Renting a recreational vehicle, or RV, is a great way to hit the open road. But you don’t need to buy one outright in order to get a taste of Americana. There are plenty of RVs available for rent, some for as low as $1 a day.
Prices vary depending on when you rent, the size of the vehicle you choose, and the RV rental provider you go with. If you’re not in a major metropolitan area, your choices will be more limited. But if you live near a big city, you’ll have lots of options.
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Traditional Fleet Rentals
There’s an entire industry of stores that specialize in RV rentals. While many of them are local, there are also a few big chains that stand out.
Before you decide on a provider, it helps to understand RV types. Class A RVs are the biggest motorhomes. They’re the ones built for full-time living on the road, and they look similar to a huge bus. The downside is that they only get eight to 10 mpg.
Class C motorhomes are more popular for camping. They look more like a moving van or truck, with a bunk above the cab. They get about 18 to 25 mpg — significantly better than the Class A RVs.
Fifth-wheel RVs are trailers hitched to a pickup truck bed. They have more space than a Class C RV but, like a Class A, only get about eight to 10 mpg. They’re also harder to drive than a Class C. You tow them behind a truck, so they can swing around on the road.
Here are nine places you can go to get a cheap RV rental near you.
1. Cruise America
Cruise America is the largest RV rental company in the U.S. It owns its entire fleet of 4,500 vehicles, and rents out RVs all across the U.S. and Canada. Its fleet vehicles range from truck campers all the way up to large RVs.
We compared pricing across all of the RV rental companies, using a 7-day round-trip rental for the smallest Class C available on February 1, 2018, going from Los Angeles to San Francisco (not including any optional add-ons, but including fees, taxes, and required insurance).
Cruise America’s all-in rate: $1,237 for the week. That includes an estimated 700 miles of driving at a 35¢ per mile charge.
2. El Monte RV
El Monte RV is the second largest nationwide RV rental company. It’s got the largest selection of slide-out vehicles. A slide-out is a compartment that, like the name says, slides out once you’re parked for extra space. They’re a luxury that can really make the difference between living in comfort and getting by in a cramped space.
El Monte’s rental locations are mostly franchised, so most likely you’ll be working with a local owner-operator. Collectively, the company has 28% of the RV rental market.
El Monte’s all-in rate for our hypothetical trip: $1,705. That includes a prepaid mileage charge at 29 cents a mile for 700 miles.
3. Road Bear
Road Bear’s focus is on Class C RVs, with one Class A model available for rent. The company has eight locations in the U.S., but also rents RVs in New Zealand and Australia.
Road Bear’s all-in rate for our hypothetical trip: $1,040. That includes 1,000 prepaid miles at a cost of 42¢ a mile.
Renting directly from other RV owners presents a great opportunity to find an RV that better fits your need, at a location that’s more convenient to you. There are a number of peer-to-peer (P2P) RV rental companies disrupting a rental industry that hasn’t changed much for decades.
Leading the way in this area is Outdoorsy. The company features almost every available recreational vehicle on the road, including large SUVs.
Using the Outdoorsy website, you can search for people nearby with available RVs to rent. Each listing features a detailed description of the vehicle’s condition, amenities, features and more. You can view photos and find out how many people the vehicle sleeps.
The price is clearly listed, along with Outdoorsy’s protection benefits. For renters, these include a $1 million liability policy (valid in the U.S. and Canada) and 24/7 customer service.
For an additional fee, renters can also buy roadside assistance coverage, trip insurance, comprehensive and collision insurance, and RV rental damage coverage. The latter could be a lifesaver, as it covers accident damage to the interior while the vehicle is parked. It’s something that Outdoorsy strongly recommends if you are transporting children or pets in the RV.
To make the rental process seamless, you can also tack on extras to your rental. These include amenities such as bedding, chairs, tables and even a bicycle. More importantly, you can also have the owner fill the fresh water tank before your trip or dump your waste tank after the trip for an additional fee.
One thing to keep in mind is that Outdoorsy runs a DMV records check prior to renting, to make sure you have a clean driving record.
On our hypothetical trip, a late model Winnebago Navion Class C RV cost $258 a night, 100 driving miles a day included, with no generator fee.
This peer-supplied all-in price: $2,243. That includes taxes, service fee and cleaning fee.
