Renting an RV – An Easy Step by Step Guide

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Are you looking for the perfect vacation to get away from the world for a few days, or even a week? I would highly recommend camping. Even if you don’t own camping equipment or have a place to camp, (and if you really are not into tent camping), then take a look at renting an RV.

Renting an RV might feel a bit intimidating at first. What do you get, how many should it sleep? (You’ll see why our family of 4 searches for an RV that sleeps 5 as a requirement.) Can you drive or tow it? Do you need a license to drive the bigger ones? I’ll answer all your questions in this Step by Step Guide to Renting an RV.

Note that when I use the term RV, it encompasses all types of camping vehicles and travel trailers. From pop-ups to Class A’s (which we’ll explain below, an RV is a recreational vehicle you drive or pull behind you.

This post is in partnership with RVshare. RVshare provided a rental for us to test the rental process. All opinions are my own.

Types of RVs

First things first. You need to know what types of RVs and Travel Trailers there are so you know what to rent. There are drivable and towable RVs that you will see on RVshare.

Drivable RVs

These are listed as Class A, B, or C. You do not need a special driver’s license to drive any of the drivable RVs, however, you do need to be comfortable driving a vehicle bigger than you’re used to. Note, you may have an option to have a drivable RV delivered. More on that later.

A Class A RV is the bigger motor home style that you may see often on the interstate. The driver should be comfortable driving something as large as a bus. These often have wide front windows to make it easier to see and sleep a lot of people.

Class B RV’s are essentially oversized vans, often called a camper van. These are easier to drive, but usually don’t sleep more than 2 people.

And finally, a Class C RV is similar to a motor home, but with a lower driving cab. It’s like driving a large pickup truck with a loft overhead. This was the option we went with based on ease of driving and sleeping capacity.

Towable RVs

A towable RV is just that, one that can be towed behind your vehicle. If you have the ability to tow, this is a great option for a longer vacation. You can tow the camper, but still, drive out of the campground as needed. Keep in mind, you can only tow a certain weight limit, so if you’re not sure about the weight of the towable, make sure to inquire before you book.

A travel trailer is a standard trailer that can be pulled with SUVs and pickup trucks. They range in length and sleeping capacity and offer a lot of variety. A toy hauler is similar to a travel trailer, just has dedicated space to pack in your toys such as kayaks, motorbikes, etc.

5th wheels attach to the bed of a truck via a special extension in the truck bed. Unless you own or rent a truck with this extension, you likely wouldn’t tow this one. They do make for great delivery options, so don’t rule it out when searching.

Finally, a popup camper is a small trailer, that folds down when traveling, and pops up to provide living space when set up at the campground. It’s almost a combination of a camper and tent with the screened-in canvas top. Don’t worry about heat however, some of these do come with air conditioning units and can be cooled down.

Renting an RV- the Online Review

Now that we know a little bit more about what is available, let’s get down to searching and renting an RV via RVshare. If you’re not familiar with RVshare, it is a peer-to-peer rental site. Essentially RV owners put their campers on the listing with pricing and other options for you to rent.

home page of RVshare

You’ll start by going to RVshare.com where you can enter your destination, dates, and sleeping requirements. Don’t worry, we’ll go over more features in a bit.

For purposes of this step-by-step guide, I entered Walt Disney World to sleep 5. After you hit search, you’re brought to the search results page. If you’ve ever used Airbnb before, this may look similar.

breakdown of searching and renting an rv on RVshare.

In the above image, you can see your original search details, additional filters, the search results, and a map of the locations.

Feel free to move the map, click on the prices to see the RVs, etc. But I like to work with the additional filters along the top bar. Breaking them down:

  • Price – set your minimum and maximum nightly price here. I wouldn’t start here until you’ve seen what’s the going rate for your location, however.
  • Drivable RV & Towable RV – determine what you want based on the parameters above. Remember, just because you can’t tow it, doesn’t mean that you have to count it out.
  • Instant Book – choose this if you don’t want to wait for approval from the owner.
  • Keyword Search – Likely you won’t use this unless you specifically want to test out a make and model of the camper.
  • Cancellation Type – probably not a concern and we can go over that below.
  • More Filters – Here is where you can get into the nitty-gritty.
Additional filters for renting an rv on RVshare.

Here is where you can set the Offers Delivery option if you do not want to drive or tow an RV. You can also set other parameters such as length (important when you’re visiting National Parks.)

Since we’re searching for Walt Disney World, I checked the option to offer delivery. Drivable or towable doesn’t matter in this case. If you want to camp at Disney, renting an RV with the delivery option is a great way to fly or drive-in, and have it waiting for you when you arrive.

