Are you planning an epic road trip? One that spans from one coast to the other? If so, you probably want to hit the road in an RV. While you could spend money on hotels and expensive amenities, an RV allows you to experience the countryside while you can save money and get more familiar with nature.
Whether you’re planning a solo outing, a family trip, or an adventure with friends, RV rentals are an excellent choice. Instead of dropping big money on a new or used RV, you can rent one and get the same experience at a fraction of the cost.
But, where do you start? Renting an RV can be a daunting task if you’ve never done so before. Fortunately, we’re here to help. This is the ultimate guide to renting an RV for a cross-country trip.
Browse thousands of peer-to-peer RV rentals with Outdoorsy, the AirBnB of RV rentals. Renting an RV by owner is a great way to test out a rig before you buy and chat with RV owners. There are RVs for rental over the U.S. at a variety of prices. Use our coupon code "WAYWARDHOME" for $50 off your rental!
Step One: Determine the Best RV Type for Your Journey
Motorhomes come in three different classes – Class A, Class B, and Class C. Each class has its pros and cons, and they work best for different situations. For example, if you’re trying to explore the wilderness by yourself, a class B motorhome would work best. However, if you’re going from one city to the next with your family in tow, a class A or C would be better.
Here’s a breakdown of each class and what it has to offer.
Class A Motorhome
Renting a class A RV means that you’ll be getting a big rig with lots of amenities and accommodations. Class A models often reach 30 to 35 feet long, meaning you have multiple rooms and various sleeping arrangements.
Basically, if you’re trying to travel in style and are going on a road trip with multiple people, a class A motorhome might be an ideal choice.
- Extra space inside
- Built-in entertainment centers
- Larger showers and beds
- Ideal for groups of four or more
- Can be hard to maneuver
- May have to worry about clearance heights
- More expensive than other RV models
Class B Motorhome
Another term for this type of RV is a camper van. These vans are compact and nimble and can take you virtually anywhere without any problems. Some camper vans are relatively large, but most of them are about 20 feet long or less. In some cases, smaller vans may not come with a bathroom, or they might just have a toilet and not a shower.
Overall, class B motorhomes are ideal for individual travelers or couples who don’t mind sharing cramped spaces for extended periods. These vans also work well for budget-conscious people.
- Can be more affordable than other classes
- Compact and easy to drive
- Work well for boondocking and camping
- Excellent for solo travelers
- May not have all the amenities, including a bathroom
- Not suitable for groups of four or more
Class C Motorhome
This RV class is kind of a mix between camper vans and class A rigs. Typically, a class C has a bed over the main cab, giving it a distinct aesthetic you won’t find with other motorhomes. Class C models work well as family vehicles because there’s enough room for everyone to sleep and hang out, but they’re not as expensive or massive as class A RVs.
Overall, if you’re not sure what kind of RV you want and you’re traveling with multiple people, a class C should work well.
- Comes with most amenities, including a dining area and bathroom
- Suitable for groups of four or more
- Easier to drive than a class A rig
- May feel cramped if traveling with four adults
- You still have to worry about clearance heights when driving
What About Travel Trailers and Fifth-Wheels?
If you have a suitable tow vehicle, you can rent an RV trailer instead of a motorhome. Typically, RV trailers will cost less because they don’t come with an engine that wears down on the trip.
That said, if you don’t have a truck or SUV already, you’ll need to rent that, making your travel costs that much higher. Also, fifth wheel trailers must be towed with a pickup truck, so if don’t have one of those, you can’t rent this kind of RV.
If you decide to rent a trailer, we recommend practicing as much as possible before your actual trip. Try things like making tight turns and backing up. If you don’t have any experience driving with a trailer, these maneuvers can be pretty tricky to master. Also, the larger the trailer, the more complicated it is to tow.
One distinct advantage of renting a travel trailer is that you don’t have to drive the motorhome everywhere. Instead, you can park the trailer at a campsite or RV park and take your tow vehicle wherever you like. Also, toy hauler trailers allow you to bring secondary vehicles like dirt bikes and ATVs.
Step Two: Find a Reputable RV Rental Company
Depending on where you live, you might have access to quite a few RV rentals. Once you find a few options, make sure to vet each company so you know what to expect. Some factors to consider include:
- Online Reviews – What are customers saying about the business and does the company address any complaints?
- Rental Options – How many RVs are available, and what kind of models do they have in stock? Also, do they rent used RVs or new ones?
- Costs – Most RV rentals charge by the day, but you may be able to get weekly or monthly rates if your trip will take a while to complete.
Here are a few companies to check out when planning your trip:
Outdoorsy is like Airbnb for RV rentals. You can rent an RV by owner or through a company. There are lots of choices on the Outdoorsy website, including Class As, Class Bs, Class Cs, and even travel trailers and truck campers.
