Everything You Need to Know Before Renting an RV for the First Time

Hit the open road with confidence this summer, thanks to these RV vacation tips from experts.

If you're renting an RV for the first time, you probably have a lot of questions: How much does it cost to rent an RV? What kind of RV or trailer should I rent? What should I pack? Thankfully, we have the answers to your RV questions, so you can hit the road with confidence this summer. We spoke to Paige Bouma, vice president at RV Trader, and Megan Buemi, head of content at RVshare, to get their expert advice on everything from RV rentals to road trip packing lists. With people across the country gearing up to explore the great outdoors, here's what you need to know to join them.

Scenic RV Camping Spot
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How much does it cost to rent an RV?

RV travel can be very affordable, but it all depends on your preferences. One of the most common questions from first-timers is "how much is it to rent an RV?" While there's no clear-cut number, there are a few things to consider. First, you have to factor in the RV rental cost. This varies based on the vehicle type, where you're going, and the length of your trip, but according to RVshare, "the average booking is $150 per night and $1,000 for a four- to five-night rental." Other costs include insurance, gas, campground fees, food, and more. Bouma notes that it's a good idea to map out where you're staying overnight ahead of time, so you can park at free lots or at friends' homes.

What should I pack for my RV trip?

There's a fine line between overpacking and not having what you need. Like with any trip, you'll want to pack the clothing and supplies necessary for the activities you have in mind. Buemi says to "pack thoughtfully," noting that renters should "speak to the RV owner about what they keep on board for their renters, such as linens and cookware." Bouma notes that it's important to have a tool kit and first-aid kit on hand, in case of emergencies. If you're traveling with kids, don't forget games, craft supplies, movies, kitchen supplies, and of course, graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate for making s'mores.

How should I plan my RV trip?

Bouma says that planning is a great way to get the whole family involved in the trip. Research your route and destinations ahead of time, plot out where you'll stay overnight (and make reservations for sought-after campgrounds), plan your meals, and make sure you have enough water in your tank and gas in your generator. Oh, and figure out where you'll have hookups for water and power, too.

What RV should I rent?

Choosing the right RV for your next vacation can seem like a daunting task because there are so many brands and models out there. Let factors like budget, the number of people traveling, the destination, and the length of the trip help narrow things down. Consider whether you want a motorhome or a towable trailer (and make sure your car can tow whatever trailer you choose). Buemi says to "decide what is most important to you, such as pet-friendliness, number of beds, a full kitchen, fun outdoor space, and more."

Man and two women eating dinner outdoors around a wooden picnic table as the sun sets
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Where should I rent my RV?

You know what kind of RV you want and what you're bringing on your trip, but how do you actually get your vehicle? Luckily, there are several convenient options for booking your next RV. Peer-to-peer sites like RVshare and Outdoorsy connect RV owners directly with vacationers looking to rent. There's also Cruise America, which has an impressive inventory at a number of rental centers across the U.S. and Canada. And, if you find yourself accustomed to the RV life, you can always head to RV Trader to buy your own camper.

What else do I need to know before renting an RV?

If you rent an RV, you'll have to decide whether to drive it, tow it, or pick it up at your destination. If you're not into the idea of driving or towing something so large, some RV rentals will even drop it off at your desired campground. When renting an RV for the first time, be sure to get a walk-though from the owner. Buemi advises, "Setting up an RV at a campground may be new to you, so ask the owner to give you detailed instructions on all aspects of their rig, such as how to use the electrical hookups, open the awning, dump the tanks, etc." Even if you're renting, make sure you have insurance and assistance in case of an accident. RVshare offers up to $300,000 in comprehensive and collision coverage plus free 24/7 roadside assistance and towing and tire service.

Bouma also notes that drivers can often forget how tall their RVs are (especially with their A/C units on top). Be cautious when driving under anything with low clearance, including fast-food drive-thrus.

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