Reports are coming in from across the United States that more and more people are renting RVs this summer. It makes sense.
Some folks are looking for a comfortable road trip with the family. Others are shopping for an RV and want to "try it before they buy it." Still others want to travel, and want to reduce the public exposure that travel can include. Whether shopping for a new lifestyle, seeking out a new adventure, or wanting a way to travel while protecting one's health, RVing is a great way to accomplish this. Renting an RV is a cost-effective way to do this for a one-time trip.
What does one need to know about renting an RV? Isn't it just like driving a bigger vehicle? Just load it up, turn on the ignition and go, right?
Well, yes and no. While one may have many years of experience behind the wheel of passenger vehicles, driving an RV has its own learning curve. To be safer on the road, it's important to understand that maneuvering an RV is different from a passenger car.
What types of RVs are out there?
There are two main categories of RVs: motorized and towable. Within these categories, there are more subcategories of RVs.
Motorized: Class A, B, or C
Towable: Pop up, Travel Trailer, Fifth Wheel, Toy Hauler, Truck Camper
See a more extensive comparison of RV types by visiting GoRVing.com.
What should I consider before driving an RV?
Make sure the rental RV chosen does not require a special license. The laws of one's home state determines the driver's license needed to operate an RV. While some states allow all licensed passsenger car drivers to operate any RV, other states have licensing restrictions for larger heavier RVs. So, it is important to check one's home state licensing requirements. All states honor the requirements of the home licensing state. For more information on individual state laws visit RVIA Special RV Drivers' License Requirements list
Be properly insured. Some rental agencies offer insurance on their RVs, but it is often less expensive to work with one's own auto insurance agent to get this coverage.
Research how to drive an RV or take an RV driving course. There are physical differences in RVs that make driving different from cars. Most licensed drivers do very well driving RVs, but it is always prudent to educate oneself on how to handle this larger vehicle. RVs are wider than cars and take up more space in the lane; don't steal your neighbor's space. The size of the RV can also restrict where one can travel. Weight, height, width, and length are all factors that determine which vehicles are allowed on certain bridges and roadways. RVs have a greater stopping distance than cars, so this must be considered every time one needs to slow down. Most RVs require a much larger turning area than passenger vehicles, so this needs to be considered with each turn that is made. For more information, we have many free articles on driving at RVSafety.com. Our RV Academy has more extensive paid courses that can also help.
Taking a Hands-on driving class from an experienced instructor can put your one's mind at east and help the driver more safely operate the RV. There are a few organizations that offer Hands-on driving instruction across the country; a quick internet search is a great place to start. If near one of our experienced instructors, we offer excellent hands-on RV Drivers training: RVSafety.com
Practice driving the RV in an empty parking lot before hitting the road. This is a great way to familiarize oneself with turn radius, stopping distance, and blind spots before taking off on a long trip with other vehicles on city streets and highways.
Another option is to rent an RV that is already at the campground you wish to visit. Some campgrounds have RVs available for rental onsite or some RV rental places will transport the RV to the campground and set it up for you.
Where can I rent an RV?
There are many businesses ready to rent an RV. Choose from a national rental company or rent from an individual. Location, needs, and cost might dictate exactly which rental company is chosen. Research to make sure they are reputable. A google search is a great starting place to get a list.
What Type of RV should I rent?
Any RV could be excellent option. The type of rental RV chosen depends on an individual's travel plans and the purpose of the rental.
Is this a destination vacation? Consider a towable RV so that once set up in a campground, the tow vehicle can be used to explore the area and you don't have to pack up each time you leave the campground for the day. Keep in mind, a towable RV usually requires a large enough vehicle (truck or SUV) to safely tow the trailer. Make sure the truck or SUV is rated to pull the size RV trailer you wish to rent. We have a free video on our site that goes over basic principles of matching a truck to a trailer: Matching Trucks to Trailers
Is the plan to drive to a different campground each day? A motor home might be the best option. One doesn't have to worry about hitching and unhitching at each stop. Just park and hook up. Keep in mind that some parks and state and national parks cannot accommodate larger RVs like Class As. You will need to balance interior comfort with flexibility when choosing which RV to rent.
If the option to have the rental organization set the RV up at the campground, consider the interior layout that best suits the needs of the family. Size and type do not matter much when one doesn't have to transport the RV.
How do I take care of the RV?
For the first time RVer, it is important the rental agent go through all the systems and explain how they work. Video record this walk-through so that you can refer to it later. Even if you have stayed in an RV in the past, it is good to get an overview of the unit you are renting. Every RV is different and you will want to know exactly where that awning switch is on a sunny day. Ask what electrical equipment works on 12 VDC in case a campsite doesn't have electrical hookups. Also ask about instructions for operating the various appliances. While RV appliances may look a lot like the home applicances, some require a little extra attention to work properly. No one wants the kids to be upset when the pizza can't be cooked because you don't know how to light the propane oven. Some RVs come with written instructions or procedures. It is a good idea to review the entire document before leaving on the trip in case something is unclear. Consider bringing protective gloves and old clothes for the potentially messy tasks involved with RVing. Assume every dump station is dirty and use proper protection when utilizing them. Always thoroughly wash up afterwards. It is also a good idea to sanitize fresh water connections before each use. A quick spray or wipe of the hose and faucet should do the trick. Check with the rental agent to see what other supplies may be needed: bedding and towels, cookware and kitchen accessories, and other items that may or may not be included in the rental unit.
