RV Rental Tips for Beginners

RV vacations are becoming increasingly popular among travelers who want to explore the open road freely while enjoying creature comforts. However, renting an RV for the first time can seem daunting to beginners. Proper planning and preparation are key to ensuring your maiden RV rental trip goes smoothly and problem-free. This comprehensive guide covers all the essential tips RV first-timers need to know.

RV Rental Tips for Beginners

Pre-Rental Preparations | Things Beginners Should Know

Before heading out on an RV adventure, make sure you have done thorough research about renting RVs and know exactly what to expect.

First and Foremost, Know the RV Rental Options. Not all RVs are created equal, neither are the rental costs. There are several types and classes of RVs to choose from, with varying equipment, amenities, and price tags.

Types of Rentable RVs

Motorhomes come with a built-in engine and accommodation cabin in the living space. Based on equipment and amenities, motorhomes are classified into –

  • Class A – Luxurious homes on wheels with bus-like bodies. Slide-outs and top-end features.
  • Class B – The smallest and most compact motorhomes built on a van chassis. Basic amenities.
  • Class C – Larger than Class B but more affordable. Standard equipment and suitable for small families.

Towable RVs can accommodate more people. Towables such as –

  • Travel Trailers – Can be towed by an SUV or pickup truck. Various floorplans are available.
  • Fifth Wheel Trailers – Require a truck with a fifth wheel hitch for towing due to their large size. Stand-up height and home-like amenities.

Carefully examine the RV classes based on berths, amenities, length, etc., and pick one that aligns with your trip plans.

Types of Rental

There you will find two types of rental options, one-way, and round-trip. 

  • One-Way RV Rental:
  • You pick up the RV from one location and drop it off at a different location at the end of the trip. This allows for more flexible trip planning covering long distances but incurs higher one-way fee charges.
  • Round Trip RV Rental:
  • You return the RV to the original rental location at the end of your road trip. Round-trip rentals have lower base rates without one-way drop-off surcharges but require retracing your route back to the starting point.

Choosing the Right Rental Company

Skimping on the rental provider to save a few bucks can quickly backfire on RV vacations. Research rental agencies before booking.

Research Reputable Companies

Spend time identifying trustworthy RV rental services with modern fleets and stellar records to avoid old, unsafe vehicles.

Read Renter Reviews

Check sources like Google, Yelp, and Better Business Bureau for testimonials on companies before booking. Look for consistent satisfaction with vehicles, cleanliness, policy clarity, etc.

Compare Rates and Amenities

Lookup multiple hire companies to contrast daily and weekly prices alongside amenities, mileage limits, and generator hours included.

Reputed RV rental chains like Cruise America, El Monte RV, and USA RV Rentals generally offer well-maintained vehicles and good service.

Budgeting for Additional Costs

The base rental fee usually covers only the bare vehicle usage. Account for extra expenses like –

  • One-way/ out-of-state fees
  • Generator fees
  • RV setup costs
  • Mileage charges if you exceed daily/weekly limits
  • Dump station/ tank dumping fees
  • Camping costs at RV parks

Having a buffer amount is always wise. On average, allocate around $300 per day for your RV vacation budget. Fuel costs will be extra depending on miles traveled.

Insurance and Liability Coverage

Find out beforehand what damages or breakdown scenarios are covered under the rental agency’s insurance coverage to avoid surprise payouts.

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) – Covers risks of accidents, vandalism, etc. Some agencies make this optional.

Supplemental Liability – Provides higher coverage if at fault in an accident.

Roadside Assistance – Towing/roadside help in case of breakdowns or flat tires. Confirm service response time.

Compare plans on offer and consider additional private RV rental insurance for greater financial protection.

Check Paperwork, Rules, and Regulations

Carefully go over all policies, documentation, and legal contracts before picking up the RV. Ask queries if any clause seems ambiguous or misleading. Key things to verify –

Driver Age Restrictions & License Requirements

Most RV rental companies have minimum driver age limits, usually 21 years and above. Drivers under 25 may be charged extra daily fees. They also require a valid regular state driver’s license for operating rental RVs under 26,000 pounds Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. Heavier vehicles mandate a Commercial Driver’s License. Confirm these prerequisites otherwise risk rental rejection or violations during your trip if stopped for checks.

