Things to Know before you rent your first campervan

Things to Know Before Renting an RV | Step by Step Guide

Ever wondered how it must feel to be inside a Recreation Vehicle (RV) a.k.a. Motorhome (in some parts of the world), the visuals of which you might have seen over the internet or maybe even seen one parked in your neighbourhood supermarket.

Have you done some research about renting an RV for vacations but the technicalities have taken you back? We have tried to make your life easy by comprehensively answering all common questions and concerns that may arise when you consider renting an RV for one of your holidays.

But before we start, lets back things up a little.

History of the RV

The initial RVs were used by Northern Americans in the mid 18th century to venture into the interiors of the continent. These were mostly horse pulled wagons which had improvised facilities for daily needs. The modern day RVs started taking shape after World War 1 when Americans started taking tents, cooking facilities and beddings to go explore their homeland.

In the year 1920, the first RV like structures were built. Nothing fancy compared to modern day RVs. A basically wooden house like structures assembled upon a Ford Model – T chassis. No hot water or air conditioning facilities and camping at this time was a task only for the brave-hearted as the road network was not yet developed.

It was almost a decade later when campers were inspired by facilities on an aircraft and facilities like air conditioning, hot water tanks, dinettes, and bathrooms started taking shape and turned out to be a billion dollar industry today.

When Purnendu and I planned our first RV trip through New Zealand, we had our fair share of anxiety and unanswered questions. But when we got into it, we totally loved the idea of checking in once into your holiday home, the home takes you around the holiday destination, and check-out straight on the last day.

In fact, we loved the concept so much in New Zealand that we did it again for our next holiday in Alaska, and I’m sure we will seek this option for every holiday, wherever possible. The idea of pulling over anywhere you like, stay overnight in the wilderness without having to worry about camping gear, wake-up every morning to breathtaking views, answers a big YESSS!!! to the question, “Is renting an RV worth it?”

Are you already feeling excited? It’s time to cool our excitements a few notches down, and before you start to google about RV rental companies near me, let’s do a good reality check and then set out for adventure so that a few wrong choices don’t spoil our holidays.

An RV/ Motorhome / Campervan holiday can be really fun. But, we have had our fair share of spoilers which could have spoilt our holidays.

In this article, we will run you through a detailed idea of how an RV experience could be, tips for RV camping, Do’s and Don’ts, what to know about renting RVs,  RV types and styles available in different countries, is the best deal for RV really the best deal and which type of RV one should consider so that holidays stay as happy as they sound.

Let’s begin with:

Setting our expectations right

Unfortunately, if your idea of a holiday is to call for breakfast at the bed, housekeeping to service your room every day, get fresh towels every day to use, buffet lunch and dinners, let’s be blunt, this is not for you. However, if the before mentioned things are least of your concern, then welcome aboard and let’s discuss some key insights to get a head start.

Size of an RV – Of course, an RV will be at least three times the size of your standard car and if you have always been a standard size car driver, driving an RV with a capacity of 4 people or more can come as a surprise. But don’t panic, as it only needs a few minutes to get used to. However, it is always a good idea to have a confident driver to drive through cities with more traffic as manoeuvring an RV through busy streets will challenge all your driving experience, at least for the first time.

Different types of Recreational Vehicle (RVs)

Let’s talk about the different types of RVs or different styles of RVs available in different countries before we start looking for rentals. We have different types of RVs to rent and the most common types of RVs available for rentals are categorized as Class A, Class B, Class C, and Truck Campers. Let’s run through a brief description for each of them and find out the best suit.

  • Class A RV – Usually modified from a full-size bus or purpose-built, Class A RVs predominantly offer lots of room inside. They can be super luxurious and can even be equipped with a washing machine and dryer apart from the other standard appliances like a cooker and refrigerator. They even come with slide outs, which are extendable at the press of a button to make even more room when parked. These are undoubtedly the most expensive to hire as well and also difficult to manoeuvre through tight spaces and also running errands can be challenging, which is why people tow a smaller vehicle or carry bicycles to do the job. More commonly available in the USA and Canada due to wider roads and bigger parking spaces available at camping grounds.

 

  • Class B RV– Also referred to as campervans, these are built on mid-sized van chassis and are much smaller than its previous category. The roofs are raised to facilitate walking upright and the appliances provide for bare minimum cooking and refrigerating. There is not much room to move about and usually, the dining space converts to a bed to sleep more people. Water and waste tank capacity is also much lesser than a Class A motorhome. These are more popular in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Class B
  • Class C RV – By far our favourite, purpose built on a full-size truck chassis, these are highly economical and offer almost all facilities of a Class A motorhome including the slide-out extensions, and would end up costing around the same or slightly higher as Class B motorhomes. Again more popular in the USA and Canada.
Class C
  • Truck Camper – These are by far the most economical to rent and most fuel efficient. They are usually built on a heavy duty pick up truck and accommodate no more than two people but provide with all basic amenities and appliances.

Seating Capacity

Figure out how many people do you need the RV for? How many children with you? Will you be okay with little room to move about or do you think space cannot be compromised on? Choosing an RV with at least as many seat belts is a must. RV rental companies offer way too many variants and it is normal to get confused.

There could be choices from RVs which can sleep 6 people to ones which have room only for 2 people with numerous different floor plans.  Especially RV rental for beginners can be a gruesome task as it is very difficult to make a real picture of the RV interiors, looking at pictures on the internet.

