Renting a trailer or motorhome is a great way to try out RV camping. But with so many options--from large motorhomes to small, towable pop-ups--it's hard for a first-time RV renter to know what to choose. Here are six questions to help you find the right rental RV to meet your needs.
Are you comfortable driving an RV?
If you're used to driving "big things," this might not be an issue for you. But if you're like me and freak out about driving your SUV next to a concrete barrier, or hate taking sharp turns on a road with soft shoulders, you might not be game to haul 32' of house-on-wheels down the highway.
If you're breaking out in a sweat just reading this, don't worry! Many RV owners will tow and set-up the rental for you. There's usually an additional fee for this to cover the cost of gas and the owners' time.
What type of driving will you be doing in your rental RV?
Even if you are comfortable with driving an RV as a first-time renter, consider the roads leading to your destination. Is it highway driving or rural? Are there lots of hills and turns or even (gasp!) cliff faces? The answers to these questions may steer you toward one type of RV over another.
When you're driving an RV, your turning radius is different. You need to leave yourself a bit more room. And the weight distribution is different, so you need to take corners a little slower.
The first RV we rented was a little van conversion, which we drove around Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. Most days, we were driving on narrow, two-lane roads, often without a paved shoulder or a centre line. They were twisty and sometimes hilly. Fortunately for me, Colin did all the driving (he still does!). I know he was exhausted at the end of each day, as navigating those roads took significant concentration.
If you're planning a similar trip, you may be more comfortable in a small RV, provided it meets your needs in other ways. Or, you may need to reduce the number of hours you plan to drive each day, so you don't get burnt out or frustrated. You're on vacation, after all!
Where is your destination?
Are you heading to a specific campsite, or will you be changing locations regularly? On the Cape Breton trip I mentioned earlier, the journey was the destination. We mapped a route around the island and camped at a different site each night.
For this type of trip, a motorhome makes set-up fast and easy. You simply pull in to your spot, hook up the hydro and water-- that's it!
The disadvantage of a motorhome is you don't have a separate vehicle unless you plan to tow one behind you. And if you plan to do that in your first rental RV, then you deserve some kind of medal!
On the other hand, if you're planning a single destination where you'll park for the duration of your vacation, you may prefer a towable trailer. There's a bit more set-up involved to level and un-hook the trailer, but once you're in, your vehicle is at your disposal for day-trips with no need to tear-down your site.
What can your tow vehicle handle?
If you've decided to rent a travel trailer or fifth wheel, you need to know how much your vehicle can handle.
One day I'll write a full blog on tow vehicles, but for now, please know that just because you have a truck with a trailer hitch doesn't mean you can hook-up and pull any trailer you want. Likewise, just because you've seen a dude pulling a 30' trailer down the road with his mini-van, doesn't mean that's a good idea.
Each vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating, which is the maximum allowable weight of the RV when fully-loaded. You also need to consider the tongue weight, which is the maximum amount of weight you can place on the hitch. There are also different types of trailer hitches.
Sites like this towing guide from Campers World can help you determine the maximum amount of trailer your vehicle can tow. When you're renting, the RV owner will typically be well-versed in the type of vehicle and hitch you'll need to pull their specific trailer.
What size and layout of RV will work best for you?
Sure, an RV ad may say it "sleeps 9," but it's important to understand HOW you get to the nine. It may involve converting your dinette to a bed every night. Imagine clearing the table-top (where are you going to put all that stuff?), turning the table to a bed, adding the sheets and blankets or rolling out the sleeping bags (where were those stored?). This process might not be an issue for you, but it's good to think about before you commit to a rental.
There can also be a gap between the space the RV manufacturer says will sleep two and the area in which two people can sleep comfortably. In the Tin Can Cottage, for example, the convertible sofa is considered a "double bed," but there's no way two grown adults would be comfortable sleeping there! When we're chatting with potential renters, we recommend that space for one adult, or perhaps two kids, depending on their age.
Once you know where everyone will sleep, think about whether those arrangements work with your vision of the perfect vacation. If you're camping with little ones, for example, you may prefer a layout that lets you put them to bed early and leaves you space to move around without disturbing them. Likewise, if you're an early riser and want to get up to make your coffee and enjoy the morning, you may not want to climb over grandma sleeping on the dinette!
Where should you rent your first RV?
Several companies in Canada specialize in renting motorhomes. Places like Fraserway, whom we used a couple of times before we bought the Tin Can Cottage. We liked the full orientation they provided, and that they stored our luggage for us. When we arrived, we unpacked our belongings into the trailer, then secured our suitcases at the rental facility. The downside is, they were pretty expensive.
Another option is to use an online RV rental marketplace. When we're not using it, we make the Tin Can Cottage available for rent via RVezy, a site that connects Canadian RV owners with potential renters. There are similar sites in the U.S., like Outdoorsy.
When you use a site like RVezy, you have lots of different rental options at a variety of prices. The RVs are pre-screened, and the best part--for owners and renters--is your rental includes insurance. RVezy even offers a roadside assistance option for additional peace-of-mind.
With the answers to these six questions, you should be able to narrow down your RV rental choices and feel confident as you set out on your camping adventure.