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- How To Rent an RV from an Owner
- 1. What recreational vehicle should I rent?
- 2. What size RV should I get?
- 3. Won’t we feel cramped in an RV?
- 4. Are RVs easy to drive?
- 5. Can RVs accommodate handicapped family members?
- 6. Do I need reservations to rent an RV from an owner?
- 7. What’s the cancellation policy?
- 8. Is there a limit on miles I can drive?
- 9. What is included with the motorhome rental?
- 10. Do I need special insurance?
- 11. Can I bring my dog?
- 12. Is there an additional fee to run the generator?
- 13. How do I know which campground to choose?
- 14. Which is better? A private or public campground?
- 15. Boondocking? What’s boondocking?
- 17. What’s the difference between full and partial hookup?
- 18. My neighbor said I need special RV toilet paper. Is that true?
- 19. How will I ever remember how to use all the other appliances or mechanical systems?
- 20. I give. What’s a slide out?
- 21. How do I pump gas into an RV?
- 22. What happens if I drive the RV under a low overpass or bridge?
- 23. Do I have to clean the RV when bringing it back?
- 24. What if I have problems with the RV while on the road?
- 25. With all these instructions and things to remember, will I have fun on my recreational vehicle camping trip?
Looking to experience the great outdoors? A recreational vehicle is a great compromise for many families between camping and a hotel. Think you need to save to buy one? Nope. Rent an RV from an owner to get all the perks of an RV vacation without the cost of RV ownership. You probably have questions ranging from, “How does the toilet work?” to “How do I turn this table into a bed?” Relax. Here are 25 questions that come up when renting from an RV owner. Good news! Here are the answers as well!
How To Rent an RV from an Owner
1. What recreational vehicle should I rent?
The possibilities are endless to find your perfect RV rental! Although that probably isn’t the answer you wanted. Let’s look at four basic types of RVs to use on your road trip to determine which is the perfect RV rental for you.
- Class A are your typical recreational vehicles. They usually have slide outs, and you’ll find everything you need for a comfortable camping experience. The experience will be similar to driving a bus.
- Class B vehicles are smaller, since they are usually camper vans. These camper vans are easy to drive, but not as practical if you are bringing the kids and grandma.
- For first time campers, a Class C is easiest to drive. Many private owners have these available for renters. The unit is basically a large extra cab over a truck chassis. These class C motorhomes have a kitchen, bathroom, and various sleeping configurations.
- If you have a suitable towing vehicle, a travel trailer provides you with a lounge area, kitchen and bathroom. Be sure to check the weight requirements on your vehicle. A few larger sized SUV’s can pull lightweight travel trailers or popups, but you’ll be happier having a truck pull your rig. If you plan on taking extra items such as bikes, motorcycles, or kayaks, a toy hauler will carry all your “toys.” Do you have a heavy duty truck? A fifth wheel might be the best RV rental for your road trip.
2. What size RV should I get?
Personally, we always steer to the smaller size rentals. Hopefully, you’ll be spending most of the time outside, so do you really need a king sized bed with an island in the kitchen? If an RV owner claims his unit sleeps six, check where those six people will sleep. A bed made from the pull-down couch is ideal for two pre-schoolers, but not for your teenage basketball star son. Rental prices vary depending on the size and type of available RVs and season.
3. Won’t we feel cramped in an RV?
In most cases, yes! That’s part of camping togetherness. Sure you could rent a deluxe Class A with two bathrooms and an island in the kitchen. Do you really need that space? When we were full-timing, we had a small pop-up tent that we set up for our daughter when we all needed “separation”. She happily slept outside, knowing we’d deliver her breakfast in bed the next morning. (Or was it breakfast in a sleeping bag?) Some people traveling with several generations go to campgrounds offering cabin rentals. Everyone eats and socializes around the RV, but Grandma and Grampa have the chance to take a break from family dynamics and sleep in their own cabin. You’d be surprised how much room you have as people sit around the campfire outside the RV.
4. Are RVs easy to drive?
I wouldn’t recommend renting a 42′ motorhome and towing your car behind it! For first-time campers, a Class C is easiest to drive. Many private owners have these available for renters. The unit is basically a large extra cab over a truck chassis. Take some time and practice in an empty parking lot to feel comfortable with the turning radius and general feel of the unit. My first experience driving a 24′ van had me driving through downtown Chicago during their popular Food Festival with thousands of attendees. I took it slow and concentrated on driving rather than checking out the food trucks.
5. Can RVs accommodate handicapped family members?
RVing can be a great way to have a multigenerational vacation. If someone in your family is handicapped or needs to know if an RV can accommodate them, check out this list of accessible RVs.
