Have you always wanted to rent an RV? Well keep reading as we discuss all the things you need to know before renting an RV.
A few years ago, my husband and I packed up our two girls and flew to Las Vegas, where we kicked off the adventure of a lifetime. We spent a week exploring the best Southwestern national and state parks on our first recreational vehicle trip. Spoiler alert: We became addicted to RV travel, and have gone on several RV trips since then.
We’ve learned a lot about RVing since that first trip. Below are six tips to best prepare you for your road trip now that RV rentals are becoming more popular in the era of continued socially distanced family vacations.
1. Special licenses and different types of RVs
Whenever we tell people we’re going on an RV trip, we’re asked, “Do you need a special license to drive an RV?” Rest assured, in all 50 states RVs weighing under 26,000 pounds (most are under that weight) don’t require a special license. There are two types of RVs: drivable motorhomes and towable ones. There are subcategories among these as well.
Related: How we’re exploring the country in an RV for a year
Drivable RVs, often referred to as motorhomes
Drivable RVs are often referred to as motorhomes, meaning you drive and sleep in the same area. There are three types: Class A, Class B and Class C. The only ones that could potentially weigh more than 26,000 pounds and require a special license are Class As. Class A motorhomes weigh an average of 13,000–30,000 pounds, but with many options under 26,000, it’s easy to avoid the heavier ones. So, what’s the difference between the three?
Class A RVs are the biggest ones and they resemble coach buses. Besides weighing an average of 13,000–30,000 pounds, they also range in size from 21–41+ feet. While they generally offer the most space in the motorhome category, I don’t recommend renting a Class A for your first RV trip unless you have experience driving bus-sized vehicles. Parking these can be difficult due to their size, and you’re limited to spaces they can actually fit in.
Class B RVs, also known as camper vans, are the smallest and the easiest to get used to driving. Since they’re smaller, they sleep fewer people and accommodations aren’t as grand: there have potentially smaller beds, kitchenettes instead of true kitchens. If there is a bathroom, most times it’s only a wet bath and maybe an outdoor shower. Class Bs are great for one or two people but not the best motorhome for a family or group of friends.
Class C RVs are a great choice for first-time RVers. They provide more space than Class Bs and are easier to maneuver than Class As. The average weight is 10,000–12,000 pounds, so you’ll never have to worry about getting a special license and the vehicles range in length from 20–38 feet. Class Cs, typically built on a truck chassis or van frame, are comparable to driving a big truck that requires wide turns.
Related: Tips for your family’s first RV trip
2. What you need to know about campsites
Obtaining the RV is an important first step, but it’s still just a step. You’ll also need to book campsites instead of hotels when traveling by RV. There are varying levels of campsites, ranging from the bare-bones options that only offer a place to park to luxury campsites with lake views, resort-style pools, 18-hole golf courses and more. The average RV camp typically ranges from $35–$50/night, but, of course, the more luxurious, the higher the price. Sites can easily surpass $100 per night, especially now while campsites are in very high demand.
Most sites offer weekly and monthly discounts, reducing the price for those staying longer. Also, know that campsites can book up well in advance — this is especially true in popular tourist destinations such as Rocky Mountain National Park, the Grand Canyon and other national parks.
Related: Mistakes to avoid on your first camping trip
When booking campsites, consider what’s included and what’s important to you. Does the campsite offer drinking water, dump stations, electrical hookups, cable, internet, restrooms, etc.? For electrical hookups, does your RV need a 30 or 50 AMP or does it have a convertor where you can connect to both? This is important when reserving your spot, as is deciding if you need a pull-through or back-in spot. Oftentimes, pull-through spots come at a premium because it’s easier to park as you can pull into the spot and then continue driving forward to exit. Backing into the spot can be much more of a hassle.
What about the “Dirty Stuff”?
Everyone always asks us the same thing: “Is it nasty dealing with the toilet?” It’s a fair question but, believe me, it’s not hard, nor does it take a long time. Most RV rentals come with gloves to use when touching the black tank hose. (If not, buy some.) It takes about five minutes to dump your tank and while the person you rent from should give you a thorough overview (I recommend recording it), most RVers are very nice and will help you if you’re confused. You can also check out this YouTube video to see the process.
If you’re looking to save money on campsites, consider boondocking for a night or so. Boondocking is when you’re backcountry camping, staying in a parking lot overnight or when the campsite you’re staying at doesn’t offer hookups — meaning you can’t connect to water, electricity or sewer. Be sure to check signs and local regulations to make sure you’re permitted to park, if you’re choosing one of the first two options. You can also find spots at the Boondockers Welcome website, which connects travelers with hosts who have private sites for free.
Now, just because a campsite doesn’t offer these things that doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t have water or electricity. Before boondocking, you can fill the RV fresh water tank to have access to water and, if the RV has a propane tank, you can use it for electricity. Just know neither of these will last forever: Most freshwater tanks hold 20–100 gallons of water and a 30-pound propane tank usually offers 24 hours of generator use.
Related: How to stay near national parks for less
4. Average costs of renting an RV
How much does renting an RV cost?
Like hotels, RV prices will greatly vary depending on what time of year you’re traveling, the cost of living in the city you’re renting from, how many people the RV accommodates and how updated/luxurious the RV is. You can use these average costs from Outdoorsy as a guideline, knowing it will vary, and high demand can create even higher prices.
- Class A: $175 to $900 per night.
- Class B: $100 to $500 per night.
- Class C: $100 to $400 per night.
Also know that you may need to factor in a per-mile charge. You might have a built-in number of included miles and will incur a fee per mile driven over the number, though some rentals do come with unlimited miles.
5. RV insurance
RV for America offer three levels of insurance for its customers. Basic, Essential, and Peace of mind package.
Each insurance coverage contains different limits. Starting at the essential level will allow you to include roadside assistance with your insurance package. See our insurance options and differences on our website gregga3.sg-host.com/whats-included/
Related: The best travel insurance policies and providers
6. Helpful apps while RVing
FreeRoam: Provides information on free RV camp locations and overnight parking. It also shares information on regular RV campgrounds by showing reviews and ratings about how crowded campsites are, quality of cell reception, safety and ease of access.
GasBuddy: This app shows the lowest gas prices in your area. You can even search based on brand and type of gas. When planning, its trip cost calculator comes in handy for budgeting.
Related: Best credit cards for gas purchases
RV Checklist: Helps with pre-road trip preparation and packing. It offers checklists that are great for first-time RVers who don’t know where to start.
Free Zone Wi-Fi: This app provides information on 5 million hotspots in the U.S., maps to guide you there and automatic notifications when you’re in range of a signal.
Coverage?: Depending on where your RV adventures take you, you’ll quickly learn all roads are not created equally when it comes to cell service. This app provides a complete cellular coverage map for popular carriers across the United States.
Related: Best credit cards for paying your cellphone bill
RVing is a fun adventure and something I think everyone should do at least once. Know that right now, RV sites and rentals and sites are a hot commodity, but otherwise, this really is the perfect time to explore this method of traveling around the country.
Who knows? You might get hooked on RV life just as we did!
Call RV for America at 561-600-3827 to book your RV today!