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Did you know that you don’t have to own a recreational vehicle (RV) to use one for a family vacation? For families who want to try out RV travel without owning one, a rental can be a great option. I’ll point out many of the pros and cons of RV travel to help you decide if you want to rent a camper for your next vacation.
We have both rented RVs and rent out our own RV to others. So we have experience with renting campers and know all the things that people appreciate (and hate) about RVing.
The first time we traveled in an RV, was when we rented a motorhome in Canada. We found a huge discount and decided to take the leap and try one. We have great memories of that vacation. Now, we rent our travel trailer out to others on Outdoorsy and RVShare to help other families have a memorable vacation. (Psst: Here is our coupon (applied at checkout) for $50 off Outdoorsy)
Renting an RV can be a good option for family travel for many reasons. Flexibility, cost, and convenience are some of the advantages of RV travel.
Some RV rental outfits can even deliver it to your chosen location, whether a campground or other destination of your choice. (We have had requests to set up our trailer at Forest Road numbers or GPS points) Many people can even get it set up for you, saving you time and the trouble of driving it and setting up camp.
Cruise America, Outdoorsy, and RVShare are the most popular online RV rental sources in the US and Canada. Online platforms such as Outdoorsy and RVShare can offer you special deals, and make it easy to comparison shop. We have an article to help you Find a Cheap RV for your Vacation.
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to rent an RV. It may be a question of rental versus purchasing, or simply about choosing to rent an RV versus staying at a hotel.
It is always a good idea to rent first if you are considering buying an RV, that way can see the pros and cons of RV travel before you commit to the big investment of an RV purchase. (I do have to warn you though that after traveling in an RV you may be hooked and want to buy one)
Remember, when deciding whether or not to rent an RV for vacation purposes, it’s not just a matter of literal cost/benefit considerations. Rather, it’s about your whole travel experience.
Why Rent an RV?
Rental can be most beneficial as an introduction to RV camping. If you are trying out RV camping for the first time or if you are not ready to purchase a new rig, you should rent one first. Renting an RV can also allow you to try different kinds of RVs and determine which is best for you and your family’s budget and needs.
There are several different types, from large “Class A” motorhomes, that are almost like houses on wheels to very small travel trailers. Examples of the smallest trailers are the classic “teardrop” travel trailer that sleeps two and includes a mini-kitchen, as well as “pop-up” campers whose tent top you fold out whenever you stop for the night.
With the current pandemic restrictions on flying and traveling, RV travel is one of the safest ways to travel. You can quickly reserve an RV in any location to have a contactless vacation. Traveling in your own home on wheels is a great alternative to hotels.
Whichever kind of RV you choose, rental may be the best option if you are only an occasional RV traveler and lack the finances to purchase one. Aside from the costs of financing an RV purchase, there’s the expenses of maintenance and sometimes storage as well. Here are 15 Undeniable Reasons to NOT buy an RV.
Pros of Renting an RV
If it is a question of renting vs. buying, rental has many advantages, when you consider expenses of ownership and maintenance, especially if you plan to travel in your RV only occasionally. It also gives you the opportunity to try out different kinds of RVs and give you a better sense of what you need, should you decide to purchase an RV later. But RV rental also advantages when it is simply a matter of choosing between camping and other forms of travel, especially when considering RV versus hotel travel.
RV Travel Will Slash the Cost of Your Trip
To start with, RV travel can be more cost effective than booking a hotel room for family travel if you also use it cook your own meals, especially for longer trips. Also, if you are traveling with a larger family group (like us!), you may come out ahead in terms of per-night expenses.
Road Trip to See More Sights
RV travel can also be advantageous in terms of time and efficiency—for example, it can be a great way to visit multiple national parks in a region on one trip. Our two favorite RV road trips have been the Oregon coast and Moab to see Arches National Park
Avoid Packing and Unpacking
One of the things I discovered I really love about RV travel, is leaving everything in one place for an entire vacation. Unlike a hotel or rental house, you don’t have to worry about packing and unpacking when you move to a new location. And although there are limits to what you can pack in even the largest RV, you don’t have to worry as much about “traveling light,” compared to car trips or flying.
