In this guest post Maureen Spencer of “So Many Places! So Little Time!” shares RV rental tips for USA RV rentals!
A road trip across the United States is on most travelers’ bucket lists and right at the top of ours too. We’ve done some great road trips here in New Zealand but we are so looking forward to seeing all of those amazing national parks and iconic routes like Route 66 and the Pacific Coast Highway on over 4 million miles of roads across the USA.
RV rental is a very practical way to do these trips and gives you the freedom to explore at your leisure. With an RV you won’t have to be concerned with constantly packing bags, and finding new accommodation and transport.
However, it is vital that you do your research to find the best option to suit your needs!
Listed below are many of the important things that you must do and check when you collect your rental RV vehicle to ensure that you have a hassle-free trip.
Before you Book
Your first task is to decide what type of RV suits your needs and budget. The USA “class” system can be confusing for travelers arriving from out of the USA.
Here is a simple explanation of the types of classes and a very approximate rental price per night.
CLASS A: LARGEST RVS
$175 to $450 per night. 25-45 feet Large, bus-shaped rigs often with luxury fit-outs. Can sleep up to eight or ten passengers. Can be diesel or gas- not fuel-efficient.
CLASS C: MID-SIZE RVs
$150 to $400 per night. 20 – 30 feet Built onto a regular truck chassis as opposed to Class A bus-style and have better fuel mileage than Class As. Great for families of 4. Similar amenities to Class A but on a smaller scale.
CLASS B: VAN LIFE
$100 to $350 per night. 17 to 23 feet Known as sleeper vans or camper vans. Comparatively small with a compact interior and most suitable for one or two people. . Good fuel economy and easy to drive.
RV TRAILERS: Variety of shapes & sizes
$50 to $200 per night. 10 to 40 feet and need a vehicle (SUV or truck) to tow them. Vary from large Fifth wheel campers to small pop-up trailers.
Here are some important factors you will need to take into consideration:
* The number of people it will sleep. It is important to check what the sleeping layout is and if it suits your needs. e.g. will you be comfortable in a bunk bed or having to climb into the roof space?
* Your level of comfort. How much space do you want and need? e.g. do you need a living area that is separate from your sleeping area?
* Choice of a self-contained RV (has a toilet, and water storage)) or non-self-contained,
* The driver’s ability to drive the size of the van (e.g an inexperienced driver is probably not going to be confident with driving one of the Class A, bus style, RVs).
Note that most rental companies in the USA impose 25 years old as the age requirement to rent and drive RVs. However, some rental companies may allow renters and/or drivers 21 to 24 years old, but with additional requirements such as fees and authorized consent.
Who to rent your RV from?
We strongly suggest that you check travel reviews on independent websites to get an overall feel for the standard of service of your provider. Listed below are some of the most well-known RV rental companies in the USA.
A great place to start. Just complete the details in the ‘Search for Motorhomes’ box and it will provide the rental details and costs of the RVs from a spectrum of RV rental suppliers in your selected area.
The most well-known company is “Cruise America.” They have been operating since 1972 and have 128 branches across North America.
Known as the ‘Airbnb for RVs’. They organize RV rentals on behalf of owners.
Organize RV rentals in the area that you will be traveling from.
Some other well-known RV rental companies are Road Bear RV, El Monte RV Rentals, and Mighty Campers.
Before you Arrive to Collect your RV or Have it Delivered to your Accommodation
1. Online check-in
If you have the option of an online check-in, take it! This will give you plenty of time to read through the rental agreement thoroughly and in your own time. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions.
Don’t hesitate to email your provider with any questions about points that may need clarification. This will save you time when you arrive to pick up the vehicle and ensure you fully understand what you are getting and what you can expect. No last-minute surprises!
2. Optional Extras
Check the list of optional extras. In the USA extras usually include pots and pans, kitchen items, and bedding packs. Check out other extras you might require like bike hire, baby car seats, cots, outdoor table and chairs, GPS system, and delivery to your accommodation.
Note that in the USA there is a mileage fee. Find out how much per mile you will be charged. You may want to look at your proposed itinerary and calculate an approximate mileage so that you can include this in your budget. Don’t forget to include local taxes, linen cleaning (if required), service fees, and insurance in your budget!
BUDGET NOTE: You will be required to pay a security deposit using a credit card and additional drivers will be an extra charge too.
The use of the generator is usually considered an extra too. A generator may be required to charge laptops and phones, and to use the microwave.
3. Insurance Info
This is a must! Find out if your provider provides basic insurance, included in your daily rental price. You will need to make the decision about the amount of excess you will be required to pay in the event of an accident or if the van is damaged or stolen.
You should always have your own travel insurance for your own belongings.
4. Watch “How to Do It” Videos
Once you start your road trip you don’t want to be wasting your precious time trying to find out how things work or having to return to the depot or a garage somewhere off your itinerary to get help.
Before you collect your RV ask your provider to give you access to instructional videos about how to operate things on the vehicle like emptying and cleaning the toilet, opening the awning, how to connect the gas bottle, etc
Watch them twice while you have time, in the comfort of your own home! If you aren’t provided with them there are some good apps or websites that you can watch online.
Cruise America and El Monte have good instructional videos and there is a wealth of information on Youtube.
