RV Rental Tips

The Rental RVs in the USA, Canada, Europe

An RV rental is more akin to a vacation home rental than to a car rental or a hotel stay. The RV rental business is seasonal. Availability can dry up relatively early for peak seasons and even for shoulder seasons.

Book early if you can. As with vacation home rentals, availability is a big issue. Yet of course availability can always open up due to rental cancellations or due to additions to the rental fleets.

The RV rental industry worldwide is predicated on turnover. The companies buy or lease brand new vehicles, rent them for a travel season or two (albeit sometimes more), and then sell them in the autumn. The cycle begins anew each winter or spring. Many of our customers receive RVs that are brand spanking new. Some companies do hold on to rental vehicles for several travel seasons, or buy used vehicles and rent those; but such cases are far from the norm and we specifically point them out on our More Info pages per vehicle — presented after you enter your pick-up and return dates and location or locations.

The motorhome rental agreement is a contract between you the rental client (i.e. the renter, the client, the customer, the tenant) and the vendor (i.e. the rental company, the supplier) and of course involves the customer in certain responsibilities relative to the vehicle. These responsibilities are analogous but far from identical to those typically associated with a car rental. Motorhome rental customers typically bear more such responsibilities than do car rental customers. As a seasonal industry — and one far smaller industry than the car rental industry — the nature of the motorhome rental industry is such that replacement motorhomes are usually not guaranteed (although in many cases a replacement motorhome can be be effected). Instead timely service of the rental motorhome is guaranteed, along perhaps with replacement car rental and hotel nights and such. The terms in this regard depend entirely on the vendor.

Likewise the motorhome hire companies try hard to provide the particular model or layout requested or booked, but they cannot absolutely guarantee a certain model or layout. This policy is a motorhome rental industry standard chiefly because a specific vehicle reserved for you may be involved in an accident or may seriously malfunction during a rental previous to yours. Therefore for the same price, the RV hire company reserves the right to substitute a vehicle from the same, an equivalent, or a higher-rated or larger group of RVs (yet still appropriate to your driver's license and the number of people in your party), according to the rental company's system of grouping RVs. Any higher third-party costs associated with a larger vehicle — such as campground fees, tolls, and fueling costs — are to be borne by the customer.

Our online order software presents the number of seat-belted seats and sleeping places in each motorhome, camper van or truck camper and the dimensions of each bed. It is not allowed to transport more people (including driver) in the vehicle than there are fitted seats/seatbelts in the vehicle. The number of seat-belted seats and the bed dimensions are presented on our More Info page for the particular vehicle (click on the vehicle thumbnail image in our Search results). We suggest you study the bed sizes carefully to be sure they are large enough for each passenger in the RV. Likewise, if we present multiple models categorized in the same rental RV group you have ordered, you should study the bed sizes of those models, because if you are given a different model than the one you ordered, it will most likely come from that same vehicle group if not from a group of larger vehicles. Please contact us if you have any doubts or require any kind of special sleeping arrangement.

Indeed, we urge you to study the More Info page of each vehicle/rental you are interested in. On such comprehensive page we present not only the vehicle specifications and images, but also the line item price breakdown, all the terms and conditions, and the rental depot location information. To reach the More Info pages, just enter your rental dates and location(s) and click the Search button; all the vehicles will then be presented, ordered by price; and you can then click on a vehicle image or its associated More Info text to pull up its More Info page.

The type of air conditioning described per RV is typically consistent across the aforementioned particular group of rental RVs to which that RV is assigned by the rental company and is typically present on any equivalent or higher-rated group of rental RVs. However, it is possible that exceptions to this rule exist or will occur, in which case it is the responsibility of the rental company and the client to negotiate an agreement regarding the equivalency of any substitute RV. With respect to roof air conditioning (i.e. generated by A/C current via the public electrical grid or a generator), note that it is typically not present on all RVs in a rental company's fleet and that such air conditioning is typically capable of cooling the RV interior by no more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit (6.67 degrees Celsius) relative to the outside air temperature.

Most European RVs feature chemical toilets with detachable cassettes designed to be emptied in special receptacles — called "Chem WC" units — installed at most campgrounds, or into a regular toilet. Because large, heavy, irremovable holding tanks (i.e. "blackwater" tanks) and the corresponding flush toilets are not so common on European motorhomes, many campgrounds in Europe don't have a North American-type dumping station. Campgrounds or other camping facilities in Europe that do have such a facility are denoted by the trailer pictogram and/or the words "Entsorgungskanal" (German), "scarigare" (Italian), or "vidoir" (French).