Prohibited Roads & Travel Areas 

Certain roads prohibit RVs due to narrow lanes, low bridges/overpasses, or hazardous terrain not suitable for larger recreational vehicles. Common blacklisted routes are winding mountainous interstates and smaller state highways rather than wider federal interstates. City roads could also apply width constraints. Check the provided route planners thoroughly and avoid inadvertently ending up on banned roads which lead to awkward detours or inability to maneuver exit routes. Penalties like forfeiting security deposits follow violation of restricted area stipulations.

No-Smoking Policies

RVs contain highly flammable construction materials and independent electrical, plumbing, and LPG gas systems prone to fire hazards if not carefully operated. Most rental contracts thus enforce strict smoking bans inside the vehicle – similar to airlines – with heavy fines like $250 or higher plus potential loss of deposit for non-compliance. Learn and respect these clauses for a risk-free rental experience.

Rigorous Inspection

Do a painstaking bumper-to-bumper check when picking up the RV rental, and note existing scratches or appliance issues no matter how trivial. Snap-dated photos supporting your identified pre-existing damage. Thorough rig inspections before and after the trip provide proof against rental agencies unfairly attributing prior defects as liabilities requiring a deduction from refundable security deposits.

Cancellation, Refund Policies

Despite best-laid plans, unexpected situations can compel modification or cancellation of RV trip bookings. Before paying rentals in full, clarify penalties and possibilities of date changes or re-bookings without losing entire deposit amounts. Lock in written assurances for receiving proper reimbursements or alternative RV arrangements from the rental firm considering your circumstances.

Reviewing the fine print items and having the utmost clarity on critical rental terms & conditions ensures compliant, amicable renter-provider partnerships. This further safeguards against losing money or trip disruptions due to a lack of policy awareness. Exercise due diligence!

RV Security Considerations

The extensive living space and multiple entry points make RVs vulnerable to theft and vandalism risks. Make sure the RV has a proper security system. Moreover, check whether you are getting a GPS tracker with the RV or not. Renters like Cruise America don’t provide any GPS tracker. So, in that case, you will need to bring your own or buy one before taking the RV from the renterer. 

Maintenance and Emergency Preparedness

However enticing the open road seems, things can go downhill quickly without proper servicing and readiness.

  • Complete walkaround inspections before/after daily drives checking tires, fluid levels, battery charge, looking for leaks, etc.
  • Stock emergency equipment – flashlight, fire extinguisher, road flares, jumper cables, first-aid kit.
  • Program key emergency contacts/roadside assistance numbers.
  • Manage carrying capacity and prevent overloading. Distribute weight evenly.
  • Know basics about handling common RV problems – generator won’t start, LP gas smell, dead RV battery, faulty air conditioning, etc.

Equipping yourself with mechanical know-how and emergency response skills helps mitigate potential rental trip mishaps.

Post-Rental – Returning RV Without Damages

How you return the vehicle and restore items to their original condition plays a pivotal role in rental charges and securing full deposit refunds.

Follow the stipulated return date/location unless you have extensions pre-approved in writing. Factor in allowance for a thorough inspection and any fixes needed before handing over the vehicle.

Arrive Early

Schedule ample buffers when concluding your RV trip to complete all pre-return procedures without rushing. Allot time for thoroughly cleaning interiors, dumping greywater/sewage tanks, topping up gas, gathering all rental add-ons like generators, and hitch locks, and tallying before inspection.

Understand tank/toilet dumping procedures beforehand since RVs can’t be returned with full waste tanks. Locate the nearest dumping stations along the return route using apps like RV Dump Station.

Verify All Rented Gear

Confirm all add-ons like bedding kits, camping chairs, navigation devices, crockery, etc. accompanies the RV exactly as rented. Missing items mean replacement penalties deducted from deposit refunds. Carefully account for everything.

Discard Belongings/Trash

Despite best cleanup attempts, small items inadvertently get left behind like socks under bunk beds or toothbrushes in compartments. Check every cabinet, storage nook, and under-sink space before vacating. Any personal belongings left behind get treated as lost property by the rental company. Pets hairs, and food crumbs similarly indicate negligent cleaning drawing hefty fees.

Complete Joint Inspection

Alongside rental staff, meticulously examine both interior and exterior – upholstery, walls, appliances, windshield, and paintwork for new damages if any like scratched countertops, stained ceilings, dented bumpers etc. Compare against pre-trip inspection sheets furnished earlier. Request a signed copy of this return condition status report for proof and transparency.