5. Take Note of Restricted Roads
Each provider will have different rules on where you’re allowed and not allowed to drive. Check these carefully, as if you have an accident on these roads your insurance will be null and void and you may even be liable for the total cost of a replacement vehicle.
Generally, you are not permitted to take your RV off-road, and if driving on unpaved roads you are responsible for any damage.
Travel into Mexico with a motorhome is generally not allowed.
You cannot visit the US’s hottest, lowest, driest point – Death Valley in California– in summer – usually from July 15th to September 15th.
Canada & Alaska. US registered RV’s can usually enter Canada and return to the US. One way rentals between the two countries are not allowed.
RVs are not allowed in Manhatten.
Your provider might also include other prohibited roads or areas. Do check and take these into account when preparing your itinerary.
6. Check you Have All the Required Documents
Driving Licenses: Do check that your license is current and if you’re coming from overseas you have what is required in terms of a driving license. You may need an international license.
Rental Agreement & Insurance documents: Store these in a plastic folder to keep them together and dry and easily accessible once you’re on the road.
Note: Bring soft-sided luggage- it’s much easier to store in the van than large hard suitcases, although your provider may have storage facilities at their base.
7. Check and Confirm your Pickup and Delivery Time
You don’t want to waste valuable time hanging around waiting for your vehicle!
8. Know How to Get to the Rental Agency
Check how to get to the rental depot. If you are arriving by air is there a shuttle bus from the airport or do you need to take a taxi or Uber?
If you have your own car where are you going to leave it while you are on your road trip?
AT THE DEPOT OR UPON DELIVERY!
We know you’re excited and just want to get going but the pre-inspection is vitally important for so many reasons- mainly money and time! So allow plenty of time when you go to collect your RV. DON’T RUSH!
The Pre-Inspection: Do Check, Check & Double-Check!
Often a member of staff will accompany you to do a pre-inspection of the RV with a checklist where items of concern are noted or you may be sent to do it yourself. Be very attentive!
If a damaged item is not noted on this checklist you will have difficulty proving you aren’t responsible when you go to return the vehicle.
If necessary do a second check before you leave the depot to ensure that you haven’t missed anything and you can report anything of concern.
Take Lots of Photos and Then Take More Photos!
Document and take photos of:
-the dashboard with mileage, fuel reading and the registration & road user stickers on the windscreen
-every scratch, chip, and dent on the bodywork including the roof and windshields before signing any forms.
-take photos of the interior and contents of the cupboards from the inventory.
And take photos of anything you’re not sure about!
Other Items to Inspect
-Turn on the ignition and check the lights and indicators are working. If possible take the RV for a short test drive before you leave the depot or with the delivery person.
– Check the condition of the tires and the windscreen
– Check the toilet is empty and clean
– Check the gas tank has gas
– Check you have the power cord to plug in at camps
CHECK YOU KNOW HOW TO
-Operate the gas stove and connect and disconnect the gas bottle
– Hot water- how to operate it
-Empty and clean the toilet
-Empty the grey water and refill the freshwater
– How to operate the GPS
-How to make up the beds
-Where is the tire jack and tools, and is the spare tire inflated?
-Operate any heating for both powered sites and freedom camping
You don’t want to be spending your precious holiday time figuring out how something works!
If you can get someone to demonstrate any of these tasks, take a video of them doing it for future reference. It’s a great time and stress saver to know how to do these things before you hit the road so you won’t have to waste time once you’re parked up on the beach enjoying your evening cocktail!
WHAT KIND OF FUEL WILL YOUR RV USE?
Find out what fuel your vehicle uses and keep all your fuel receipts so that you can prove you have only filled with diesel if your vehicle is fueled by diesel.
THE INTERIOR OF THE RV
If you have been given an inventory of items, check that they are all there and in good condition.
Check that the cupboards all close securely and there are sufficient pillows, blankets and towels and they are clean.
Check the interior lights, the ignition for the gas, the water pump, any fans, and the doorstep if you have one.
Check all electrical equipment, the fridge, the microwave, the TV and DVD.
RETURNING THE RV
Ensure that you know what time you are required to return the RV. Most depots have their last drop off time around 4 pm, and there will be a surcharge if you return your vehicle after the last specified drop off time.
Check your contract to see what you are required to do before returning your RV to avoid any last-minute hassles or added expense that might spoil your trip.
You are usually asked to empty and clean the toilet, empty the grey water, clean the inside of the vehicle, and ensure no equipment is missing or damaged.
SOME USEFUL APPS
RV Trip Wizard- travel times, gas stations and campgrounds
The Dyrt Pro – travel times, gas stations and campgrounds
ioverlander – campsites/where to stay
Dyrt- campsites/where to stay
Allstays- campsites/where to stay
Gas Buddy- compare fuel prices
Now you’ve finished the checklist (phew!) you’re free to go! Have an amazing trip and stay safe!
Guest author Maureen Spencer is a kiwi nomad New Zealander with a great passion for travel, and founder of the travel website “So Many Places! So Little Time!” to provide online travel inspiration!
She has visited over 70 countries and lived and worked in Oman, Bahrain, South Korea, and Australia, and completed numerous house and pet sits in England, Singapore, Geneva, Australia, and New Zealand.
You can find her online at facebook.com/somanyplacessolittletime1
For more information on RV travel in the USA, check out our Ultimate RV Trip Planner!
Did you enjoy this post? Pin it to Pinterest!