Recreational vehicle sales and rentals are booming. A recent Boston Globe travel article revealed that companies are reporting massive increases in business, some as high as 650 percent. It makes sense. RV road trips offer a sense of freedom and safety. Are you considering renting an RV for your next getaway? Here are some tips.
How big a rig do I need?
RVs come in a variety of styles and sizes. Class A motorhomes are the large bus-style units, roughly 30-40 feet long and most popular with full-time or long-term RVers. Class C motorhomes are a compact version of Class A, built on a van chassis, and known for their cab-over design, varying in size from 21 to 31 feet. Class B are camper vans, about 20-25 feet long. Fifth wheel, travel trailers and pop-up campers are pull-along units, designed to be towed behind a large pickup truck.
First decide whether you want to drive or tow (provided you have a vehicle that can accommodate a trailer), and consider how many people will be sleeping inside and the types of amenities that are important to you. Do you need full kitchens, large living room spaces, outdoor spaces?
“Each family is unique, but Class C’s are a great place to begin your search for a family of four,” says Maddi Bourgerie, spokeswoman for RVshare, the world’s largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace (www.rvshare.com).
How difficult are they to drive?
You don’t need a special license to drive an RV, and it’s not difficult to drive once you get used to it.
“Even if your daily driver is a Prius, you’ll quickly find driving a rental RV is like driving an SUV,” says Michael Smalley, executive vice president of Cruise America, the nation’s largest RV rental company (www.cruiseamerica.com). “At Cruise America, our purpose-built Class C RVs are intended with the first-timer in mind.”
But experienced RVers offer some crucial pointers. Familiarize yourself with the controls before driving. Start slow and allow yourself time to get used to the vehicle. Practice braking and turning, and be extra mindful of parking structures, bridge overheads, and low hanging trees. “When in doubt, stop and get out to check your surroundings,” Bourgerie says.
Backing up can be a little tricky, too. Practice, and use a lookout to guide you. “Even the most seasoned RVers use a lookout when backing up,” says Smalley. “Just be sure the lookout person can see you in the door mirrors.”
One common rookie mistake: not buttoning down the hatches. Be sure everything inside and out is closed and secured before taking off.
And be sure to check into a campground before dark. Just in case, pack a couple of headlamps, which are also useful for other activities around the camp at night.
What will it cost?
Costs vary with style, size, and season. CruiseAmerica rentals start at $50 per night during non-peak season; peak season rates start at $129 per night. RVshare rentals average among all styles and sizes about $150 per night, including fees and taxes.
Are there additional fees to consider?
If you’re renting through sites like RVshare, additional fees can vary and are at the owner’s discretion. Ask about kitchen supplies, grills, linens, extra cleaning fees, and pet fees; while these are often included, it’s important to nail down the details in advance. Some owners may also charge for excess mileage and generator use. Be sure that all charges are listed on your quote prior to booking.
CruiseAmerica, which has about 4,500 rentals in its summer fleet in nearly 140 locations, offers vehicle provisioning kits ($110) and personal kits ($60 per person), along with optional on-board generators ($3.50 per hour), and camping chairs ($11). There are no additional charges for pets, and renters can opt to bring their own linens, kitchen gear, grills, chairs, etc. to save on the extra provisioning costs.
Beyond that, you’ll need to budget for propane, campground fees, pet surcharges at campgrounds, utility hookups, and waste dumping fees.
You’ll need to budget for gas, too. Mileage fees vary from about 17 to 35 cents per mile. “At current gas prices, budget $500 for a 2,500-mile road trip,” says Smalley.
Do I need special insurance?
Insurance is generally included, as well as roadside assistance plans. For example, CruiseAmerica rentals includes 24-hour roadside assistance, liability insurance ($1,000,000) and damage waiver with a $1,500 deductible. Renters have the added option of purchasing a “zero deductible” plan for an additional $11.95 a day. Peer-to-peer rentals also include standard insurance. For example, RVshare rentals include up to $200,000 in comprehensive and collision coverage, as well as free 24/7 roadside assistance. Renters have the opportunity to purchase upgraded coverage at the time of booking.
Can I take it for a test drive?
That depends. You can certainly take a look at the RV before renting it, and should. “While we don’t allow test dives — pesky insurance details — we do welcome visitors to any of our locations. In that way you can see, feel, and touch our RVs so you know which is the right one,” says Smalley.
If you’re doing a peer-to-peer rental, the owner may take you on a test drive at their discretion. In any case, be sure to get a thorough walk-through of any unit you rent. “Things like operating the generator, electrical hookups, and dumping the water tanks are all crucial to using the RV, and need to be properly done,” says Bourgerie. “Even things that seem simple might be a little tricky.” You should read operating manuals thoroughly, and ask a lot of questions.
Ready to go?
Not just yet. While hitting the road with no particular place to go may sound wonderfully freeing and adventurous, you’ll need campground reservations, especially those in popular destinations. And in the current climate, many campgrounds are operating at limited capacities, and require advance reservations. One more note: Pack a map or road atlas for when you find yourself in the middle of nowhere without cell service.