Must-Know Tips Before You Rent That RV

You don't have to buy a home on wheels to enjoy the experience of camping in comfort.

vintage trailer
Photo: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Have you ever seen that classic movie The Long, Long Trailer about newlyweds, played by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, hoping to make the honeymoon last as they travel across the country in a very long trailer?

Their RV dreams didn't exactly go as planned, but RV travel has come a long way since then. Especially with a sharp rise in the number of us working remotely, the RV experience suddenly appeals to travelers who never considered it before. People are hitting the road, from young couples looking to spend their money on experiences rather than mortgage payments to parents eager to make memories with their kids to retirees enjoying their freedom.

You can park your RV at an inexpensive site in a state park or a posh resort oceanfront in the Florida Keys. And if you're not ready to buy, no problem. RV rental companies are there for you. Want to know the ins and outs? Read on.

RV Renting Basics

Where Can I Rent An RV?

Renters have two primary options: A major rental company that owns a fleet of RVs or individuals who rent out their personal RVs when they aren't using them (much like VRBO operates for vacation home rentals). Cruise America is the largest RV rental company in North America. If you want something akin to VRBO, check out RVshare.

What Choices Do I Have?

You can rent everything from a tricked-out van with no bathroom to a home on wheels, complete with a kitchen, living room, bathrooms, and an assortment of amenities.

How Much Does It Cost to Rent An RV?

To put it simply—it costs as much as you want to spend. From a small RV rental to a luxury RV rental. To give you a ballpark, we found a drivable RV that sleeps six on RVshare.com for $179 a night or $1,759 for seven nights, including taxes and fees.

Are There Additional Fees Besides Taxes?

Most of the rentals we looked at had a generator fee and mileage charges. At Cruise America, for example, the mileage fee for a 400-mile trip in a standard motor home was $152. A kitchen kit (your dishes, pots, pans, etc.) costs $125 if you add that option, though you can skip it and bring your own. The same is true of a personal kit (very basic linens, towels), which costs $75 per kit. 

With those additions, a four-night rental with a base total of $620 inches up to over $1,000 by the time you add standard fees and taxes. And then there's the damage deposit, though, with any luck, you'll get that back.

How Do I Know What To Rent?

That depends on your needs and your comfort level as a driver. Are you an off-the-grid adventurer happy to rough it, or a family of five requiring a bathroom and a shower? More than two people would be cramped in a truck camper or souped-up van, while a Class A motorhome can sleep seven to ten.

There's a lot to choose from, but RVs break down into two main camps (no pun intended): towable and drivable.

Towable RVs

  • Fifth Wheel: Requires a gooseneck extension in your truck bed, and you might need a touch more truck—maybe a three-quarter ton—to pull it.
  • Travel Trailer: Attaches via trailer hitch and comes in different sizes, suitable for SUVs and pickups.
  • Popup Camper: Pull it behind just about anything. It expands (i.e., pops up) to give you more space once you reach your campsite.

Drivable RVs

  • Class A: Think "big-as-a-bus house on wheels."
  • Class B: Think "oversized van."
  • Class C: Think "Winnebago."

(Why the smallest RV is a Class B, and the mid-sized RV is called a Class C, we have no idea. It's just one of those mysteries of the universe.)

Cruise America's fleet includes large, standard, and compact RVs and truck campers, all attached to the truck or chassis cab you'll need to pull. RVshare offers drivable and towable RVs, which you'll rent from the owners. (You'll need your own vehicle for the towable ones if you drive it yourself. Some owners will deliver to the campsite for a fee.)

WATCH: See Inside Dolly Parton-Inspired Camper in the Foothills of the Smoky Mountains

Do RV Vets Have Any Advice For Newbies?

Yes. RV experts highly recommend YouTube instructional videos to help you learn the ins and outs of setup, etc. You can also search for RV groups on Facebook and other social media to gather tips and ideas.

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