll be going on the trip (more importantly, the number of campers staying in the RV)
- An estimate of the total amount of miles you will travel
- Any extra camping gear and accessories you’ll be bringing along
We don’t need to start making any campground or park reservations just yet, as we’ll get to that later.
But, knowing the answer to these will help you when it comes time to choose your RV, book your rental, and budget trip costs.
For example, they will help you decide:
- How many days you will need to book your rental and pack for (which can influence the size of the RV needed).
- There may be special considerations if you plan on boondocking or staying at a campground with amenities.
- The number of campers in the RV will again influence the size of RV you will need to get and potentially the amenities it contains. Plus, it’ll help prevent you from overpaying for a large RV if you don’t need the extra room.
- Having an estimate of the total miles you plan to travel will come in handy when renting as some rentals come with unlimited miles, while others you have to pay per mile. It also comes in handy when budgeting for fuel costs.
- Additional camping gear and accessories can influence the size of the RV you will need. Plus, gear like kayaks may require a roof rack, or if you need to tow a vehicle behind, you will require an RV with the ability to do so.
Choosing the Right RV
Once you have a good idea of how your trip will go down, we can then choose the motorhome that will best fit your needs.
You’ll want to find an RV with enough sleeping space for all the travelers, and with extra space for everyone’s gear and to lounge around. Plus, if you plan to cook meals in your motorhome, ensure it has all the appliances needed.
Tip: RVs come in different shapes and sizes, and just because it says it sleeps eight people doesn’t mean it will be comfortable. Virtual tours of the vehicle help, but if possible, get inside the RV so you can get a feel for its interior space before renting.
Here is a quick overview of the different types and sizes of RVs you can rent to help you decide which is the best option:
- Class A Motorhome: Class A motorhomes are the largest of the bunch and are ideal for large groups. While class A motorhomes can be expensive to rent, they offer several advantages, including plenty of interior space, ample storage, and a variety of high-end features.
- Class C Motorhome: Not as big as a Class A, but bigger than a Class B, these motorhomes usually feature a full kitchen, dining and/or living area, and a bathroom. They will typically sleep between 4-8 people.
- Class B Camper Van: Camper vans are one of the most popular types of rentals because they are easier to drive and maneuver than a Class A or C. One of the biggest fears of traveling in an RV for beginners is having to drive such a large vehicle. Camper vans eliminate most of that fear. They are perfect for groups of up to 2-3 people.
- Travel Trailer: These are a type of camper (sometimes called a caravan) that you pull behind your vehicle. They can vary in size, from 8 to 30ft! You should have experience towing trailers behind a vehicle. That includes maneuvering, backing up, and parking. You’ll also need a vehicle that can tow it.
- Fifth Wheel: Fifth wheels are like travel trailers on steroids! They are perfect for groups of up to 8 people, depending on their size. They have many of the amenities and luxuries of a Class A, but you tow them behind you instead of driving them.
- Pop-Up Camper: On the other end of the pull-behind spectrum are pop-up campers. They are a good option for 1-5 people that simply need a shelter to sleep and, in some models, cook. They are typically the least expensive of the bunch.
Once you’ve got an idea of the type of RV you want, it’s time to book your rental!
Where to Book Your RV
When booking an RV, you have three main options:
- Peer-to-peer rental company: Companies like Outdoorsy and RVshare allow you to rent an RV from a private owner near you. Like an Airbnb for campers.
- Corporate rental company: Corporate rental companies like Cruise America own their fleet of vehicles with rental locations set up across the U.S.
You may also be able to rent an RV from a local RV dealer, but the two options above are the most popular.
There are pros and cons to using a peer-to-peer company versus a corporate rental company. Still, we tend to lean towards peer-to-peer companies like Outdoorsy as they tend to offer the best deals, the largest variety of RVs, and have industry-leading travel protection and roadside assistance.
Here’s a comparison table of the 5 best RV rental companies to help you find the best option for your next rental.
How to Find the Cheapest RV Rental
As we eluded to above, the cheapest way to rent an RV is typically to use a peer-to-peer RV rental company like Outdoorsy.
You can also save money by choosing an RV that is no bigger than necessary (this can help save on gas, too), and, if possible, choose a cheaper type of camper. For example, a pop-up camper that sleeps five will, in most cases, be cheaper to rent than a Class-C that sleeps the same.
Here are a couple of articles that break down how much you can expect to pay for different types of RVs and durations:
- How Much Does It Cost to Rent an RV?
- How Much to Rent an RV for a Weekend?
- Average Cost to Rent an RV for a Week
- How Much to Rent an RV for a Month? (Real Examples)
- How Much Is It To Rent A Pop-up Camper?
And be sure to check out our guide, How to Rent an RV for Cheap, for more money-saving tips!