6. Do I need reservations to rent an RV from an owner?
Oh yes! Reservations are needed, especially during school holidays. I’ve heard many stories of families assuming they can rent a recreational vehicle with a week’s notice in July. Pay the security deposit as far in advance as possible. For peace of mind, remember to reserve a campground as well. National parks as well as private campgrounds throughout the United States and Canada fill quickly in peak season.
We love sharing tips and stories with our fellow Traveling Grandparents. Join our private Facebook Group to become part of our community!
7. What’s the cancellation policy?
We all know that things can come up. On RVshare the owners set their individual cancellation policies. These policies are spelled out in the Rules & Policies section on each listing. Be sure to read this section carefully to choose an RV rental that meshes well with your plans and lifestyle.
8. Is there a limit on miles I can drive?
Unlimited mileage is wonderful as long as you know that ahead of time when planning your road trip. RVshare owners lay out their mileage terms in the Rates & Availability section of their listing. It will list whether the unit comes with unlimited miles and if not what the allowable daily mileage is as well as the fee per mile if you go over.
9. What is included with the motorhome rental?
We once rented a Class C, expecting the motorhome to be stocked with linens, cooking supplies and toilet paper. Let’s say we ended up with a bare bones motorhome! Often, you can pay extra for a “Camping Kit” that includes whatever you need to enjoy your RVing trip. Many RV owners now supply all bedding, in an effort to avoid people bringing in well-loved sleeping bags that might contain bed bugs. Some RVs include bike racks. Most listings clearly spell out what will be in the RV when you rent it. If there is anything you are unsure of hit the Ask the Owner a Question button on the righthand side of RVshare’s site and connect directly with the unit’s owner.
Don’t forget to ask if gloves are available for emptying the gray and black tanks. (More on that later!)
Read More: SheBuysTravel’s Complete RV Packing Guide
10. Do I need special insurance?
Some RV rental owners automatically provide insurance coverage. Others give you the option of getting a temporary binder on your personal insurance. Quotes include 24/7 roadside assistance and insurance. The daily insurance fee is based off of the value of the trailer you are renting and covers everything from backup accidents to hail storms and falling trees.
11. Can I bring my dog?
Check in advance if you can bring Fluffy and Rufus along. When you rent an RV from the owner this will vary. Some RV rentals maintain a strict “No Pets” policy. Better to know in advance that your camper rental doesn’t allow dogs or cats to go on vacation with you.
12. Is there an additional fee to run the generator?
This fee blindsides many RV renters. Luckily, RVshare owners spell out any additional fees or add-ons very clearly in the Rates & Availability section. Normally there’s no need to touch the generator, unless you are boondocking and want to run the air conditioner.
13. How do I know which campground to choose?
Easy! Ask the rental owner their favorite camping areas. They’ll have plenty of suggestions. Friends are more than happy to share their prize camping location. Try to find a local campground your first few camping trips. This gives less travel time and more relaxation time. When we started RVing, everyone had super heavy campground directories with thousands of pages. We’d flip through the pages to find campgrounds, read the description and place an actual phone call to make a reservation. Actually, back then, we didn’t even make reservations because space was always available. Don’t try that now! Another easy solution is to use Google maps and type in “Campgrounds near me”. You can also do an on-line search under a specific area such as, “Campgrounds near Yosemite National Park”. We’re also happy to help if you ask us!
14. Which is better? A private or public campground?
That depends on you! Want to have a true outdoor experience in a natural setting with possible weak wi-fi? Head to a state or national park. Interested in joining the evening ice cream social, swimming in the pool and having kid’s activities? Then find a private campground. Some of these provide high quality evening entertainment, and even spa treatments. We’ve been to campgrounds that offer “Red Carpet” packages where the RV site literally has a red carpet. This included hot coffee and warm cinnamon rolls delivered in the morning.
Want to know what campgrounds different national parks offer and what RVs are located nearby? Head on over to RVshare’s list of US National Parks.
15. Boondocking? What’s boondocking?
Basically, boondocking is camping somewhere at a beach, on a public forest or even a Walmart parking lot for free. You pull in and conserve water, use your generator and live without electricity. It takes advance planning and you want to make sure you have peace of mind and boondock where it is safe and legal. Some people love it!
16. How do toilets work in an RV?
The toilet works basically the same way as your home toilet …except it’s up to you to dispose of whatever goes into the toilet. It’s not as bad as it sounds, and the RV rental owner will walk you through the steps.
You’ll find a dump station right at your site. Put on rubber gloves and pull out the sewer hose. It should be in an outside storage section of your recreational vehicle. Attach the hose to the holding tank drain outlet and the other end of the hose in the dump hole on the ground next to your RV. Then walk away! Use the toilet like you normally do.