Selecting the RV

Now that we have our filters set, let’s talk about the rental process and selecting the RV.

inside of camper with dinette

When renting an RV, if says it can sleep 4, it does not always mean 4 adults. If you have older kids, you may want to search for an RV that sleeps one more than your party. Sleeping capacity assumes that 2 people may sleep together. Older kids may not be comfortable sharing a bed, and that bed may be a fold-out dinette better for smaller kids.

Once you click on an RV that interests you, it will open a new page, so don’t worry, your search results are saved.

Camper details page

Here is where you’ll see photos, the description, amenities, rules, rates, maps, and reviews. I highly recommend viewing all of these. You want to know exactly what you’re getting, and how other renters thought of this camper in the past.

Some owners offer free delivery, others may charge an additional fee. As with hotels, the price per night is never what you end up paying in full.

Be sure to review the rates in full as well. This is where you’ll see delivery fees if they have them, as well as the security deposit, rental insurance, cleaning fees, and other options such as generator fees and additional amenities.

pricing breakdown for renting an rv on rvshare

You can also see what these are when you hover over the question marks in the rental breakdown.

Once you’ve found the perfect rental, you’ll click request to book, or book now if it is an instant book rental. If it’s an instant book, you’re good to go! If it’s a request to book, you should know within 24 hours if the owner approves the rental.

And if you’re not ready to book, but see something you like, make sure you hit the heart in the upper right of the photos to save your favorites.

Dashboard on RVshare

And once you have a trip booked, you’ll see it on your dashboard. This is also where you’ll communicate with the owner.

Insurance

If you’ve selected an RV that charges additional for insurance, you do not have the option to opt-out. Some owners may carry additional insurance and therefore do not charge for it through RVshare. That doesn’t always mean one without insurance charges will be cheaper, so compare.

The insurance is charged separately, but factored into your overall cost. You’ll know upfront what you are paying.

Security Deposit

Owners will also charge a security deposit. This is separate from insurance and covers items that are not accidental. The security deposit is listed in the rates and availability section of the rental. Fortunately, this is not charged on your credit card until a day before you’re set to camp. As long as you do not purposely damage the RV, you’ll receive your security deposit back usually within a week from return. Keep this in mind when selecting your payment method as it will be charged to the same credit card. Depending on your credit card, this may just be ahold and not deduct funds.

How Much Does Renting an RV cost?

To be 100% transparent with you, our RV rental for 3 nights cost $449.73. That included rental insurance. I did not include the $500 deposit as that gets returned. The cost of the campground was $283.50. All in all, we spent $733.23 for 3 nights, which breaks down to $244 a night.

Is renting an RV cheaper than a hotel? Once you factor in hotel taxes in Florida at least, I figure it’s fairly comparable. If you consider hotels costing around $200 a night plus taxes, it gets pretty close.

For early summer in 2020, I felt this was a great way to get outdoors, travel, and still stay socially distant from others around us. We likely could have found a cheaper campground, but we wanted a water view on short notice, so I didn’t spend as much time hunting down a site as I could have. State parks for one will be less costly.

Picking up the RV

When you’re ready to pick up your RV, you’ll have forms to go over with the owner. The owner will take you through any existing damage, and show you how to operate key elements, like hookups, as well as any tips and tricks you may need to know about the rental.

These departure forms, as well as a pre-arrival checklist, are located in your dashboard. The pre-arrival checklist lets you know what the owner has done prior to you picking up the camper.

Make sure you review these documents before you leave with the RV. This protects you from any unknown issues. Plan for about an hour for a complete walkthrough.

Returning the RV

Once returned, the owner goes through any damages and reports back to RVshare. If you’re free and clear, the deposit is released. I had mine back in less than a week. The return form is very similar to the departure form. Be sure to sign and note any damage that you may have done to protect you from any additional claims from the owner.

Do you have questions about renting an RV with RVshare? Drop them in the comments.

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    2 thoughts on “Renting an RV – An Easy Step by Step Guide”

    1. I love that you touched on being comfortable driving such a large vehicle if you get the bigger RV’s. My family wants to travel around the west coast this summer so we are going to rent an RV. I think that is the best way to camp because it’s more comfortable than just a tent.

      1. Yes, it’s SO MUCH better than just a tent. I can totally see you driving down the California coastline in a class C! If you’ve never driven one, I’d definitely go for C over an A. Also, camping people are the best and will totally help you if you need it!

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