So you will have to leave a bit of leverage there. Purnendu and I preferred some extra room to move about and not keep crashing into each other, so we chose an RV which could sleep 4 people for both our holidays and it turned out to be a blessing.

And of course, be prepared to do your housekeeping, cooking, and sanitation yourself. And if anything needs a quick fix, yourself is the only handyman available. But trust me, this will be least of your concern & all in all it would maximum add into your travel experience.

Now that you might have made up your mind for an RV holiday, let’s talk about what to expect when you start to look at RV rental companies.

What to expect and questions to ask before renting an RV.

The moment you google for RV rental companies in any country, there will be quite a few rental companies which pop up. Bear in mind that only 3-5 companies will give you the best value for money.

Having said that, there is no cheap and best policy for RVs. If someone is offering you a deal which is unbelievably cheap, it should ring an alarm. Here’s why?

RV’s have a lifespan. The newer the RV, the more expensive it is, as the interiors will be spic and span, no worn out upholstery, and most importantly, newer the engine, the more fuel efficient it will be.

Also, there is a charge written in a tiny font, around the rental price. It should read like $0.20/mile or kilometre. This is called a mileage charge. This may not sound a lot but does add up to a fair amount of money. For example, for every 100 miles or kilometres driven will cost you $20.

This charge is unavoidable as every company charges this pretty much all around the world. The only thing that may be different could be the rate and currency.

So plan up your itinerary very precisely, use Google maps to find out a close to an approximate distance you plan to travel, add a couple of hundred miles or kilometres extra to it and multiply to the mileage rate. This is something rental companies charge over and above the rental price.

Here are some questions you might consider asking your rental company before going ahead with any commitments.

  • How much does the mileage cost?
  • What household facilities do they provide viz., cleaning accessories, pillows, duvets, blankets, towels etc?
  • How old are the tyres and batteries of the RV?
  • How much does it cost to rent an RV cross country and are there any charges related if the RV is dropped at a different location than the pick-up location?
  • And there is no shame in asking if there are any hidden costs you should know.

Note – In New Zealand, their motorhomes have an additional odometer installed on one of the wheels which they refer to calculate mileage. In the USA, the odometer in the instrument panel is enough.

Generic Charges:

Like any other car rental, you will be offered full or basic insurance. Full insurance is always suggestable as it decreases your liability. RVs which have a generator fitted might have an extra charge for generator running hours. Its very nominal as in Alaska we were charged $3 for an hour of the generator running, but still use it wisely.

Also, keep in mind that every time you pull up to an RV park, it will cost you money depending on the country’s regulations and the facilities provided.

For example, in New Zealand, RV parks would charge by the number of people on board ranging from $10-$25 depending on facilities provided like fresh water supply, toilets and showers, kitchen, entertainment, wi-fi etc. But in Alaska RV parks charge per vehicle ranging from $40-$60 plus taxes, depending on what they call Full Hook-up or Partial Hook-up.

The difference between the two being, Full Hook-up offers a 220V power supply and a water and waste station right at the parking slot so one wouldn’t have to pull up to the park’s waste dumping station to empty waste every time. Partial Hook-up does not offer a waste station at the parking slot.

If you choose not to spend a lot of money on RV parks, you could choose to BOONDOCK. Continue reading to learn more about boondocking.

Orientation:

Once you have made up your mind and booked your RV,  the day of reckoning finally arrives. You might feel an immense adrenalin rush, especially if it is your first time with an RV, while your agent walks you to your RV.

You would just want to take the keys and hit the road. Like discussed earlier, some nervousness is common as RVs are definitely bigger than a car and the thought of you being able to drive this thing will cross your mind. Relax… all will be fine.

It can take up to 1 hour for an associate to take you through an RV orientation depending on the size and make of the RV. Take all the time to run through the orientation. Initially, it could be overwhelming with information overload, but listening will be key here as it is not impossible to remember all of the system troubleshooting.

As long as you can figure out the information manual and pages to refer to in case something goes down. Pay special attention to RV waste disposal and water filling systems and it is always advisable to try your hands on to practice attaching hose pipes, supply regulators for LPG/Propane, door and stowage locks, 220V power ports and how to attach them, how to turn on the generators if you have one, etc.

If you have people in your group who are not involved in the orientation, you could delegate them to do the unpacking and save some time before hitting the road on your home on wheels. Always ensure that all stowages and loose items are secured before starting to drive as you wouldn’t want things to go flying every time you make a turn.

The next few points could be very handy tips for new RV campers on the road, so stay connected and check out, First Time In An RV/Campervan? Part II.

Till then we will leave you to set your expectations, plan your budget and take a decision. We can ensure you one thing, this holiday will be your best holiday if you plan the RV trip.

Let us know what your decision was. Did this information help? I will be around to answer all your questions RV related as much as I can or will direct you to the right link if need be. Do follow us on any of the below social media and stay connected. Safe travels and do not forget to share your experience we love to be a part of your experience through pictures. #taletrips.

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Ankita Magdani

Hi, we are Ankita and Purnendu. We are Travel bloggers and the founder of Travelstacks. Together we have been to 25 countries on 5 continents and still counting. Our passion is to travel with a purpose to learn and inspire like-minded people. So Welcome On Board.
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