More Family Time
Road trips allow more family time during travel, with fewer logistics surrounding checking in and out and dining to deal with. With more room, it is easier to keep kids entertained during an RV trip. Inside the camper you are closer and doing things together. And if you stay at a campground or park, there are plenty of other activities to do together
Less Germs and Risk of Illness
Compared to other types of travel you will be exposed to fewer germs and illnesses. During the pandemic, you can easily choose to stay a distance from other people. Plus, with most RVs, you always have a kitchen, fridge, and bathroom with you, eliminating many stops and making it easy to wash hands frequently. (Pro tip – we leave a little water in the holding tank for washing hands en-route). See our tips on How to Travel Safely During a Pandemic
Perfect for Visiting National Parks
Campers are great for visiting national parks for many reasons. When you stay in the campground it is easier to take advantage of late hours and nighttime programs when you are not staying at a distant hotel. Also, at most national parks, you can get great views of the scenery from your RV window the way you can’t from a hotel. Arches National Park is a perfect example.
Become Part of the RV Community
If you like to meet people on your travels, RV-ing is a great way to do it. For many reasons, fellow travelers are so welcoming and inclusive at campgrounds. Friendly fellow RV-er will stop by to offer advice, help with a problem or just for a chat around the campfire. The kids in the campground will quickly form a game of tag with others.
Enjoy the Comforts of Home
RVs also offer many amenities that you will not find in tent camping or hotels. These can include your own bed, kitchen, and bathroom. You can be warm at night and cool during the day with heat and AC. And if you prefer to sit outside, some RVs (like ours) include an awning and outdoor kitchen to make your own temporary shaded “patio”
Freedom of the Open Road (or Campground)
The intangible benefit of RV travel is a certain sense of freedom— including flexibility, in some cases, to change your plans mid-trip in ways that would not be possible when dealing with hotel bookings. We frequently decide to go slower or stay an extra day somewhere, especially when boondocking. (See our Ultimate Guide to Boondocking)
Making Lasting Memories
Traveling in an RV can bond your family together and create amazing memories. Seeing things together, spending time playing at campgrounds, discovering new things in the world. There is a unique experience of RV travel itself. Even the mishaps you will laugh about years later.
Cons of Renting an RV
Renting an RV for travel is not without its drawbacks, whether in comparison to purchasing a new rig or simply choosing RV travel over other ways to travel and stay. If you are weighing your options for you next vacation you need to consider some of the cons of RV travel. Renting an RV may seem like a dream vacation but if you are not prepared to face the rental costs, additional work, dealing with sewage, and driving an RV, you might want to consider a different mode of transportation and accommodations.
Renting Costs More than Buying Over Time
To start with, rental may not be as cost-effective if you want to be a frequent RV traveler. Rental rates range from $80 a night to over $200 a night. Add in fees and insurance and many long trips will become very expensive. (Psst: Read all our tips to get a Cheap RV Rental here)
Vacation will Include Chores
A rental vehicle limits on how much you can “make it your own” and how much mess you can allow, if you have to think about removing your personal belongings as part of returning your rental. And as with any RV, owned or rented, you are responsible for own cleanup and other chores. In addition to the usual things you pack for a trip, you may need to bring your own supplies, including bed linens.
Less Space = More Clutter
And with each trip in a rental RV, you need to load all your personal belongings before you go and unload them you return your vehicle. In addition, the comparatively small space makes clutter more noticeable—an important consideration when traveling with children
Too Much Togetherness
And for all the advantages RVs provide when it comes to family time, for some families, there may be such a thing as too much family togetherness—RV space can be confining in even the largest motorhomes. If you have a travel trailer you will still be traveling inside your truck together.
Hotels Might be Cheaper
When it comes to comparing costs with staying at hotels, an RV rental does not absolutely save you money— most non-luxury lodgings cost noticeably less per night. And aside from higher per-night rental rates, you still have to pay RV campsite fees. The cost of staying in RV resorts adds up fast.
