February 19, 2022
First time renting an RV can be very intimidating, but it is thoroughly doable.
Are you considering renting an RV for your next vacation? If so, you’re in for a treat – renting an RV can be a lot of fun. But before you rent one, there are a few things you need to know. In this post, we’ll talk about the basics of renting an RV, including what to look for when choosing a rental company and what to expect once you hit the open road.
The very first time that I rented an RV, I took my sons to Colorado Springs, Colorado. And, if I can do it, you can too!
My key to overcoming anxiety about anything is educating myself with as much information as I can about whatever it is that I am doing. So if you’re thinking about renting an RV for your next trip, keep reading. I have provided as many tips for 1st timers as I could think of. Enjoy!
RV RENTAL 101 AND ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR 1ST TIME RV RENTERS
- What to consider before renting an RV
- How to choose the right RV for your needs
- Tips for preparing and packing for your trip
- Step by step, What to do when you reach your destination
- How to pack up and leave when it’s time to go home
WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE RENTING AN RV
WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
It is important to figure out where you intend to go, obviously. Is the area RV friendly? Do you plan to boondock, stay in a campground or stay in an RV resort?
To begin, not everywhere is RV friendly…at least not all RV’s, that is. Some areas, like cities, are dense and the streets are narrow and tight and congested that are hard to drive large rigs through–let alone have areas to park an RV. So, plan accordingly by checking routes in and out of the area where you would like to visit. Then, choose areas that have locations where you can park your RV.
Do you want to boondock? Then, you are going to have to choose areas with public lands or private properties that allow for that. You can download apps that help to find areas that accommodate that, such as Harvest Hosts.
Do you want to stay in a campground? This is a cheap option, for sure. But, that requires being near an area with a campground, obviously. If you are a person who likes a few more amenities than the previous two options, then an RV resort may be more your style.
An RV resort is nice, but it is definitely the more expensive of your choices. And, RV resorts typically have very nice shower facilities, laundry facilities, rec areas for kids, swimming pools, dog parks, restaurants or small convenience stores. But, you will pay an elevated nightly fee for all of those amenities and they are typically only available in popular destination areas.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT RV FOR YOUR NEEDS
The first time renting an RV can be overwhelming, but also a lot of fun. I rented my RV from Williamson RV in Seymour, Indiana. They have a good size fleet to choose from, newer RV’s, good business practices and are family owned.
Now, as for finding the right RV for you, sometimes, you can get so excited that you bite off way more than you can chew, in RV size.
WHAT SIZE OF RV DO YOU NEED TO RENT?
If you do not have a lot of experience driving large vehicles, I would start as small as you can for the number of people you will take with you.
You have a range of RV sizes to choose from and there are designated by letters:
CLASS A, CLASS B AND CLASS C.
I found this website with a fun little illustration that will help you with RV Sizes.
My ex-husband and I owned a CLASS A and we towed a tow hauler behind it (the depth perception of this image makes the toy hauler much shorter than it was. It carried our vehicle and probably another 6-10 feet for extra tires and accessories), making our overall length that of a semi. So, I have experience driving the largest of the motorhome options.
The uniqueness of driving a CLASS A is that you are, literally, sitting over the front chassis/tires. Whereas, when you are driving a typical vehicle, the tires and front chassis sits out in front of you. So, you have to make wider and later turns than with any other vehicle. And, you are darn near the same width as the road. So, there is a lot of mental adjusting that you have to do; the actual physical driving of this motorhome is not difficult; it is changing how you think about driving that is hard.
Another consideration is that CLASS A’s oftentimes require diesel fuel and typically get between 5-8 miles per gallon. So, you are going to be putting some money into fuel with these rigs.
The CLASS B and CLASS C all drive on a standard chassis. So, it will feel just like driving a passenger van or a truck; however, you will have a lot of weight and length to deal with that will not be normal. So, it does take some practice and getting familiar with the feel of these RV’s.
CLASS B and C oftentimes will take regular gasoline and get better gas mileage. I drove a CLASS C to Colorado from Indiana and put about $800 in the gas tank to get out there and back home.
DO YOU WANT TO HAUL AN RV OR DRIVE AN RV?
Another important thing to consider is whether you will have access to a standard vehicle when you reach or destination or not; or, even if you will need one.
Renting a trailer RV allows you to detach your living quarters from your vehicle so that you can explore your destination while leaving “home” at the campground.
If you rent a smaller CLASS C, you can sometimes get away with just driving your RV wherever you go to explore. When I rented an RV to go to Colorado, it was much larger at 30 foot long. So, I rented a mini van for two days while we were there and we spent those two days driving everywhere that we wanted to go without the RV (like to the top of Pikes Peak!).
IF YOU DECIDED THAT YOU WANTED TO HAUL AN RV, DO YOU HAVE THE APPROPRIATE VEHICLE?
Many times, people choose to pull a trailer camper that can attach to their car or truck via a hitch. Another option, for a bigger trailer, is a fifth-wheel trailer. Both is these options require that you either own your own vehicle with a hitch or fifth wheel–or that you rent one of those, as well.
TIPS FOR PREPARING FOR AND PACKING FOR YOUR TRIP
My best suggestion for preparing for your trip, when renting an RV for the first time, would be to watch Youtube video after video on the specific RV brand and type that you are renting. If you cannot find a video pertaining to the exact RV that you are renting, watch the next best one.
Having even a little bit of context–even if it is for another RV brand– for how to run the electrical from inside of an RV and how to hook up and disconnect an RV will serve you dividends in the end!
Also, watching videos on RV user mistakes will help you avoid those mistakes and prevent damage fees with your rental provider.
