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What is the best way to rent an RV in 2020?
The freedom of the open road has been enticing people across all cultures for centuries. New experiences, exhilarating landscapes, and friends you haven't met are all ahead of you on your journey of a lifetime. If you can make the journey in the comfort of the best RV rental vehicle, all the better. Let's face it, tents and sleeping bags are not for everybody, and sometimes you have to have those mod-cons.
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Traveling in an RV is not the most budget-friendly option for your vacation experience. Costs vary hugely, but you can generally expect to pay a couple of hundred bucks a night for rental alone. Low miles per gallon and additional campground fees can stretch the budget even tighter. It is, however, a magical way to get around. Cozy, family time meets the rugged open road in a unique vacation experience none of you will ever forget.
Jumping straight in feet-first and purchasing an RV is generally not considered the wise thing to do. Aside from the massive financial outlay, buying before trying can leave you open to a bit of consumer regret. If you're planning your first epic road trip, save your money and your driveway space by seeking out the best RV rental deals.
Before we look at cheap RV rentals, Canada, and the United States included, here are a few tips for renting an RV.
Outdoorsy is a new approach to RV rental and not a traditional corporate RV rental company. It has been likened to the RV equivalent of Air B&B and is described as a "peer-to-peer" rentals group. This design can put a personal touch on your RV rental experience and bring a unique point of interest to your vacation. Another advantage is that as you're renting from private individuals, the cost tends to be lower, and pricing structures are less rigid.
Reviews are excellent with Outdoorsy. It seems to be gaining traction within the RV community as a new way of doing things. With an average of 4.9 stars out of over 5,000 reviews and an A+ from the Better Business Bureau, you can see why.
Similar to AirB&B, pricing structures vary hugely depending on individual renters. You are renting off a person rather than a company. They usually do keep their pricing within or below-market rates, though. You will generally find this a cheaper way of renting an RV than a standard corporate rental company. Look out for off-peak discounts as owners are keen to keep their RVs on the road and earning money out of season.
The beauty of Outdoorsy is the diverse range of rentals available. There’s no catalog of “standard” vehicles. Truck campers, trailers, motor homes, and even quirky vintage vehicles can be rented to put a unique touch on your vacation experience.
It's difficult to quote average rental prices. Here's a range of what you might expect to pay for specific vehicles, though. You will need to contact individual owners for exact quotes, and seasonal fluctuations will always affect the price.
Class A: $175 to $275 per night.
Class B: $100 to $200 per night.
Class C: $150 to $200 per night.
Travel Trailer: $50 to $125 per night.
Fifth Wheel: $60 to $150 per night.
Pop Up Trailer: $50 to $100 per night.
From a consumer protection point of view, Outdoorsy takes its responsibility very seriously. If you're unsure about renting outside of the standard corporate set-up, Outdoorsy offers the following as an assurance to their customers:
DMV and license check.
Liability Insurance through a reputable company.
Round-the-clock customer service.
The upside to Outdoorsy can also be a downside for some. You're renting unique and pre-loved vehicles. This option means that, while they will always meet safety standards, they may look a little bit more lived-in than an RV rental from a corporate rental agency. Standards are high within the company, however, with regular reviews posted and plenty of opportunities to give feedback.
RVshare is another peer-to-peer rental platform similar to Outdoorsy. Approved renters can offer a range of vehicles, including RVs, trailers, tent campers, and motor homes. Rental locations are countrywide as well as International. Unlike Outdoorsy, RV Share allows rental companies to list their vehicles too. This means you have the option of a new top of the range rental if that's what you prefer.
Reviews for RV Share are excellent, with Trustpilot giving them 4-Stars over 150 reviews. Their customer service doesn't seem to be as effective as Outdoorsy; however, with a few complaints being registered due to lack of response to customer emails.
See our full RVshare Review.
Other features that RV Share offer include:
24-hour Roadside Assistance.
5% Cash-Back Loyalty Program.
Liability Insurance up to $500,000 and Vehicle Coverage up to $200,000.
Loyalty Rewards Program for frequent renters.
Hundreds of rental locations internationally and nationwide.
Dealers can list their RVs here too.
Customer service could be improved.
So that's our top 4 picks of RV rental companies. These days you have the option to choose between traditional corporate rental companies or peer-to-peer rental platform. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. If you're on a tight budget, Outdoorsy might be the better option. If it's your first RV rental and you might prefer a more traditional approach. The security of renting from a larger company with newer vehicles can ease any last-minute travel nerves. Shop around, visit the dealers, enjoy a test drive, and hit the open road with confidence.
El Monte is one of the leading players in the corporate RV rental market. It has been around for 40 years and remained a family company for much of that time. In 2016 it was bought by THL. With 31 locations across the United States and a fleet of over 1,500 vehicles, you won't be stuck for choice.
El Monte Reviews are generally 3 or 4 stars, with cleanliness and highly maintained vehicles getting the thumbs up from most travelers. From a customer service point of view, it seems to be a mixed bag.
El Monte offers rentals from 2-sleepers up to 8-sleeper RVs. You can choose between A-Class or C-Class vehicles, depending on what you feel comfortable driving. If this is your first RV trip, you may find C-Class a bit easier to navigate. Vehicles range from brand new to 6-years old. They also offer a 5th wheel and trailer service.
To secure your rental, you are required to put up a hefty $1,000 deposit. This feature is standard with most corporate RV rental companies, though. It covers fuel refills and unexpected tolls or charges. It does not cover damage to the vehicle. You will be liable to pay any significant damage costs. There is an option to pay a $16pd 'damage waiver' to reduce your responsible amount.
