For many folks, summer trips involve camping—often in an RV. Don’t have a rig yet? Why not rent an RV? We asked Joe Laing, the marketing director of El Monte RV, one of the nation’s largest RV rental companies, how (and why) it’s done.
Rand McNally (RM): What are the benefits to renting an RV?
Joe Laing (JL): An RV rental vacation offers several benefits—some of them surprising. Even with the cost of fuel, you can save money because you essentially get car rental, hotel for the whole family, and a place to dine all in one. Convenience is also a big plus, especially if you’re traveling with small children or pets. RVs provide such a homelike, comfortable environment, that’s it hard to find a more accommodating mode of travel.
But the biggest rewards, in my opinion, are the memories. For many of us, our fondest memories are of the road trips we took with our families when we were kids. Now we have the opportunity to relive those memories and share them with our children as well. Remember the last time your family sat around a campfire and roasted marshmallows? Wouldn’t you want to give your children those priceless experiences, too?
RM: How do people choose the size and type of rental RV that’s best for them?
Class A RVs: plenty of space, great for entertaining
JL: Overall space and sleeping capacity are major considerations. Ask yourself, “How many people will be traveling with me, and what will the sleeping arrangements be?” Then look at RV floor plans and see how many beds (some even have bunk beds) each type has. If anyone in your group is tall, look at bed lengths, too.
Also, think about how much time you’ll spend in the RV itself. For instance, if you plan to do a lot of entertaining, consider a larger, Class A (bus-style) vehicle, which has more open inside space. A smaller, Class C RV can be easier for first timers to drive, requires less campground space, and gets a bit better gas mileage. Still, if your group is large, you might feel cramped in a Class C. Familiarize yourself with the different types of RVs, and think about your space needs, driving skills, and budget before committing.
RM: What should you consider when choosing an RV rental company?
JL: First, the rental company should have a good selection of RVs in terms of both size and type. Second, the company representative should really listen to your needs, helping you to select the vehicle that’s best for you. The location of the company is another factor. Does it have multiple locations? Is one of them close to where you want to spend the bulk of your vacation?
You should also look into the company’s services, amenities, and other offerings. RVs have a lot of moving parts. In case you need a little help while on the road, the RV rental company you choose should have a reliable roadside assistance department.
You can also purchase insurance through an RV rental company. Just be sure to check your auto insurance coverage first, as you might only need an insurance rider to cover a rental. Some companies also offer “convenience kits” with the housekeeping and personal items like pots, pans, dishware, bedding, towels, and the like that you’ll need for your RV trip. Also, if you’re flying to a destination to pick up your RV, find out if the company can assist you with airport transfers.
RM: Do you need special experience, training, licenses, etc., to rent an RV?
JL: In general, you only need to be at least 25 years old and have a standard driver’s license. Remember, though, that some RVs are larger, taller, and wider than a car. With them, you’ll need to get used to things like driving up and down hills, turning, and using your side mirrors to improve visibility. Your RV rental company can provide instruction not only in the operation of the vehicle but also of all its equipment.
RM: On average, what does it cost to rent an RV?
JL: The three factors that most affect price are the size/type of RV, the time of year, and how far in advance you make your reservation. Rentals range from as little as $50 per day for a small RV in the off-season to as much as $350 per day for the largest vehicle in the high season. This includes the vehicle use. Some companies include unlimited generator use and a set number of free miles per day. Always inquire about what’s included in the rates you’re quoted and what isn’t. And be sure to factor in fuel costs.
RM: What types of trips are good for RV renters, and how should they go about planning them?
Class C RVs: easier to drive, better gas mileage
JL: Consider starting out with a two- or three-day weekend trip fairly close to home. (Whether you opt for a state park campground or a private one, be sure to reserve your RV site ahead of time.) In terms of long-distance RVing, I think most people’s ideal trip is to one of the national parks.
Whatever you decide, it’s best to map out a trip before leaving home so you can plan out a budget, maximize your time, choose routes that accommodate navigation issues, and make campsite and other reservations. Several RV organizations can help with planning RV trips. Start with the websites of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA).
Rand McNally has great tools and resources too, among them road atlases and a blog with RV tips and road trips. The company also has RV GPS devices that help you to navigate a variety of rigs—from cars to motor coaches—find interesting en route attractions, campgrounds, and other things; and keep up with road conditions/construction.
The El Monte RV site also has tons of tips, including several family friendly RV itineraries with lots of great suggestions.
Joe Laing is the Director of Marketing for El Monte RV, which has with over 40 locations nationwide. Joe, who has been with El Monte RV for over 18 years, has helped hundreds of vacationers take memorable RV trips and has himself taken many RV vacations with his family.