If any issues are encountered with the RV during use, let the rental agent know so it can be fixed before their next customer uses the unit.
How else can I prepare for my first RV trip?
Besides the things mentioned in this article, we'd suggest you consider learning about the various aspects of the RV a part of your trip's adventure. While living in a self-contained vehicle is an awesome way to travel, there are always compromises. Allow a little time each day to double check things like battery levels and water levels in the tanks or inflation pressure in the tires. Five to ten minutes of checking the RV can save you an hour or two of hassle later. Once you understand how to evaluate and manage the different systems, the intimidation factor of living and traveling in an RV will quickly diminish.
Tips and Tricks for the first RV Trip:
Besides what is listed above, we wanted to mention a few extra tips that will prove important to a first-time RVer. More tips can be learned by asking anyone with more than a week's experience living in an RV. Just ask a freind who owns an RV and find out!
- Packing the RV: RVs are awesome because you can take so much personal stuff with you. Make sure to pack the RV in a balanced manner. If the Fridge is on one side of the RV, consider placing canned goods on the other side. RV Storage isn't always positioned in places that encourage balance. Because the RV will be moving, make sure everything is securely stored. It is no fun to arrive at the destination to find that tub of sugar on the kitchen floor, rather than in the counter where it was thoughtlessly left. Keep in mind that every RV has a weight limit. The GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) is the most the RV should ever weigh when fully loaded. Staying under the GVWR is the first step to avoid exceeding the weight rating of any of the RV's components: frame, tires, transmission, brakes, etc. You can find the GVWR on the Federal Compliance Label on the driver's door post of a motorized RV or on the exterior front driver's side of an RV trailer. If think the RV might be overloaded, take it fully loaded to a truck stop scale and weigh for $10-$15.
- Checklists: If not provided by the rental agent make a daily driving checklist and use it every day of travel. Always check brake lights and blinkers just before leaving the campsite. We have a basic checklist for each type of RV on our website. You can add to it as needed: Motorhome Checklist; Towable Checklist.
- Diligently check the tire pressure every driving day. This is probably the most important safety item to observe. These are larger vehicles and the tires have to carry a lot of weight. Inflation pressure is often not checked and results in under inflated tires. The number one cause of tire failure is under inflated tires and the consequences can be significant. If the RV comes with a tire pressure monitor, this should be easy. If not, take the time to remove the caps and check with a good tire gauge. The proper inflation for the RV tires should be written on the the RV tire inflation label or on the Federal Compliance Label. Both of these labels are found on the driver's door post of a motorized RV or on the exterior front driver's side of an RV trailer.
- Walk around the RV before taking off each day. Use the checklist mentioned above as a guideline of things to check. This should be done each time one leaves the vehicle whether it is to fill up at the gas station or jump out for a bite to eat. After your first walk around before driving away from the campsite (which could take 15 minutes or longer), these quick checks can take less than five minutes - just give the RV and tow vehicle a quick once-over to see if any issues are observed.
- Setting up camp: It is okay to make more than one attempt to get properly oriented in the campsite. Be patient and get situated where you want to remain for the duration of the stay. Be deliberate while setting up once parked. Use a checklist. This is all new and it is very easy to forget something important. Campground folks are about the friendliest folks one will ever meet. After they stop laughing at your clumsy and repetitive parking attempt, they might come over and try to start a conversation. If you are in the middle of a task, ask them if you can come by their RV in a 1/2 an hour to chat, after you get things set up. It is very easy to forget an important part of the process when interrupted.
- In case of severe weather, determine the county of the campground. If there are weather alerts, they are given by county, not city or park.
- Dumping Tanks: When it comes time to dump the waste tanks, dump the solid waste (black) tank first. Then dump the grey water tank to rinse potentially solid material from the inside of the hose. It's best to allow the black tank to fill to at least 3/4 full before dumping it. The tank evacuates much better when there is a larger volume of water to flush out the solid materials. After emptying the solid waste tank, close the valve and immediately put 3-5 gallons of water in the solid waste tank. Just fill and dump the toilet bowl 2 or 3 times. Never leave the black tank valve open longer than it takes to drain. It is important to keep things wet in the solid waste tank.
- Awnings: Always retract/close awnings when away from the RV. If there is anything more than a slight breeze, retract the awnings. Weather patterns vary in different parts of the United States and that gentle breeze might turn in to a gale and the awning will take flight like a kite.
- Be a good neighbor: There are a few unpublished rules in every campground, whether a private resort or a public park. These might not always be evident to a new RVer.
- Unless otherwise noted, keep pets contained or on a leash. Always pick up after your pets. If pets are left in the RV, make sure the pet is comfortable so that it does not bark the entire time you are away. Your neighbors will thank you.
- Walk along paths or the roadway when navigating campgrounds. Do not walk through someone else’s campsite.
- Extinguish all fires when finished enjoying the fire. Coals and ashes should be cold and not smoldering.
- Respect both morning and evening quiet hours.
- Leave the campsite clean and free of trash.
However you decide to travel during your first RV Adventure, we hope it is a safe and pleasant trip. For more detailed information on the various aspects of RVing, explore our website.