What Surprised Me About Renting an RV For the First Time

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I never would have guessed that renting an RV for the first time would be such a unique and amazing experience. When my partner suggested it for our vacation in Melbourne, Australia, I decided to give it a try. Turns out, I loved it!

I had always thought of RVs as being big and bulky and not very practical for everyday use. But after spending a week in an RV, I realized just how wrong I was. RVs are actually quite comfortable and easy to drive, and they offer a great way to see the country. Here are a few things that surprised me about renting an RV for the first time.

You Need to Make a Reservation Well Ahead of Time

I thought it would be like renting a car: You pick up the keys and go. But there’s more to it than that. The first surprise was how long it took us to rent our RV in Melbourne, Australia. We started looking online at rental companies around the country in March 2021 and didn’t get our reservation until May 2021, almost three months later! (Although the second one in January 2022 was quite faster).

Reservation time varies from country to country. The second time in South Africa, we got it within a week of making a reservation. In the United States, the main waiting time isn’t getting the vehicle; it’s getting the campsite! In fact, Recreation.gov recommends reserving hotspot campgrounds six months in advance.

Renting an RV Is More Expensive Than I Hoped (At First)

I was looking for an RV rental company in Melbourne when I came across a website called Camper Van Rental Shop. The site offers a wide range of rental cars from different companies at very affordable prices. I found this site very useful because it had all the information I needed about each car that was available for rent. The site also displayed customer reviews so that I knew if someone else had used the same car and liked it or not before making a decision about which one to choose myself.

The price to rent a camper van can vary greatly, depending on the location and other factors. In Melbourne, Australia where we rented ours, an AS 6 Berth at $139 per day, while a Juicy Coaster costs $89 per day suitable for budget travelers.

In the United States, renting an RV motorhome from a company like Cruise America usually costs $175 to $250 per night. Plus, you usually pay a mileage fee for long-distance drives, and you’re responsible for your own fuel.

Renting from a P2P marketplace like RVShare or Outdoorsy offers more options. You can often find travel trailers for around $100 per night, but luxurious Class A’s can rent for more than $400 per night!

If you’re traveling with two people or less, renting an RV probably won’t save you money over booking a hotel room. But if you’re traveling with a large family, you’ll probably save money over driving multiple vehicles or booking multiple rooms.

The Amenities Are Much Nicer than I Expected

I was expecting a small vehicle that had a bed, a bathroom and maybe some cupboards to store our food. What I didn’t expect were all of the other amenities that came with it. There was a three-burner gas stove, microwave oven, fridge/freezer combo and even a TV/DVD Player, fire extinguisher, an awning, air conditioner, wastewater tank, cabin, hot and cold water supply, sink, toilet, shower hot and cold, and fresh water tank for our use.

We had a double bed and plenty of room for both of us to stretch out at night without bumping into each other (which is hard to do when all you have is one bed). Other models had double twin beds rather than a single walk-around double or Queen bed.

Driving an RV Was A Lot Less Nerve-Wracking Than I Was Told

I’ve never driven an RV before, but I thought it would be difficult because of its size and weight. But it wasn’t too bad at all — I just had to learn how to drive more slowly than usual! Plus, there was plenty of room in front of me so I could see everything clearly and easily steer around obstacles (or people). And the seats were comfortable enough that we didn’t have any problems with them at all.

Definitely Worth Cooking Our Own Food

One of the things I was most surprised about when we rented an RV for the first time was how much money we saved by cooking our own food. Most people don’t think about this but eating out can get expensive very quickly. It’s easy to get into a routine where you eat out for every meal because it’s convenient and tastes good, but it can cost hundreds of dollars over a week or two.

Renting an RV allows you to cook your own food instead of going out all the time. You can whip up your own gourmet meal for $3 a person! The equipment on RVs is similar enough that it would be very easy to replicate what you do at home in your RV kitchen. There are cooking utensils in RVs for this purpose.

More Privacy than You’d Think

When you’re in an RV, it can be easy to get lost in your own little world and forget about the outside world for a while. That’s probably because you have more space of your own than you would if you were camping out in a tent. Being able to spread out is great because it gives your family some extra room to stretch out and relax; this can also make it easier to have fun together as well.

A Lot of RV Rentals are Pet-Friendly

I didn’t bring a furry friend along on my trip, but turns out, a lot of RV rental companies welcome every member of your family! RV rental companies often set aside some of their fleet as pet-friendly rentals for cats, dogs, and whoever else you call family.

If your rental contract doesn’t allow pets, don’t ignore that restriction! You will be held liable for any damage caused to the RV.

But … Cost of Fuel Is INSANE.

RVs come with diesel while renting, but not extra. So, when you get close to empty, you need to hold extra cash for more diesel on the road.

I was surprised by how much diesel we needed for our trip! I’m glad we had plenty of money left over after paying for everything else because otherwise we may not have been able to take advantage of all that there was to see.

Cruise America says, “On average, each RV rental from Cruise America comes in around 6-10 mpg.” Thats for gas only.

Here are some typical fuel efficiency ratings for rental motorhomes. In the United States, most rental RVs have V8 or V10 gasoline engines, which are not as efficient as diesel, but gasoline is easier to find.

  GASOLINE (MPG) DIESEL (MPG)
Class A Coach 4-9 6-14
Class C Coach 6-14 14-18
Class B Van 15-22 17-25

Why I Liked Renting an RV For the First Time

  • Renting RVs has become much more popular over the past few years due to their convenience and affordability. If you’re traveling with more than two people, then it’s cheaper to rent an RV than it is to pay for hotels along the way. The cost of staying in hotels can add up quickly.
  • You have your own kitchen with everything you need already there. Here are some extra tips if you enjoy cooking all your own food.
  • You can stop when you want which allows you to see a lot more of the country. If you’re into off-grid living, you can even camp for free on public land!
  • It’s cheaper than flying, so you can afford to spend more time in one place and take day trips out of town.

My Tips for First-Time RV Renters

  1. Know what size you want before you start searching for rentals online. A Class C RV (not longer than 32 feet) is a great choice for first-time RV renters. If you’re considering something smaller, here’s a comparison of Class C and Class B motorhomes.
  2. Find out if your credit card covers theft protection on RV rentals. If not, you should really consider purchasing RV trip insurance!
  3. Get familiar with all of the gadgets inside the RV before you hit the road. Ask the rental company for a quick walk-through or instruction manual.
  4. It’s not as expensive as you think. The first thing I did when researching RV rental companies was look at their prices. While I expected them to be higher than what I’d normally spend on hotels or Airbnb, they weren’t nearly as expensive as I expected. In fact, some of them were less than what you’d pay for a hotel room during peak season!
  5. You don’t have to worry about finding parking because there’s plenty of space in most campgrounds or RV parks and if there isn’t, just pull over on the side of the road somewhere close by.

Conclusion

I hope these insights will help you prepare for your own RV adventure. They’re just my personal experiences, but I’m sure they’ll be useful when planning your trip. 

While this is not an exhaustive list of advice, it’s a great starting point if you’re thinking about doing your first RV rental sometime in the near future. We also hope that you’re inspired to set out on an RV trip of your own at some point, be it for a few days, a week, or longer. There’s nothing quite like waking up in the morning and seeing new opportunities right out the window!

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