Regarding RV water systems, waste systems, electrical systems, and liquified petroleum gas (i.e. LPG, propane, butane, camping gaz) systems, please see the following webpages:

There are generally two electrical power sources in the RV: the engine's 12 Volt (V) battery (i.e. direct current, DC); and the living quarters' 12 V deep cycle battery (or series of such batteries, the more the higher the amps), which is sometimes called the house battery or leisure battery, for operating lights, appliances, etc within the living area. There is a gauge in the motorhome to tell you how charged your battery is. In addition, there is typically a connection for plugging in to mains electricity (i.e. the grid power, shore power), which in Europe, Australia and New Zealand is about 230 V at 50 Hz (i.e. alternating current, AC) and in the USA and Canada is about 120 V at 60 Hz. A converter in the RV connects these two sorts of systems by converting the AC mains electricity into 12 V DC electricity that recharges the deep cycle battery and provides power for lights and other 12 V appliances. The deep cycle battery is also recharged by the engine power when the engine is running. Most European motorhomes are wired with 10 ampere circuits that, given the 230 V standard, might allow you to use up to 2300 Watts or so (that's 10 x 230) of power at any one time. Most North American RVs are wired with 20-, 30- or 50-amp circuits, depending on how much electricity the appliances use. Most rental RVs in North America are wired with 30-amp circuits; in such case you can still connect to power at RV parks rated at 20 amps, but if you run two large appliances at the same time, such as a TV or microwave and the roof air conditioner, you will likely blow a fuse (no big deal); and even when connected to 30-amps you can blow a fuse if you have several of your appliances and perhaps an outlet or two pulling power at the same time. The interior of the RV will feature one or more AC plugs (e.g. 230 V at 50 Hz, or 120 V at 60 Hz) functional (perhaps via a plug adapter and perhaps via a voltage adapter) when the vehicle is plugged in to the public electrical grid or when a generator is providing such electricity to the vehicle, and one or more DC plugs (into which a portable inverter can be plugged). Portable "inverters", which convert 12 V DC to the standard AC for low wattage devices, are sometimes available for hire from the rental company and are of course available for purchase on the open market.

By the way, laptops and tablets and such are "autosensing," meaning they can run off the voltage/current standards in either Europe, North America, or most anywhere else. This capacity is delineated in the electrical terms printed or molded upon the back of the device. You will probably still need a plug (i.e. prong) converter if traveling overseas, but most laptops and the like come with such. Otherwise you can buy plug converters before you go abroad or at the airport overseas. For many other appliances that you might bring overseas, you will need voltage converters as well as plug converters. Or you could bring an inverter (i.e. DC-to-AC converter), because an inverter marketed in your home country will produce your standard AC current.

Do you need a generator? Typically not. In Europe most RVs do not feature a generator, and generators are not typically available for hire. In the USA and Canada, many rental RVs feature built-in generators which run off gasoline or diesel fuel and which you pay an hourly fee to use; sometimes portable generators are available for hire. If you are plugged in to mains electricity, you of course don't need a generator. And some vehicles feature solar panels instead that generate electricity if there is enough sunlight. As described below, RV refrigerators and heaters are robustly designed so they do not need mains electricity or generator-provided electricity to run. Your fridge will run for days on a bottle of propane and is very efficient. Likewise the RVs interior lights will all work on the battery for multiple days. Appliances such as TVs and roof airconditioning, however, do need need mains electricity or generator-provided electricity. A generator comes in handy if you are in a remote area without any utilities at your campsite for an extended period of time (e.g. more than two days). The generator can also charge your house battery. If you are planning on staying in campgrounds that have power, a generator is generally not needed and generators should not be used at such campsites. Generators are noisy. Please be a good neighbor and do not start your generator early in the morning or late at night. In the state of California, and certain other states, it may be illegal to run a generator. Please check with your local campground host regarding any restrictions on generator use.

The typical RV refrigerator is an "absorption cycle" appliance that can alternately use LPG (e.g. propane, butane) and electricity as the power source. Most operate on LPG and AC current (two-way), while some also run on 12 V DC (three-way). A three-way powered RV refrigerator draws too many amperes to be powered by the deep cycle battery alone, but may run on 12 V DC power while the vehicle engine is running or a generator is running or when the RV is connected to mains electricity. Newer RV models use 12 V DC to control electronics that automatically switch power sources. Absorption refrigerators are very sensitive to being level. If planning a long ferry ride with a RV, remember it is not possible to run the refrigerator while aboard the ferry, where the RV engine and propane tanks or bottles must be turned off and where electricity is not provided.

The heater that is meant to service the living space while the vehicle engine is not running is powered by LPG. Some of these heaters are two-way in that they can alternatively be powered by AC grid current, and some are three-way in that they can alternatively be powered by diesel fuel and/or be supplemented by the 12 V deep cycle battery when the engine is running or a generator is running.

Many European, Scandinavian, British and Irish rental RVs employ LPG cylinders (or bottles) which are meant to be exchanged by the customers rather than refilled by customers or by retail operations, the customer paying only for the LPG. The refilling of such cylinders by retail businesses is prohibited in the UK and in many other countries because it is a dangerous process and one which can easily be performed improperly.

