How to Get on the Road with Confidence
RV rentals make sense if the nomad lifestyle is calling your name. But the pros and cons of camper vans and Class C RV rentals—the two most common types of RVs you can book—can be overwhelming if you’re in unfamiliar territory. Here’s a closer look that can help you decide and get on the road with confidence.
When searching for RV rentals, you’ll find plenty of small to mid-size RVs like camper vans and Class C RV rentals. Their small footprint makes it easy for RV newbies to jump into the lifestyle. They often have better fuel efficiency than a Class A motorhome, driving and maneuvering is easier for a novice behind the wheel, and campsite location choices are greater too. Campervans and Class C motorhomes let you go more places, with less money and hassle than bigger RVs.
But as the saying goes, there’s always a catch. Book RV rentals without examining the pros and cons of the unit you picked out, and you may hate RVing forever. Here’s how to take the RV road trip of your dreams by choosing the best RV rental for your needs.
Consider a Camper Van Rental
Camper vans and I go way back to my first taste of RVing. That’s when I owned a vintage 1973 Volkswagen Westfalia. I loved the convenience of driving a “micro motorhome,” without the RV parking hassles or cost of ownership. The little Westie had a bed, tiny kitchen with cooktop and refrigerator, and a little storage. It also had a pop-up rooftop tent that made it feel bigger than it actually was. These conveniences were great but modern camper van rentals make my van look positively prehistoric.
Modern camper vans not only have all the basic amenities built into my Westie, but now they’re as long as 22-feet with many new snappy conveniences. A few examples include solar power, a “wet bath” with a toilet and shower closet, and larger holding tanks. Some even have four-wheel drive capabilities to get you into off-the-beaten-path camping destinations.
You may be asking, “If camper van rentals are so awesome, why should I get anything else?” Allow me to help you with that question. For starters, renting a camper van for vacation is ideal if you travel light. Whether you rent a large Sprinter van or keep it simple in a converted minivan rental, it’s easy to overpack. The more stuff packed into your little home on wheels, the more cramped it feels.
And even if you don’t mind getting cozy with your passengers, utilizing camper van amenities is difficult when you’re stepping over everyone to meal prep, use the toilet, and sleep.
If you’re thinking of renting a camper van, keep in mind that the smaller the number of passengers—RVing cats and dogs included—the easier it is to take advantage of camper van conveniences.
Pros of camper van rentals
- Parking is easy. Passenger car parking spaces can accommodate most camper vans.
- Fuel costs are lower. Camper vans get the best fuel mileage out of larger RVs.
- Nightly rental costs are low. You’ll pay about as much as what low-end motels charge per night.
- Driving is newbie-friendly. Maneuvering a campervan RV rental is less challenging than a Class C.
- Stealth camping is easy. If you need a free overnight parking spot at Walmart or some other big box store, camper vans make it easy.
Cons of camper van rentals
- Smaller holding tanks. With less room for fresh and waste water than a Class C RV, you’ll need to visit dump stations more often.
- Sleeping arrangements must be assembled every night. Most campervan beds double as a sofa, requiring sleepy campers to set it up at night and break it down every morning.
- Bathrooms are extremely small. Most camper vans have a “wet bath” with shower, toilet, and sink closet combo. If you’re tall or larger than average, using onboard facilities can be a chore. In this era of RVing, you might not want to rely on public restrooms.
- Storage space is minimal. Packing for van life means carrying only the basic necessities. You’ll need to stop for food more often too.
When Class C RV Rentals Make More Sense
I’ve never owned a Class C but I grew up camping in this style of RV. With my parents and three sisters along for the ride, I discovered there was plenty to love about vacationing in a Class C.
For starters, the layout enabled us to carry plenty of supplies on our family vacations. This made “roughing it” so much nicer for everyone. Class C RVs have carefully designed indoor and outdoor storage compartments that allow passengers to have their own storage for clothing and a few prized toys or games.
One of the most important features for our family was the bathroom size of a Class C. Even the smallest motorhome we ever owned had a relatively spacious shower, toilet, and sink facilities.
Finally, many larger Class C motorhomes allow you to tow a vehicle. This allows you to go adventuring beyond the campsite without having to break camp. RV rental companies may or may not allow you to tow a vehicle, so be sure to verify if you can.
When it comes to Class C RV rentals, here’s what to think about.
The positives of a Class C RV rental
- More spacious living accommodations make it easy to carry more passengers. This makes it relatively easy to accommodate everyone, even when stuck inside during bad weather.
- Ceiling height is friendlier for tall people. No more ducking when you walk around inside the RV. Most Class Cs can easily accommodate big and tall campers.
- Generous storage space. If you pack your RV wisely, you won’t need to empty cabinets every time you need to dig up an item.
- Class C RVs are easy to drive. As long as you have the confidence to drive a larger vehicle, you can probably handle a Class C RV. Of course, RV driving school lessons are a smart idea too.
The negatives of a Class C RV rental
- Class C RVs are fuel guzzlers. Most Class C RV rentals are going to run on gasoline, which means poor fuel efficiency. Get ready to stop for gas—a lot.
- Heating and cooling cost more. Unlike a camper van that has a compact living space to heat or cool, the relatively ginormous space inside Class C RVs means it’s costlier to heat or cool.
- The cab-over-bed sleeping quarters get hot in the summertime. The poor camper assigned the highest bunk will soon discover that heat rises.
- Class C RVs need bigger and costlier campsites. You will have less access to free and cheap off-grid camping locations.
- A taller RV height means less margin of error while in motion. The taller the RV, the more you’ll need to worry about overhead tree branches when you choose a campsite.
- You’ll pay higher rental fees. Class C RV rentals cost about twice as much as a camper van rental. Insurance costs are higher too. Can you afford it?
There’s no such thing as the “best” RV rental.
Different RV rentals have a variety of pros and cons. But the only way to find out what works for you is to get out there and try them on for size. The nice thing is, your costs are only temporary. If you don’t like a particular RV style, you can always give it back at the end of your rental period and try something else on for size next time around.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.