It’s a lot of Trouble
Short RV vacations may not be worth the cost of a rental, considering the time and trouble it may take just to get on the road. Beyond costs, though, the flexibility of RV travel may also be overrated. Just the process of picking up and being trained on a rental takes over an hour.
The Best Campsites Are Reserved in Advance
Because RV camping in national parks is so popular, some of the best-known parks, such as Yosemite and Yellowstone may limit the number of RV admissions during peak times, requiring advanced booking. Even beyond the major national parks, camping may, require advanced planning and booking, making RV camping not so freewheeling as it might seem
Campers Require Special RV Parking Spaces
Whether camping or stopping at the store, there are limited places where you can park your RV. For example, for most RV camping, you must find a legal place to park overnight. During the day just running into a grocery store will require adequate parking area.
Driving and Parking Restrictions Abound
In many settings, RV travel may entail more restrictions than flexibility. For example, if you have a motorhome, you won’t have a car (unless you are allowed to tow one along). This decreases flexibility for things like shopping for groceries and supplies. And except for smaller RVs, e.g. those that are 24’ or less, your RV may not fit into most parking spots. RV travel is not so great therefore, for going to urban areas, unless you can park near public transportation.
You Can’t Sneak into Town
In a large RV, you will not blend in with the traffic around you. And when you look for a place to park your RV in an urban area, keep in mind that “No Overnight Parking” signs also apply to RVs when considering where you can or can’t stay for the night.
Navigating City Streets may be Impossible
Beyond parking, many smaller urban streets, may not be able to accommodate large vehicles or trailers. We have been stuck in the city when a street was closed. Towing a car behind your RV is one option, but then you lose in mileage and maneuverability.
Paying the Extra Vehicle Fee
Additionally, some RV places campsites charge an extra vehicle fee if you are towing a car.
And unlike with national parks and private RV campgrounds, you will need to have sufficient water and power for “dry camping” (also known as “boondocking), when no electrical hookup is available.
Driving is Takes Practice (lots of it)
Driving an RV can also be challenging in itself. If you are not used to driving anything larger than a standard passenger vehicle—or alternatively, hauling a trailer. It takes some practice and awareness, especially when dealing with things like low bridge clearances.
In fact, we list this as a top reason NOT to buy an RV.
RVs are Inefficient
RVs are large and slow. Gas mileage about what you’d expect with a vehicle of this size and weight—especially on mountain roads. The Winnebago Via offers twelve miles per gallon–the higher end of fuel efficiency in RVs. Most are closer to five to ten miles per gallon. If you are towing a travel trailer with your own truck, expect a 20%-50% decrease in fuel economy.
Diesel Fuel is a Headache
Not only can the diesel fumes give you a headache, but just trying to find it can be a challenge. We have found ourselves going out the way through a city to get diesel fuel.
You Have to Deal with Sewage
Also, you may be responsible for “filling and dumping” of water and waste, which must be done only at designated sites, though some rental companies may offer “fill and dump” facilities, free or for a fee. If you are at a campsite with full hookups you will need to lay out the hose and connect to the sewer.
Those Embarrassing Logos
Finally, Some RV rental companies, such as Cruise America may essentially have you serve as free advertising with large logos on your rental RV. One way to get around this a look like an old pro is to rent from a local person at Outdoorsy.
Should You Rent an RV for your Vacation?
Any form of family travel can be a significant undertaking, but RV travel has its own considerations. And though some of these cautions might seem daunting, RV travel is still a wonderful way to vacation for many families. And renting one can be a great way to try it out, though It is Important to go in with eyes open.
If you do decide that RV travel may be for you make sure to read our best tips:
- Tips (like car seats in an RV) for an Unforgettable RV Trip with Young Kids
- Ultimate Packing List for RV Family Vacation
- Guide to Free Camping (AKA boondocking)
- How to Rent an RV for Cheap
We have found a great need for information to help families plan an RV rental vacation. One of the reasons people hesitate to rent an RV is due to the cost. We have good news for you. We have an article with 9 Fool-Proof Ways to Rent a Cheap RV that actually works.
If you want to start looking for an RV to rent now – we have a coupon for your first RV rental. Use our link here for $50 discount on Outdoorsy.