How to Rent an RV for Vacation: 3 Tips

RV on cliff near the water.

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Everyone deserves a vacation now and then, and renting an RV is an awesome way to see the nation on a budget. You no longer have to shell out the big bucks to own a camper, either. You can now rent an RV at many locations nationwide, and doing so has many advantages. 

You can save money on hotels, prepare meals in your RV’s kitchen and avoid long airport security lines and hefty checked-baggage fees. Plus, while your accommodations can be luxurious, the smaller quarters inspire your little ones to get off the couch, put the video games away and explore the great outdoors. 

Are you ready to plan your ultimate family getaway? Here are three tips for teaching you how to rent an RV for vacation and make the most of your trip. 

1. Understand Your Rental Options 

You have two basic options for renting an RV: using a commercial rental service or going through a private individual. Both approaches have their pros and cons. 

Most people choose to rent through a licensed RV rental company. Some of the biggest ones in America include: 

  • Outdoorsy: This company features an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. They have various vehicles, including Class A through C, pull-behind models and funky vintage Airstreams. 
  • Cruise America: This company is one of the oldest and most formal. You won’t find many quirky vintage models, but you will find newer RVs awaiting your vacation pleasure. However, they tend to be in high demand in tourist destinations and around national parks. 
  • RV Share: This company coordinates with dealers and private RV owners to offer you the best bang for your vacation buck. 

The advantage of renting through one of these sites is the customer service you receive. If something goes awry on your trip, you know who to call. 

Your second option is to go through a private renter. If you know someone with an RV they aren’t using too hard, why not coordinate with them to see if you can borrow it for a price? You can also find offerings on local sites like Craigslist, Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace. 

Although you can save money with this approach, you don’t have the same peace of mind should your RV run into trouble on the road. It’s a good idea to inspect the vehicle first and consider using a commercial service if you aren’t too handy with a wrench. 

2. Select the Right RV for Your Family 

RVs come in two basic styles: Class A through C models and pull-behinds. Class A through C come with the truck attached — there’s no need for a separate vehicle. 

  • Class A: The largest and most luxurious, with multiple slide-outs for maximum space.
  • Class B: Resembles your typical “camper van” in overall size and functionality. 
  • Class C: What most people think of when they envision a motorhome. These are intermediate in size between A and B and have a different chassis. 

If you have a big enough truck, you can rent a pull-behind model. These often offer more space for your buck, but you need an engine that can carry the load. 

3. Ensure Your Ride Is Up to the Task 

Pull-behind RVs need a suitable vehicle to tow them. Most passenger vehicles aren’t sufficient for anything bigger than a teardrop — anything larger can damage your drive train, warp your chassis and brakes and void your warranty. A half-ton truck can haul up to 14,000 pounds, but it’s best not to push it if you know your travels will have you pulling up hills and traversing mountain curves. Larger pull-behinds or toy haulers loaded with ATVs require a full ton. 

6 Tips to Prepare for Your Rented RV Vacation 

You have your RV and you’re ready to hit the road. Or are you? Heed the following tips to prepare for your rented RV vacation and make the most of your trip. 

1. Master the Controls 

You probably won’t need a special license to rent an RV for vacation. Only a handful of states require special certification to legally drive a Class A, but most models come off the lot after you show the attendant your driver’s license and proof of insurance. 

However, there’s a big difference between a camper van and a sports car in terms of overall driveability and maneuverability. You’ll have enough stress wondering if you can take that turn without wondering where the blinker is — pay attention during the crash course and learn where all your controls are. 

2. Know the Terrain 

You probably won’t have too much trouble if you plan to stick to a KOA or similarly established campground. However, you can create undue anxiety taking an RV off-road on BLM land. Many people like the appeal of staying for free, but it helps to know the terrain first. If you have a second vehicle, consider letting it drive ahead first or walk a bit if you see the road getting rocky to ensure you don’t end up stuck. 

3. Bring Adequate Supplies 

Even commercial RV rental locations require you to pay extra for blankets and pillows if you don’t bring yours. Additionally, you should have the following supplies on hand for any camping excursion: 

  • Water: At least two liters per person per day, more if traveling in desert territory. 
  • A first aid kit: Stocked with store essentials and any prescriptions you need. 
  • Food: Trail snacks like dried fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, jerky, tuna packets and whole grain crackers come in handy. Of course, any campfire is better with s’mores.
  • Warm clothes: You should always pack extra socks and underwear. Layer the rest according to the climate. 

4. Learn a Few Mechanical Tricks 

Roadside assistance is a beautiful thing, but it can take a while to arrive in remote areas. Knowing a few mechanical tricks can ease your anxiety when renting an RV for vacation. At the very least, you should know how to safely add water to your radiator and change a flat tire. 

5. Leave a Detailed Itinerary 

If you rent from a commercial entity, they’ll likely inquire about your plans. Regardless, you should always leave a detailed itinerary with someone back home, no matter where you rent your RV. If you don’t report back at the specified time, authorities must know where to look. 

6. Plan Some Traditional Campfire Fun and Games 

What’s a vacation without fun? Plan plenty of activities, especially if you have little ones. Take along some easy-to-set-up games like ring toss and scour maps and apps for the best area hiking trails before you lose cellphone signal. Does your location have extras, like access to water for kayaking and canoeing rentals? Plan accordingly when packing. 

How to Rent an RV for Vacation

Are you and your clan long overdue for a well-deserved vacation? If so, why not consider saving money while seeing more of the country by renting an RV? 

Use this guide when renting an RV for your upcoming vacation and enjoy the freedom of the open road. You and your family can make lasting memories while reveling in the great outdoors. 

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