When it’s time to leave your site, don’t forget your motorhome is still connected by a hose to the dump station! Put your gloves on and pull open the black water tank. The handle should be, well, black. You’ll hear a satisfying “swoooooch” which means the “solid” waste material is leaving the recreational vehicle. When the water gets to a trickle, close the valve and open the gray water valve. You guessed it. That valve is gray. This is the liquid waste that helps clean out your hose. When that has drained, simply remove the sewer hose and close all valves.
We keep our sewer hose in a large plastic bag. In the event you are at national park or small campground that doesn’t have a sewage drain at your campsite, you’ll find one at the campground on-site dump station, usually at the exit.
17. What’s the difference between full and partial hookup?
Price! For a higher cost, a full hook-up gives you water, electricity, wi-fi and a place to run your sewer line. Many include cable hook-up as well. If we’re staying just a few nights, we ask for a partial hookup. That saves money but doesn’t give us a place to dump our sewer at the site. No problem. We dump at the dump station as we exit the campground.
18. My neighbor said I need special RV toilet paper. Is that true?
Ahhhh the all-important toilet paper question! It’s shocking how many RV websites and Facebook posts are devoted to this question. To play it safe, ask the rental owner if “special” toilet paper is provided. If not, Walmart carries RV toilet paper that is designed not to clog up your sewer hose when draining the sewage tanks. Since you’ll probably just have the RV for a short period, you can get by using single ply toilet paper. Avoid using that oh-so-soft quilted heavy duty toilet paper you use at home.
19. How will I ever remember how to use all the other appliances or mechanical systems?
You know that cell phone you carry around? Use it to record everything you are told during the pre-trip inspection when you rent an RV from the owner. When you pick up the recreational vehicle, someone will likely take you inside and outside the motorhome, giving you more information than you can possibly comprehend. Use your phone to record all the instructions you’re given. Then refer to your Spielberg-worthy video when you are camping and need to know why the self-leveling light is on or the slide out won’t slide out. The first few times renting a recreational vehicle can be stressful and you’ll likely make RV mistakes that you’ll laugh about for years to come.
20. I give. What’s a slide out?
A slide out is nothing more than a section of the recreational vehicle that, with the push of a button, extends over the main RV body. It’s actually quite exciting the first time you see it. Some Class A motorhomes have up to five slide outs which means the living space is larger than a New York apartment. Class Cs and newer campers and campervans have slide outs also.
21. How do I pump gas into an RV?
The same way you pump gas into your car. The difference is it takes much longer and your bill is much larger! When your rent an RV from an owner discuss fuel needs. Find out if the recreational vehicle takes diesel instead of gas. Most diesel pumps at gas stations have green handles so you can easily see from a distance if diesel is available at the service station. Make sure your propane tank is turned off before pumping gas. Anytime you enter a gas station check that the overhang is higher than your recreational vehicle, especially with a larger Class A or a fifth wheel. Which brings up the next very important point.
22. What happens if I drive the RV under a low overpass or bridge?
You don’t want to find out. The best advice is to know exactly how tall your recreational vehicle is. This should be on your rental application or in the RV handbook. Most likely the RV owner will mention the height as well. Write that height on a bright piece of paper and tape it securely to the dashboard. Do this. You will thank me over and over as you see a sign reading, “Bridge height 12’6” and your vehicle is 12’ 8”. You’ll have time to take an alternate route before crashing into the low bridge. You’re welcome!
23. Do I have to clean the RV when bringing it back?
Every RV rental is different. Some RV owners expect their RV to be returned in pristine condition. In those cases, I bring an old toothbrush and cleaning supplies to clean in every nook and cranny. Other RV rental owners give the option of paying extra to return the recreational vehicle without you having to meticulously clean it. Most RV rentals require you to return the RV with the black and gray sewer tanks completely empty. When you rent an RV from the owner, verify this in advance to avoid extra fees and frustration.
24. What if I have problems with the RV while on the road?
RV owners want you to have a great camping experience. They’ll provide you with a contact phone number and email to use if you have questions.
25. With all these instructions and things to remember, will I have fun on my recreational vehicle camping trip?
Of course! Sure, there’s a learning curve, but that’s part of the fun. Ask these questions in advance and you’ll have confidence in yourself when you rent an RV owner from the owner. Then enjoy yourself as you go on an exciting road trip. It won’t take long until you’re settled into a great RV campground, roasting s’mores around a campfire!
Silvana gets the urge to travel when she's been home more than a month. To date she's visited 66 countries and shows no sign of stopping. The author of 12 books and over 300 articles, Silvana encourages people to travel creatively and on a budget. This means housesitting, doing home exchanges and finding bargains. She's also been a full-time RV'er and has tips for people just getting into the RV camping world. As a professional speaker, Silvana also presents travel-related workshops to groups around the country.