Almost all the motorhomes and campervans available for hire in Europe are diesels and have a manual transmission rather than an automatic transmission. In the USA and Canada, on other hand, almost all the rental RVs are gasoline powered and feature an automatic transmission. Although the cost of fuel in Europe is high relative to its cost in likes of the United States and Canada, the vehicles in Europe get relatively excellent fuel economy, a fact owing especially to their >diesel engines. Overall the cost of fueling and RV in Europe is about the same as the cost of doing so in the USA or Canada.

If you've booked a manual transmission RV, you must be proficient at operating a manual transmission before you pick up the rental RV. If you cannot operate the transmission correctly, the rental company might refuse to give the RV to you. There are no refunds in these cases.

Drive carefully. You are responsible for any damage you cause to the motorhome — including dings, dents and scratches (for they do measureably reduce the value of the vehicle and in general are reasonably not considered expected wear and tear). This responsibility a universal fact, although in some cases you can purchase an optional damage waiver (e.g. CDW) to reduce your monetary risk in this regard.

Be sure the motorhome is low enough to clear overhead obstacles and narrow enough for bridges and roads. Have a person assist you from outside when operating a RV or campervan in reverse.

Motorhomes tend to be more expensive to repair than cars, chiefly because the pieces involved — e.g. side panels, windshield, etc — are larger and are produced in relatively smaller numbers. Thus even surface marks, scratches, and windshield chips represent a larger negative value. If the vendor does not consider a damage a result of normal wear and tear, the vendor will hold the client liable for the damage and will at least debit the client's security deposit up to the applicable deductible. Depending on logistics and the severity of damage, a damaged rental RV might not be repaired for some time after the rental. In fact the vendor (rental company) is not obligated to get the damages repaired; as owners or leasers of the motorhome, they might choose to sell the RV as-is and thus absorb by way of a lower sale price the cost of damages. Hence it is the RV rental industry standard that qualified mechanics employed at or by the rental company estimate the cost of damages and that the rental company charge for damages to the motorhome or campervan based on those estimates. Generally rental companies try to let cosmetic damages accumulate to a sort of optimal point relative to aesthetic sensibilities, demand for the RV, the number of parts (e.g. side panels) involved, and the value of the damages. By thus bundling damages they spread the risk, resulting in increased RV rental availability and an insurance deductible/excess which is lower than it otherwise would be.

Never leave an RV awning deployed while you are absent. Awnings are easily damaged by high winds, falling branches, or heavy rain or snow, and even the calmest weather conditions can quickly change to severe — especially in the mountains or near the ocean; the vendor therefore will consider such awning damage consequent of client negligence.

Be careful to put the correct fuel in the vehicle. For example, in Europe a diesel fuel pump nozzle is considerably wider than either a leaded gasoline pump nozzle or the even smaller unleaded gasoline pump nozzle and indeed will not fit into either such tank. Consequently a gasoline nozzle will fit into a diesel tank. Therefore, be careful not to put gasoline into a diesel tank. Even a liter of gasoline added to the tank of a modern diesel vehicle can cause irreversible damage to the injection pump and other components due to its relatively low lubricity. A green pump delivers unleaded gasoline or else diesel, a blue leaded gasoline. Diesel pumps are sometimes colored black, sometimes green. Diesel pumps are chiefly signified linguistically, either with the very word diesel or with one of the equivalents: gas-oil, gaz-oil, gasolio, gasóleo, dieselolie, mazot, motorina, or nafta. Make sure you do not mistakenly pull up to a truck diesel pump. The size of the nozzles for the truck pumps versus the car/motorhome pumps is different. A truck fuel nozzle is too big to fit into a car or motorhome's diesel fuel pipe, and the flow rate is much greater. By the way, LPG pumps similarly occupy their own island.

Where/when the ambient temperatures of the low-altitude regions near the depot are expected to be at or below the freezing point of water for a significant duration during a client's rental, the vehicle will be delivered to the client with its water tank emptied, its water heater drained and bypassed, and its water system in general flushed with a special, non-toxic antifreeze. While a vehicle is thus fully "winterized", the fresh water tank cannot be filled and the public water cannot be connected. Bottled water can be used to wash one's hands, face or brush one's teeth. Occasional rinsing of the drains with RV/Marine-approved antifreeze is required. When using the toilet facilities of the motorhome, said antifreeze needs to be used to flush. A dilution of maximum 50 percent with (bottled) water is acceptable. If the client re-hydrates a fully winterized system during the rental and returns the vehicle de-winterized, a fee will be charged to the client upon return. In contrast, if such temperatures will or may be encountered only at higher altitudes or otherwise sporadically during a client's rental duration the vehicle may or will, respectively, be delivered to the client with its water/waste system hydrated as usual. Regardless, in all cases the client is responsible for any damage to the water/waste system due to freezing. Which is to say, the client should be sure the water/waste system is drained of water before using the vehicle where that water system might freeze. Of course upon the pick-up occasion the vendor can provide instruction regarding the draining and rehydration of that system.