MAP YOUR ROUTE
Another tip for preparing for your trip is to map your route. And, when mapping your route, know the dimensions of the RV that you have rented. This way, you can check to see if you will have any overhead clearance issues with overpasses or bridges. You may have to alter your route to avoid any overhead collisions.
MAP YOUR FUEL STOPS
Also, it is a good idea to map out your fuel stops. not all gas stations are equal. Sometimes your rig is too tall to use standard gas stations. And if your rig takes diesel fuel, you will need to find a station with enough clearance AND diesel fuel pumps. It is best to know this information beforehand so that you are never in a situation where you run out of gas on the interstate.
My very best advice–and, most important advice–about packing is: DO NOT OVERPACK! Seriously! Please, take this to heart. There is nothing that will burden your trip more than having to pack and unpack tons of stuff; It is like people say about camping: it is too much work!
This is supposed to be relaxing and laid back and enjoyable family time. Resist the temptation to pack everything.
Too, the more that you pack, the heavier that you rig will be, which will cause it to consume more fuel to get to your destination!
When RV’ing, less is more!
WHICH ITEMS COME WITH YOUR RV? WHICH ITEMS DO NOT?
One lifesaver will be if your RV comes with all of the kitchen supplies included or not. The RV that we rented when we went to Colorado did not provide anything. So, I had to think through every single kitchen dish, appliance or cookware that I would need for us to be comfortable. I had tub after tub after tub packed with so much kitchen gear that it was a bit exhausting. Luckily, I picked the RV up from the rental provider and drove it back to my home to load it.
This time around, I have rented from a new provider that is located on the way to our final destination. So, I am picking it up on our way there (The providers typically have a fenced in lot where you leave your own vehicle during your trip).
Because of this, I was overjoyed to find out that this RV has a fully stocked kitchen. All that I have to do is stop at a grocery store on the way down and load up on food!
Also, this provider has stocked the RV with RV toilet paper. It is important to find out if this will be included. If not, you will need to get online and purchase some toilet paper designed for RV use.
Our RV even comes with lawn chairs! So, find out and know what will already be included in your rental fees. Sometimes, it truly is worth it to pay a little extra and have that peace of mind of not having to pack and load cookware and such.
WHEN HAVE YOU OVERPACKED?
In my opinion, if you start packing random, ancillary items, you are overpacking. If your RV is packed with items that cannot be stowed away and are sitting on the floor, on the furniture or on the beds, you have overpacked!
Only pack what can be stowed away. Remember that you will be living for days to weeks in about 300 square feet or less with your family members. If you are climbing over a ton of stuff you will become stressed, irritable and begin to lash out at one another.
And, that in now way, sounds like a fun trip, at all.
STEP BY STEP, WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ONCE YOU REACH YOUR DESTINATION
ARRIVING TO YOUR CAMPSITE OR RV RESORT
Personally, I like to get an aerial view of the location where I will be staying in my RV. You can use Google Earth or any other app that provides an actual aerial image of your destination. The campground can, also, provide you with a PDF map of the campground lots.
This will give you a good idea of how you will enter, drive through to your lot and how to exit. It always alleviates a lot of anxiety for me when I already have the location mapped out in my head. I know beforehand if I will have to address any obstacles, hard turns or busy intersections.
If your campground or RV resort offers drive/pull through lots, I try to always take those. That is a lot that you go head first in and drive through just like a fast food drive through; no backing in or backing out. With a smaller rig this isn’t much of an issue, but it is just added security and one less thing to worry about if you can do this.
CONNECTING TO SEWER AND ELECTRIC
I started by holding the camera only because we had an audience and I thought that it would be better if I was recording (I was embarrassed), but I ended up doing the sewer portion, which is the worst part, but I explained the whole process…so, clearly, I can do it on my own, without help!
This is where it gets fun and interesting.
First off, let’s talk about the sewer line. This is a very unsanitary situation that people do everyday. You can do it, too. This is how I get through it:
You need to be careful to not contaminate your good water system or any other area of your RV. So, use gloves when handling the sewer line and immediately dispose of them before touching anything else.
So, have gloves, Clorox wipes and paper towels available for use when you are attaching and detaching your sewer line.
Plus, it will give you peace of mind. Trust me.
This is a wonderful video for connecting your sewer line hose to your RV.
This step is very simple, but a step (rookie mistake) that I have made twice now.
You will have a very large electrical cord that you attach from the RV to a short electrical box at your campground site (given that your site has electrical hook up). Hooking up to this pole is just like “plugging in” your RV.
The mistake that I keep making is that I forget that you have to then flip a swift in the electrical box to get the electricity flowing from the box to the RV.
Twice, I have gone inside the RV and allowed myself to get all worked up thinking that something was broken or that we attached the system improperly. When, all along, I just had not switched the flip to make the pole “hot”.
Here is an amazing, fundamental video with every aspect of hooking up your RV that is quick and easy to watch and understand.
HOW TO PACK UP AND LEAVE WHEN IT IS TIME TO GO HOME
To unhook your RV, you will do everything above, but in reverse. If you are at a camp site that does not have full hook up, you will be finding and mapping out a stop at a dump site. If this is the case, you will be doing the above steps for hooking up and unhooking all in one visit.
As far as the overall rig, it would be a good idea to make a list when you arrive to your site of things that you unpacked and then do the whole process in reverse.
It is good etiquette to make sure that leave your camp site in as good of condition as you found it–or better! Find out where to dispose of all of your trash, leave your site at an acceptable hour or be very quiet when leaving, if super early.
And, there you have the basics for your first time renting an RV. Know that you can do so long as your prepare yourself with information and education and a low of wanderlust. If I can do it, so can you! I promise.
Happy Camping, friends!
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