Skipping detailed inspections before releasing the RV to the rental company can become very costly later on.

Reflection and Feedback

After each motorhome camping trip, introspect about your rental experience and share actionable feedback.

Make note of issues faced – troubles operating accessories or appliances, inadequate servicing by staff, insufficient instruction for handling troubles en route. Send suggestions to the rental branch for improving fleet maintenance, service quality, and customer experience. Provide positive feedback as well about accommodating staff, smooth reservations, and good value.

Rate and review the rental agency online for the benefit of future renters.

Your input assists rental providers to continually enhance and tailor services. If you had an overall enjoyable, well-supported rental trip filled with precious memories to cherish for life, do spread the word.

What Does Renting an RV Cost?

Rental Base Rates

Rental rates vary by RV type, age, size, and amenities.

Class A Motorhomes:

  • 10+ years old: $150-$250 per night
  • Newer models: $350-$450 per night

Class B Motorhomes:

  • 10+ years old: $100-$200 per night
  • Newer models: $200-$350 per night

Class C Motorhomes:

  • 10+ years old: $100-$200 per night
  • Newer models: $225-$400 per night

Travel Trailers:

  • 10+ years old: $50-$125 per night
  • Newer models: $125-$200 per night

Fifth Wheel Trailers:

  • 10+ years old: $60-$150 per night
  • Newer models: $150-$300 per night

Mileage Charges

Most RV rentals limit mileage, charging $0.35-$0.75 per extra mile, which adds up over long trips. Upgrading to unlimited miles costs $50-$100 more per day.

Typical mileage allowances:

  • 100-200 nightly miles
  • 500-1,000 weekly miles
  • 3,000 monthly miles

Fuel Costs

RVs have low mpg, burning significant gas depending on miles traveled.

  • Class A/C – 8-10 mpg
  • Class B – 15-20 mpg
  • Towables reduce the mpg of the tow vehicles to 8-12 mpg

Budget $1,000+ for fuel over a standard 7-10 day RV trip.

Add-Ons & Extras

Supplementary gear like cookware kits, chairs, and satellite TV incur added rental costs.

  • Kitchen kit – $125 Each
  • Bedding & linen – $75 Each
  • Satellite setup – $8 per day


Verify risks covered under rental insurance and if added policies are needed for better protection. Leverage credit card rental coverage too.

Trustworthy RV Rental Companies for First-Timers

We suggest partnering with these reputable national RV rental chains offering standardized quality fleets, multiple pickup points, and experienced support teams.

Recommended Providers

  • Outdoorsy – Peer-to-peer RV rentals. Airbnb-style choices.
  • Cruise America – 40+ years serving RV travelers.
  • El Monte RV – Largest RV fleet with excellent roadside assistance.
  • Road Bear RV – Low rates with complete trip insurance/extras bundle.

Check renter ratings, fleet age, and mileage policies before booking even with reputed agencies. Require a comprehensive walkthrough demonstration plus a trial drive when picking the RV rental vehicle.

Handy Apps to Enhance First RV Vacation Experience

Complement your trip-planning efforts by installing these top-rated smartphone apps offering digital conveniences and location-based intelligence for RV travelers.

  • RV Parky – RV park reviews, reservations, route finder with ideal stopover recommendations based on rig length, amenities, etc.
  • Campendium – 50,000+ campsites & points of interest referenced by fellow RVers including availability, price range, and visitor reviews.
  • GasBuddy – Find the cheapest local gas stations and cashback rewards.
  • RVdumps – Directory for 14,000 dump stations, potable water refill sites, and propane refill locations across North America.
  • WeatherAhead – Hyperlocal forecasts helping navigate around incoming storms, snow, or other extreme weather.

Leverage the RV-friendly functionalities within these apps to stay on course, quickly find suitable overnight parking spots, fill up on essentials at the best value, and steer clear of hazards during your eventful road trip.

Final Thoughts

A satisfying rental experience is certainly achievable even for first-time RV vacationers armed with the right knowledge and partnered with a supportive provider.

Stick to the essential preparatory best practices covered above regarding reasonable expectations-setting, prudent budgeting, systematic pre-departure checks, and emergency readiness measures. Embrace minor hiccups sportingly since the joy of meandering on scenic byways in your comfortable home-on-wheels outweighs the odd inconvenience. Capture the carefree, wanderlust-fueling magic as you chart your course wandering wherever the whim takes you!

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