6 tips for renting an RV for the first time

Adventure 4 min read

Have you ever considered renting an RV and traveling cross country, or just heading out for the weekend to a campground in your own backyard? If so, you’re not alone.

Interest in RV travel has exploded this past year, and the trend looks to continue well into 2021 and beyond. You’re also not alone if you find the process of researching RV rentals confusing, if not downright daunting. There’s a steep learning curve to conquer when researching RV rentals, but there doesn’t have to be. Here’s what you need to know both before and during your first RV rental to ensure that you have an amazing trip—and hopefully the first of many!

1. Understand the two major rental options

Large corporate RV rental options

There are several major RV rental companies that have fleets across the country, with pickup and drop off locations near many major airports. A quick Google search will help you find more information.

These national rental companies typically offer very standardized fleets of Class C motor homes, with some slight variations. They often charge top dollar for their rentals, which are usually plastered with logos, so you might end up feeling like a rolling advertisement for the company. But if you don’t mind the branding, there’s much to like about these companies. The vehicles are professionally maintained and customer service is good if you need help. If you want an experience that’s reliable and time-tested, then this might be the right direction to take.

Peer-to-peer RV rental options

The market for peer-to-peer RV rentals has also grown dramatically in recent years. Peer-to-peer RV rental services seek to connect RV owners with those interested in renting. When searching peer-to-peer platforms, you’ll find RV options of every class and size. You’ll also find a wide variety of price points.

If you’re looking for a rental that’s cute (like a teardrop or a vintage RV) and you want to share your experience with friends on social media, then peer-to-peer is probably the way to go. The major platforms also include insurance and customer support while you’re on the road.

2. Reserve a campsite that’s easy to navigate

Driving or towing an RV for the first time is inevitably a little bit stressful, particularly if it’s a larger travel trailer or motorhome. But maneuvering your RV into a campsite doesn’t have to be stressful if you do just a little bit of planning before your trip. Call the campground and ask for a pull through site if they have one. You don’t have to back in to park in a pull through site, you just pull in from one road and exit on a parallel road on the other side.

If you’re reserving a site at a state or national park campground, and there is no one to call, you should still look closely at a campground map before booking your site. Avoid tight corners and sites in crowded locations of the campground. Try to reserve a site that is far away from any main thoroughfares or hubs of activity, like pools, playgrounds, or amphitheaters.

3. Know what comes with the RV and what you need to bring

Some RV rentals include linens and bedding, but some don’t. Some also provide them as part of a package at an additional price. The key is to know before you go. Traditional rental companies probably offer the basics, but a peer-to-peer rental may come packed with essentials, or come with nothing at all. You need to check the peer-to-peer listing closely and contact the owner of the rental with any questions. You may be able to request that certain items like camp chairs be added to your rental. This can be incredibly helpful if you’re flying into a location and picking up your RV rental after departing the airport.

4. Learn how to use the RV’s basic systems

If this is your first rental, you have to learn a few basic things to operate the unit. It’s a house on wheels, after all. RVs have heating systems, sewer systems, and water heaters. Some have generators and solar systems. A traditional rental company should provide this basic RV education either before or during pickup. A peer-to-peer owner should also provide you with an overview of the basics.

Make sure to ask for a lesson and a checklist before you hit the open road for your adventure. If renting peer-to-peer, also make sure to check the owner’s reviews on that platform. The reviews might mention if the owner gave a good overview of the RV or not.

5. Figure out how you’ll explore your destinations before you get there

If you’re renting a towable RV, you’ll have your truck or SUV for exploring the area once you set up camp. But if you’re renting a motorhome, then things can get trickier. Once you set up a motorhome at the campground, you’re not going to want to pack it up every single time you leave the campground for activities or supplies. You may also have a hard time finding parking if you do so.

Before renting a motorhome, figure out how you’re going to get around at any given location. Will you rent an additional vehicle? Use a ride-sharing app? Or take public transportation? It’s up to you, but you would be foolish not to figure it out before hitting the road.

6. Leave it better than you found it

Campers and RV owners often teach their kids to leave the campsite better than they found it. The same principle should be applied to an RV rental. Make sure you clean up the interior and dump the tanks at the campground before returning it. You may also need to fill the gas tank up to a certain level. Know what the rental contract requires of you, and consider going a few steps further. Losing a security deposit or having a conflict with an owner or corporation would be a horrible way to end a vacation.

Renting an RV is not necessarily the cheapest way to take a vacation, but it certainly is one of the most fun ways to see the country—or your own backyard. Make sure to follow these basic tips to have a great experience you’ll talk about for years to come!

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