RVshare is a similar platform to Outdoorsy. The main distinction is its differing insurance coverage levels.
Using our hypothetical trip, a 2015 Winnebago Trend cost $1,400 for the week, with 200 driving miles a day and four hours of generator time.
This peer-supplied all-in price: $1,609. That includes taxes, fees and required insurance.
While the price of our P2P rentals were higher than other options on this list, if you live in a market not served by other companies, this could still be a good option.
6. Locally Owned RV Stores
Additionally, there are locally owned and operated RV rental stores. You can find them through a simple Google search.
These independent RV stores set their own rates, own and operate their own fleet, and are a part of your local community. They are sometimes part of an RV sales dealership as well.
Either way, these local shops have the power to set their own promotions and cater to the needs of the local rental community. They can also be a great source of information for those who are new to renting an RV.
Jucy RV Rentals offers a different twist on traditional RVs. Evoking the days of the old Volkswagen Eurovan, these “mini RVs” are actually minivans with small pop tops.
The modified Dodge Caravans sleep four and seat five. Two people sleep inside the van, while two other people can sleep in the “penthouse.” Basically, it’s a tent that you hand crank to open from a roof box mounted on top of the minivan.
Inside the minivan is a table and fold flat seats. In the back, the rear hatch opens up to reveal a kitchen setup with sink, portable stove, and a small fridge. There is even a manually operated sink faucet built in.
Jucy minivans rent for about a quarter of the cost of an RV, but you’re giving up a lot of space (and a bathroom).
For our hypothetical trip, we went with the larger model with the small pop top. Since we would be booking for seven nights, each night comes with 100 miles of free driving, so no additional miles were needed.
Jucy’s all-in price: $292.60.
8. Third-Party Booking Sites
There are also third-party reservation sites where you can book RVs owned by other companies. Some are affiliated with existing RV rental companies, others are independent. A few names include Apollo, Motorhome Republic, Motorhome Bookers and Expedition Motor Homes.
Whether you go with a national chain or a local rental shop, most of these booking sites offer one-way, round-trip or off-season discounts. All you have to do is go to their websites or just ask.
9. Relocation Deals
The best deal on cheap RV rentals are courtesy of relocation specials. Much like rental car agencies, RV rental companies need to have the right vehicles in the right place at the right time. Matching supply to demand is a herculean task for any rental vehicle company with locations and vehicles spread across North America.
Normally, re-positioning vehicles requires employees to drive the vehicles. Or, the rental companies can pay transportation truckers to load the campers onto their carriers. It’s a high cost way of moving vehicles. So, rental companies have one other trick up their sleeves: employing you to do the job for them.
If you happen to be going to the right place at the right time, you may strike gold with one of these relocation deals. We’ve seen prices as low as $1 a day. With discounts like that, RV rental companies are practically paying you to do their jobs.
The rental companies will advertise re-positioning deals on their websites, usually within a few weeks of needing the vehicles delivered. One rental company, Road Bear, even advertises deals as far as six to nine months out.
You also need to take into consideration other restrictions. Typically, given the immediate need for these rentals to be at the destination, you are only given a certain number of days to make the trip. Then there’s often a limit on the number of extra days you can add onto your rental. You’ll need to weigh whether these restrictions are worth the discount.
Of course, the daily rate is just for the RV rental itself. Other fees usually still apply. These include charges for preparation, mileage and liability insurance. In addition, rental companies will try to sell you extras like convenience kits, which include items such as bed linens and cookware. And don’t forget you’ll be responsible for fuel and campsite fees.
Most importantly, most RV rental companies charge an hourly generator fee of about $3.50 an hour. Count on using it for a few hours a day if you’re not at a campsite with an electrical hookup.
When you power up the generator on the RV, there is a meter that keeps track of the time it is on. You will be charged per hour for the use of the generator, unless otherwise specified, or unless you purchased an unlimited use package.
One relocation website to check out, in addition to the RV rental companies, is imoova.
The bottom line is that there are many places where you can get a cheap RV rental. But the better question to ask is what kind of road trip are you are looking for?
Can you compromise on space for a cheaper rental vehicle? Would you be willing to adjust your itinerary to take advantage of a relocation deal?
The best thing to do is to determine your needs first, then seek out deals that make financial sense for the type of experience you desire.
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