El Monte does offer one-way rental options, allowing for a more cost-effective RV experience. Destinations are more limited than standard rentals, however. Generally, you have to contact the branches directly to see what's available.
El Monte is also a pet-friendly RV rental company. This may sound like a minor thing, but for those who have furry companions, being able to bring them along can make all the difference for a successful vacation. El Monte even offers helpful guides for pet-friendly destinations, tours, and accommodation.
Pricier than other similar RV rental companies.
This corporation is a standard corporate RV rental company and one of the biggest in the United States. It operates nationwide and owns a fleet of up-to-the-minute RVs and travel trailers for rental.
The ratings for Cruise America come in at 3.9 stars over 1,059. Not quite the four stars but nearly. Reviews commend the cleanliness and high standard of their fleet of rental vehicles. Any negative reviews are usually concerning figuring out what's included in the cost. Hidden cost, an extensive list of utensils and extras, and the complexity of the rental process itself can all add stress to the rental process.
Pricing structure with Cruise America is a lot more rigid than with peer-to-peer companies such as Outdoorsy. That said, they are usually a lot clearer, and you can pick up some great discounts if you know when to go travel shopping.
Unlike peer to peer rental platforms, corporate dealers like Cruise America are tied to specific rental locations. This factor will usually mean a smaller amount of places you can choose. Generally, their sites are sufficient to allow hassle-free rental for most areas.
As there are limited locations, getting back home again can drive up the cost. They do offer one-way rental options, however. These options can be an extremely cost-effective way to rent an RV as the company is looking for somebody to drive it home. You will have to factor in the cost of your return journey, though, be it by land or air. Destinations for one way rental will be more limited than a standard rental, as it needs to fit in with company requirements.
When renting from a corporate rental company, the rental process itself will usually be more rigid. Expect more paperwork, more signatures, and a higher security deposit upfront. This extra effort and more considerable outlay at the beginning can be outweighed by the peace of mind you get. Knowing that you've rented a top-quality vehicle that should give you no trouble is a comforting feeling when you're traveling a long and unfamiliar road.
Renting RV facilities is unsurprisingly a more spacious option than roughing it in a tent. This feature does not mean that they'll feel spacious after a few nights on the road, though. Group size will have a significant impact on the type of RV you choose to rent. Packing everyone into an RV that is too small will not promote a vacation atmosphere.
The best RV rental will allow everybody enough space to spread out a little and enjoy the adventure. Consider the ages and sizes of all your traveling companions. For example, small kids are more likely to be happy bundling up and sharing a bed than a group of young adults.
Consider the cooking and hygiene facilities that your group will need, as well as adequate lounging space. The smart idea is to pay a visit to the rental dealers and have a look around any prospective RVs. See how the group fits into it in real space before you commit to anything.
The duration of your trip will also have an impact on the model you choose to rent. If you're only hitting the road for a few nights, you can probably be more economical with RV size and facilities than an extended road trip of several weeks.
Planning a budget is a delicate balancing act. If you blow all your budget on the best RV rental in the top class of vehicles, then other vacation expenses will suffer. You'll have to scrimp and save on food, activities, and other vacation highlights. On the other hand, if you over economize on RV accommodation, then the cramped living conditions will harm your vacation experience as a whole.
Other costs to consider:
Food: This will vary depending on group size, campground facilities, and local restaurants. Do a bit of research and plan your budget accordingly.
Fuel: Even the best RV rental might leave you feeling a bit hard done by at the gas station. Not known for their fuel efficiency, a standard RV will give you anywhere between 10 and 20 miles per gallon. Allow an appropriate portion of your budget for fuel costs, or you won't be going very far. Gas prices vary depending on the time of year, with prices rising in peak summer months. The location of the gas station can affect fuel prices too; if you fill up at a gas station on the main route, it's likely to be more expensive than one off the beaten track a bit.
Overnight parking/campground fees: Know your intended route and campground fees before you arrive. Find out if there are any additional charges for propane, generators, or firewood and budget accordingly so you're not left out in the cold!
Activities, National Park entrance fees, and day excursions all need to be in the budget. You might love your RV experience a little bit less if you can't afford to leave it and go exploring.
Emergency Fund: As always, have an emergency fund ready and forget about it unless you need it.
All RVs are not created equal. Size, sleeping arrangements, and cooking facilities differ hugely between models. As does your driving experience. Remember, if you're the captain, you'll be spending as much time sitting at the wheel as sitting at the dinner table. For your best RV rental experience, make sure you choose a vehicle you're comfortable driving.
Class A and B: Easier to drive than other models, but you may compromise on living space. The high up cab gives an added sense of security. It allows you the option to park the rig and have a standard car to drive around for day excursions while on vacation. Only certain vehicles can be towed by a Class A. Investigate whether this is a suitable option for you.
Class C: The compact structure of a Class C model gives a more “normal” driving experience if you’re not hugely confident driving a bigger rig. The additional sleeping area above the cab is an advantage too.
Know your route: Driving a big rig around smaller roads or a National Park may not be the most practical or enjoyable experience. While a smaller platform will mean a compromise on living space, it may offer a more enjoyable experience overall.
In addition to the basic rental cost, you need to account for other fees. Usually, a reasonably sizeable deposit is required to secure your RV rental. Insurance will be mandatory and can seem quite costly. Shop around for the best deals, bearing in mind that if you're going out of state, there may be a supplement.
Like other accommodations, your rental company may include linens, kitchenware, generators, and so on, or they may charge an additional fee for them. Confirm all this before you sign the agreement.
Those are a few basic things to consider if you're looking to rent an RV. Have an in-depth chat with your rental company about the pros and cons of each model to get the most enjoyable experience. Now let's take a look at our top 4 best RV rental deals.
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