RENTING OUR WAY INTO THE WORLD OF RV-ing!
“Remember that vacation where we rented an RV and drove around California? That was the best family vacation we ever took – even better than when we went to Disney World!”
When those words were spoken by my 19-year-old son, my son who would happily spend three days in his room playing video games, I thought my heart would burst! And I think he’s right. Those ten days camping with our three teenagers and traveling the Pacific Coast Highway were some of the best days ever.
They also taught us a lot about RVs and RVing.
Ok, so I’m going to be completely up front here. I’ve already written a book called The Complete Guide to Renting an RV, and I’ll be very happy if you head over to Amazon and buy a copy for yourself (and maybe a few more for friends)!
There’s no better way to learn whether you will really like RVing, and what kind of RV you ultimately want to buy, than to get a rental and hit the road.
Below I’ll give you some tips based on our experiences, but first a little of our RV renting story.
Our first time RVing we rented a small “Class C” for a five-day vacation in the Arizona desert. Since we live in New Jersey, that meant flying across the country and picking up a vehicle we’d never actually seen, and it was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. I’d never driven anything bigger than a mini-van, and I was about to get behind the wheel of a 26-foot motorhome. How would I handle such a big vehicle? How would I maneuver it into a parking space? What if I had to back up? Was the independent dealer we were renting from reliable? And how in the world were we going to handle the poo!
It seems I was the only one worrying, because the rest of my family knows that I’m an obsessive planner. For weeks before the trip they’d seen me watching endless YouTube videos and reading countless blogs about everything to do with RVing. There was a lot of good information scattered around the web.
(And that’s what it was: Scattered. I sometimes had a dozen tabs open on my browser while I tried to compare conflicting advice from multiple authoritative sources. That’s why, after renting several more times, I decided to put all of the best information in one place and wrote Complete Guide to Renting an RV.)
We had a great time, and the only major mishap was when our fresh-water hose froze and began shooting a small but steady stream from our motorhome into the desert.
What did we learn? RVing is fun! And, we needed a bigger RV for the five of us.
Our second adventure was renting a 30-foot Class C in Missouri. Once again we rented from a local, independent dealer. Now this one was roomier. Between the bed over the cab, the pull-out couch, and the dinette that converted into a bed, each of the kids got to sleep in a place of their own. On the other hand, it was boxy and hard to maneuver. And loud. Very loud.
For our California vacation we decided to go with one of the smaller chains and rented our first Class A, a 31-foot Thor ACE. The beauty of the ACE was that it had a drop-down bunk over the cab, so, like a Class C, we still had a separate bed for each teen. It was surprisingly easy to navigate down the curvy Pacific Highway above the beautiful ocean, and with two slides it felt really roomy. Yes. A Class A is definitely the way to go for our family.
Each time we’ve rented we’ve learned more about what we like and don’t like, need and don’t need. Experience has taught us things we’d never have noticed just going to RV shows and wouldn’t have considered if we hadn’t tried them.
THE TOP 5 TIPS WE’VE LEARNED ABOUT RENTING AN RV
- Rent the smallest RV that will fit your needs. The smaller the RV, the easier it is to drive and park.
- Do an internet search for RV rentals near where you’ll begin your vacation. You’ll often find better equipped units at lower prices from local venders than from the national chains.
- Read the contract! RV rental businesses are notorious for including expensive add-ons to the rental fees. These may include charges for additional miles, pets, pots and pans, bed linens, lawn chairs, emptying waste tanks, filling gas and propane tanks, cleaning (regardless of how the RV looks when you bring it back), insurance, and more. That “bargain” RV may end up costing you a lot more once you add in all of the extra fees.
- Make a video while the rental agent orients you to the RV. When you forget how to do something such as putting out the awning, it’s great to be able to watch the instructions again on your phone. It’s also a great way to show that the broken item they want to charge you for was already broken when you picked up the motorhome.
- Do your homework. If you spend some time on YouTube familiarizing yourself with RV systems and driving, you can save yourself a lot of frustration “down the road.”
Or (last plug for today, I promise), pick up a copy of The Complete Guide to Renting an RV, which covers all of these topics, plus how to choose a campground, how to set up your itinerary, and much, much, more!
Hope this helps you to start thinking about how to dive into the wonderful world of RVing. We’d love to hear what you think, so please add your comments and questions below!