Beware of Additional Rental Fees
On top of the base price of renting an RV, there are usually additional costs and fees that may include:
- Rental deposit
- Insurance fees
- Mileage fees
- Extra amenity fees (Cruise America, for example, charges for kitchen essentials like pots, pans, and utensils)
- Propane use
- Dumping fees
And so on. It’s a good idea to fully understand these fees, particularly rental and campground fees, to help stay within your budget.
Calculate Fuel Costs Ahead of Time
Unfortunately, gas mileage is not great with RVs, so it’s a good idea to use your estimated travel miles to calculate your potential fuel costs before leaving on your trip.
With that said, there are a few ways to save on fuel costs when traveling in an RV:
- Keep a steady pace. Constantly flooring your RV and speeding will burn through gas faster than staying at a steady pace.
- Use cheap gas finder apps. Mobile apps like Gas Buddy can help you find which gas station has the cheapest gas near you.
- Fill up early in the week. In general, gas prices are cheaper early in the week (Monday and Tuesday) and rise on the weekends.
Other little habits can also add up in gas savings, like limiting AC use, not letting the engine idle for too long, etc.
Understand Your Insurance Plan
Typically, you’ll get a pretty solid insurance plan if you rent through a reputable company (like any of the five mentioned above). But, it’s important to actually read and understand the insurance plan, so you know exactly what is covered.
And, if it fits in your budget, buy extra protection! The peace of mind that comes with extra protection can lead to a more enjoyable, stress-free family vacation.
Read the RV Rental Agreement Fine Print
I’ve never seen anything nefarious regarding rental agreements from reputable RV rental companies, but it’s still important to know exactly what you’re getting into with your agreement.
Understanding the rental agreement can also help avoid additional fees, acts that may void insurance claims, etc. And they can contain important contact information that you’ll want handy in case you need assistance or have an emergency.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Anytime during the rental process or while on your trip, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Whether those questions are directed at your RV rental company or fellow RVers at the campground. We are a tight-knit community and love helping others out.
Remember, a simple question now can save you a lot of headache and stress later!
Finalize Your Trip Plans
Remember that rough trip outline we made above? Well, now it’s time to finalize those plans! If you haven’t already, you’ll want to:
- Book your campground reservations. This should be done well in advance, especially if traveling during the busy summer months, as campgrounds can fill up quickly.
- Make sure your routes are planned out and, if possible, saved in your GPS. Trust me, this will save you the headache of getting lost later. Be sure to look out for road closures and high traffic areas (which can add to the stress of driving an RV if it’s your first time).
- Are you planning on doing any activities or visiting attractions at your stop? If possible, book your reservation for these activities ahead of time. And take advantage of City Passes to get access to multiple special attractions for a discount.
Get Organized and Make a Checklist
The best way to lessen the chances of forgetting something on your trip is to create a checklist of the things you’ll need. I’ve found that this helps relieve the stress and anxiety of trying to pack for a vacation, especially if this is your first RV trip where you might not know what is needed.
So, we created this downloadable and printable RV Camping Checklist to help you prepare for your trip!
**Clicking the checklist will open a PDF for you to save or print the file.
Practice Driving Your RV Rental
Once you pick up your rental, you should do a complete walkthrough, receive important information about the vehicle, and ask any questions you might have.
But, once you’re behind the wheel, it’s important to get a little practice before hitting the road. Even if this isn’t the first time you’ve driven an RV, every model drives and behaves differently, so get comfortable with it.
You can take it to a large empty parking lot to practice turning, backing up, and parking. Also, be aware of any blind spots.
Check out this video for more tips on how to drive a motorhome like a pro!
Understand How RV Hookups Work
You’ll have to hook up your RV to a power source, water, and sewer (to empty the black tank) at your campsite. You should have received instructions on these processes from the owner or the rental company when you received your vehicle.
But, it’s still a good idea to read any documentation in the vehicle (owner’s manual, etc.) on how to properly work these.
And again, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask a fellow camper or a campground employee.
Know Your RVs Dimensions
RVs are most likely larger than anything you drive on a daily basis (unless you’re a semi-driver by trade), so it’s important to understand that you might not fit in places you are used to.
This is where knowing your vehicle’s height, width, length, and even weight if your RV is large enough can save you from unintentional damage to your vehicle and other property.
Most likely, you’ll be fine on interstates and major roads, but when it comes to parking in tight spaces, navigating parking garages, going under overhangs (like at a drive-up ATM), it’s helpful to know these dimensions.
And always err on the side of caution. If you’re not sure you’ll fit somewhere, have somebody get out and help direct you.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
This last tip comes from years of experience in the RV lifestyle. And is especially important if you are a beginner renting a camper for the first time.
Working together with your fellow travelers will make the whole RV camping experience more enjoyable. Instead of relying on one person to navigate, park, clean, and maintain the camper, work together. Have a point person who helps the RV driver navigate, switch drivers every now and then if possible, assign cleaning and cooking duties out, so everyone is involved.
Not only does it bring you closer together, but it also makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable!