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This page I wrote for my old rv website RVforSaleGuide.com before discovering the Vanabode as the best travel vehicle for long term fun. People still like big rv's despite the much greater cost and trouble to operate, so here's what I know about them.
This RV rental guide is very helpful when choosing your first rental motorhome and looking to do it affordably, safely and easily. Renting an rv can often be a great way to experience a fantastic and adventurous vacation without making a huge financial commitment. Often renting an rv can prevent purchasing an expensive motorhome that you THINK will make all your dreams come true (like Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite said), but might not. I've outlined the advantages and disadvantages of renting an rv and compared it to buying one.
First remember that rv's are like boats, unless you are going to live in them like, Kelly, my wife and I do, they must be considered an extra expense or luxury. If you take vacations often, go camping at least once a month, or attend events like big football games or car racing then they can often be no more expensive than typical car travel when considering the savings from not needing a hotel room.
So, try the rv rent route first. If you are considering buying a particular rv then by all means rent it first and try it out for THREE days! NO less. You will get a real feel for the rv that way. When renting an RV and on vacation, make sure to secure your home while you're away with a security camera system. Check here for additional info on CCTV camera equipment.
If you are simply looking for information on how to get a good deal on rv rent, how to locate a dealer, and what to expect in terms of cost, paperwork, etc. then the following information will help you.
Most rv rent places rent Class A's, Class C's and Class B's but not travel trailers or fifth wheels. Many places will not rent for less than 4 days with a Motorhome Rental being typically a four to fourteen night rental period. Most companies give you the first 100 miles a day for free and charge about .32 to .42 a mile thereafter depending on current depreciation rates. Nearly all U.S. rv rent companies require at least a $1000 reservation deposit or half the rental is charged to your credit card at the time of confirmation. This is later applied toward your rental charges. When you pick up your RV there is also usually a security deposit charged and held during the time of your rental. Terms, rates and conditions of deposits vary depending on make, model, year, condition, and location of rv unit.
Extra's on your contract may include hospitality kits, kitchen kits, emergency road kits, or extra insurance. If the RV for rent has a generator there is usually a per hour fee on its use which is calculated after your rental and for many people camping in the wild this is worth it. If you are staying at a campground you don't need a generator.
When returning your RV for rent it is usually required that you clean the it so that it is ready for use for the next renter. If you return the RV in a condition that is not clean and ready for use, you could be charged a cleaning fee. Special insurance is often needed to prevent a catastrophe financially should you have an accident. It typically is about $15 per day or you can get a binder from your car insurance company.
If you have a breakdown during your rental period many companies have nationwide 24-hour roadside assistance, 24-hour vehicle operation assistance, and 24-hour customer service in many languages, Toll-free technical service hotline, mobile mechanical services, and warranty station appointment services can often be very valuable in ensuring your vacation is not a total disaster should a breakdown occur.
Renting before buying can often save you thousands of dollars, tons of headaches, and makes for a great way to experience one particular style motorhome without a huge commitment. More info on how to get a good deal on rv rent, how to locate a dealer, and what to expect in terms of cost, paperwork, etc. and you are not considering a purchase follows.
While enjoying your rental rv do NOT forget your goal in this exercise - to determine if buying this particular motorhome will be a good decision instead of renting one when you need it. Each issue outlined below is VERY important when owning an rv but may not be a big deal when renting so you will have to make a conscious effort to pay attention to the items I have listed for you. Do so, and you will be armed with the best information to make the best decision.
Pay careful attention to the following issues, hold discussions with your spouse and kids or other parties involved as to how they feel about each one.
Motorhome size - Make sure you are comfortable with the physical size of the motorhome, and address issues such as where will you park it when not using it, and the availability of campgrounds and parks that have parking or lots big enough to accommodate your interests. Exterior storage is very important to full time living. We store winter clothes, a ladder for reaching the windshield cover and cleaning windows, life jackets and water gear for playing in the pool and kayaking, surfboards, blankets, beach towels, tool box, power saw, drills, grill, sewing machine, electric air pump, lawn chairs, folding patio table, windshield cover, spare parts and light bulbs, oil and fluids for both the car and the rv rental, and more. If you do NOT have adequate storage outside you will NOT under any circumstances be happy with the interior storage either, especially if you're living full time in the rv.
Air conditioning and heat - Run the air-conditioning and heating systems and make sure they work adequately in all rv rentals. If you will be sleeping in one part of the motorhome and using a door to separate living quarters from, say the children sleeping in the living room, then test the ac that way, with the door shut, as well. It is my experience that when you are too hot or too cold for more than a day or two ALL the fun of camping and traveling quickly comes to an end. Don't skimp here. If they offer an additional air conditioner as an option, buy it. Pay attention to the noise level as the units run, vibration, air velocity, and vent adjustability.
Many new rvs come with ducted air which is set up just like your house. A central air-conditioning unit is mounted underneath the motorhome rather than on the roof. Ducted air is much quieter, and requires less roof maintenance with possible future leaks, there is no condenser run off on the roof, and this allows for more headroom inside the rv. The disadvantages include the single biggest reason we insist on NOT having ducted air. My wife goes into a sneezing fit that can last for months, literally sneezing every 10 minutes or so, hour after hour, day after day, if the air is not fairly clean. Ducted systems cannot be cleaned easily. Once dust builds up in the ducts it can be very expensive too impossible to get it out. There is a LOT of dust and dirt traveling the country. With the typical traditional roof mounted air handlers you simply unscrew the cover inside, clean the filter, and the dust is gone.
Noise levels are important for long term happiness as well. The more insulation you have the quieter the motorhome. The higher the windows are mounted, the quieter the rv rental. Heavy engine insulation and fire walls help to keep road noise down when traveling. Our Class A Georgie Boy has a front mounted engine and we built a wrap around leather couch with 12" thick cushions over the engine access cover. Now we can actually have a nice conversation or use our cell phone while driving. If you can't hear each other while driving it will be VERY annoying.
Chassis performance, braking, and steering - are among the most important issues of all. If you have never driven an rv before or pulled a trailer or fifth wheel everything will feel strange and it will be difficult to pay attention to these issues. Keep in mind that no rv performs like a race car, brakes like a bicycle or steers like a go-cart. They are large, often poorly retrofitted vehicles with engines built by one company mated to a chassis made by someone else with a body sitting on it made by yet another company.
Things can go terribly wrong. Safety is the most important issue here and it will be difficult to ascertain all your thoughts on this issue in the few days you are renting the rv. But TRY! Drive 60 miles an hour on an open stretch of road and see just how long it takes you to come to a complete stop. Does the coach lurch forward or lean to one side when doing so? Do you feel comfortable braking hard because you WILL have to do this eventually.
You should be able to turn the rv rental around easily with the power steering. If comparing different length or model rvs pay attention to the turning radius. Later if you live full time in your rv and travel extensively, this will make a big difference in the place you can stop and visit without getting into a logistical nightmare.
Fuel mileage - Other than your monthly payment, fuel costs can be one of the highest costs you will incur while traveling. It pays to get a vehicle you can afford to fuel. Test this with your rv rental. Fill the motorhome up all the way to the top, squeezing every last drop into the tank that you can get in. Record your odometer reading so you know your starting miles. Then drive 20 miles in traffic and 60 miles at highway speeds MINIMUM. Fuel up, get a receipt showing the gallons purchased, subtract your original starting mile odometer reading from the reading on the odometer now, which gives you the miles driven. Then divide the number of miles driven by the number of gallons purchased for a good read on fuel mileage expectations. It will cost you about 23-28% MORE to travel in heavy mountainous areas. Visit school bus to see if converting a bus is the right move for you instead of renting a motorhome.
Sleeping quarters and beds - Make sure the beds are where you want them. Some setups put the kids bed too close to the adults bed. Nearly EVERY rv mattress is pathetic. We purchased a $1,400 house quality, tempurpedic foam topped mattress, forced it back and into our rv bedroom and were stunned at how much better we have slept. It is the single most important aspect of a good nights rest, making sleeping a real joy instead of an end of day necessity. Make sure you understand if you are living in the rv full time that making a bed up every day in close quarters can be annoying. Walk around rear mounted beds are best. Overhead beds are very difficult but great for kids.
Views - from the windows should be nice, unobstructed and convenient. Windows in bathrooms are especially nice. Camping offers you the chance to see things you may never see otherwise. Looking out your warm living room window at the Pacific ocean crashing on the beach 100 feet away is extraordinary, especially when you can't afford 10 million dollar ocean front property. Class A rvs tend to have the very best panoramic view of them all through the huge wrap around front windshield when driving.
Maneuvering - practice steering, backing and looking around you FROM the drivers seat of your rv rental. The ability to see, possibly with a backup camera, and well positioned windows, is very important. Lane changes, mirrors and blind spots should be thought out and discussed when comparing different models.
Interior accommodations - pay attention to headroom, interior storage, counter top space, and refrigerator size. I strongly recommend a convection microwave over typical oven, and we prefer a propane stove over an electric burner top. With a propane hot water heater, propane refrigerator and a propane stove top you can comfortably live out in the woods for 2 weeks at a time without needing electricity providing it is cool enough to sleep without ac.
Generator option - I hate generators. All the ones I have had from Onans to Hondas and more have cost me a lot of money to keep up and repair. None of them has ever worked very well. The propane Onan we have now runs perfect for 20 minutes then sputters just enough to pop every breaker in the rv, like the air conditioner. Then you have to get up and pop all the breakers back on and go for another 20 minutes. You obviously can't do this when trying to sleep.
Some people however, swear by a totally electric motorhome stating it is more safe. They always have generators and when they work they are certainly quite valuable. Make sure it is not too noisy when running. Test the rv rental generator while driving down the road and see if it will run flawlessly for 2 hours running the air-conditioner.
Roof quality - If you are purchasing the rv, make sure you have some means of getting on the roof to see just what is going on up there or at least tour the factory to see how it is constructed. Fiberglass roofs can be the best, but awfully expensive. Rubber roofs over steel or aluminum frame sheeted in plywood tends to be the norm. Make sure the corners wrap around and down the side of the rv or you will have leaks.
RV awnings - I don't suggest buying any rv, new or used, without awnings unless you have the time, money and a plan, to have them added. As of August 2005 we have traveled over 30,000 miles in 10 years of rving and lived in full time, or camped out of, our motorhome over 1,642 days. My experience is that awnings are the single most important exterior option you can buy. The problem is they are MUCH more difficult and expensive to ADD later than nearly any other option. SO, I strongly recommend buying an rv with them already installed. More on rv awnings.
I strongly urge you to rent before buying. NO matter how much you know about rv's each one has a custom configuration and assumptions always cost you. Be smart, and try an rv rental. You do not need a special license to operate an rv but most rental places require you be at least 25 years of age with a valid driver's license. You will pay a serious late fee if you don't return the rv on time. Try the rv rental idea first.