First Time Renting an RV? 3 Questions You Probably Haven’t Thought to Ask

rv rental keys

Thinking about renting an RV? It’s a great way to get the benefits of RVing without having to pay for storage or maintenance. It’s also a great way to test out the motorhome lifestyle if you’re considering full-time RVing.

If you’re new to RVing, there are obvious important questions you’ll want to know the answers to before you hit the road. Things like ‘How do I dump the tanks?’, ‘Who do I call if there’s trouble?’, and ‘Does this thing use diesel or unleaded?’ If the person you rent from lets you out of their sight without proactively telling you the answers to those questions, you should be worried. But there are some less obvious, and equally important, questions that may not occur to first time renters. Read on.

rv rental keys

Should I rent from a private individual, small center, or national chain?

Whether you rent from a private renter, a regional RV center, or a national rental chain depends on what services and features are most important to you. There are different advantages and disadvantages for each approach:

Private Individual

If you rent from a private individual, it’s likely that the RV rental will come loaded with essentials, such as kitchen items, bedding, and leveling blocks. You’ll want to make sure that the individual has RV rental insurance — if you break something in their RV, their insurance will cover the damages.

Most private RV owners will give you a how-to walkthrough of their rental RV. However, they won’t have any formalized videos for you.

If the private renter rents to you through one of the big RV rental websites, there may or may not be roadside assistance. Be sure to check if this is something that is important to you.

National RV Rental Chain

If you rent from a national chain, you’ll get a bare bones RV rental without the essentials or leveling features. The advantage to this is that you don’t have to worry so much about breaking something. These rigs go through a lot, and most national chains won’t charge you for small breaks and dings.

Because they serve a wide variety of experience levels, they will probably have lots of online help videos in addition to the in-person walkthrough of the rig.

If you get stuck somewhere, they’ll offer roadside assistance. Additionally, a national chain is the only option if you want to go from point A to point B and not make a round-trip.

Small RV Center

If you’re thinking about buying an RV, you may want to rent from a small RV center. They often purchase nicer units that they rent for a year or two then sell. So you can try out a rig that you might actually purchase. The RV rental will be more expensive than at a national chain, but will have more bells and whistles than the national chain’s units. We liked a small center’s rental unit so much, we bought it.

Small centers will walk you through how to use the RV but are unlikely to have help videos. You can probably call from the road with any questions — if it’s during business hours.Like national chains, most small center rentals include roadside assistance.

Where can I go?

Most RV rentals are prohibited from visiting Mexico, regardless of whether you rent from a private individual through or through a national chain such as Cruise America. If you are hoping to travel to Mexico in a rental, you’d have to check with private renters.

map of Mexico with denied stamped on it

How tall is this thing?

Height clearance. It’s one of the most important details you can know about an RV.┬áTake a second to think about all those “Max. Height” signs you see when you’re in your car. Can’t remember any? That’s probably because we all ignore them. Ignore them in an RV and you could find yourself unexpectedly driving a convertible.
max height sign
There’s a good chance that a rental RV will have the clearance information posted somewhere in the front cab, either on the dashboard or window. If not, write it down and tape it there for easy reference. The last thing you want to be doing as you’re barreling toward a bridge with 11′ 2″ clearance is trying to remember whether your RV is 10’4″ or 11’4″.

And if there’s any uncertainty about the vehicle’s height, measure it yourself. (From the top of the tallest thing on the roof.) It’s too much of a financial and safety risk not to be absolutely sure.

Protip 1:

Believe it or not, road clearance signs aren’t always correct. Repaving or other road work may change the clearance enough that it matters. Leave yourself (and your RV) some wiggle room – several inches at least.

Protip 2:

There are RV trip planners that will take your vehicle’s height into account when routing your trip. A search for “RV Trip Planners” will bring up some options for you to evaluate.