Here’s what you’ll get with an Outdoorsy RV rental for a cross-country road trip:
- Search and discover camper rentals based on location, amenities or owners
- Access to RVs and campervans that are cared for by their owners and are really varied and unique
- You’ll be fully insured. You’re eligible for coverage under Outdoorsy’s $1 million liability insurance policy
- Payments are made through a secure server
- You get access to 24/7 customer service
- Some motorhome rentals are eligible for delivery
RVShare is another awesome rental company where you can browse all types of RVs all over the U.S.
There’s everything from affordable travel trailer rentals to luxury motorhomes to choose from.
RV Share is the first and largest peer-to-peer camper rental company out there, with more than 60,000 RVs for rent across the country.
Here’s some of what you’ll get with RVShare rental for a road trip:
- Thousands of RVs at various price points to browse through
- Secure payment via RVShare’s server
- RV Share verifies RV owners to protect you from fraud
- 24/7 dedicated support team via chat, phone or email
- Rebooking assistance if your RV rental is cancelled
- One-way RV Rentals
- 5-Star Reviews
- Motorhome rental insurance up to $200,000 in comprehensive and collision coverage based on the value of the RV
- Deliverable RVs
- Pet-friendly RV Rentals
3. Cruise America
You’ve probably seen an RV with the Cruise America logo emblazoned across the side. This is a very popular RV rental company that’s all over the U.S.
Cruise America is a large camper rental company that maintains a fleet of Class C RVs which have a standard look. You won’t find a unique travel trailer, Class A RV or campervan when renting here.
You can choose from a large RV rental, a standard RV rental, a compact RV rental or a truck camper. The RVs are all Class C RVs.
Cruise America has 128 locations in 33 states.
Here’s a little bit more about Cruise America:
- Lots of RVs in stock
- Camper rental locations across the United States and Canada
- Every RV has similar amenities, such as AC, a toilet, a generator, a refrigerator and gas cooktop
- Lots of motorhome rental deals and coupons to look through
- Free insurance on your motorhome rental
- 24/7 customer service
- Pet-friendly camper rentals
- You can tow a car behind any of these RVs
- One way RV rental availability
GoCamp is a newer rental company on the scene and features luxury Class B RVs like Storyteller Overland and the Winnebago Revel. You’ll also find a variety of custom and DIY builds on the site, which is great if you’re looking for a smaller rig or want to test out van life.
On the site, you can rent a variety of RVs and campervans owned by private parties. The big perk of GoCamp is that the rental includes everything you need to go on a great road trip – kitchenware, camping chairs and table, bed sheets, cookware and more. You won’t forget to pack anything.
Here are some benefits of GoCamp:
- Over 50 locations across the U.S.
- Choose between Sprinters, Eurovans, Dodge Ram ProMasters, and more
- All camping gear is included in the rental
- There are one-way rental options
- Choose between manual and automatic transmission
- 4×4 vans available
- 24/7 roadside assistance available for $15 per day
- Pet-friendly rentals are available
Questions to Ask When Comparing Different Rental Options
Before renting an RV, you should go to the lot and inspect a few models. Make sure to walk through several units so you get a sense of the space inside. If an RV feels cramped when you’re in there for a few minutes, imagine how it will be during a cross-country trip. You must also look at the sleeping area to ensure it’s comfortable for you and anyone else coming along.
As you browse the RV selection, be sure to ask different questions like:
- Insurance – If you have auto insurance, it should come with trip protection. However, RV rental insurance might cover things like equipment breakdowns and damage caused by internal RV systems. Overall, you want to make sure you’re not on the hook if something happens during your trip.
- Mileage and Gas – Does the rental come with unlimited mileage, or is there a cap per day? Also, does it come filled with gasoline? If your RV comes with a kitchen, does it also include propane and water, or will you need to fill these yourself before heading out?
- Pick-Up and Drop-Off Locations – If you’re traveling cross-country, you may not want to drive all the way back in an RV (if you’re returning at all). So, be sure to ask about one way RV rentals and how much extra that will cost. Smaller RV rental companies may not allow this kind of service, and those that do will likely charge substantial fees.
- Roadside Assistance – Even if you have a roadside assistance membership (i.e., with AAA), they may not cover RVs and trailers. Since anything could happen while you’re on the road (flat tire, run out of gas, broken headlight, etc.), having coverage can give you peace of mind. Also, it’s often much different to change a flat on an RV than it is on a car, so you might not be able to do it yourself.
- Faulty Components – If the battery dies during your trip, it’s likely faulty (unless you left the lights on or something). Similarly, what if the plumbing system stops working? What if an outlet fails or the A/C stops working? Insurance usually covers damage from incidents like collisions, not wear and tear. So, if something breaks down, will you have to pay for repairs? You shouldn’t, which is why you need to address these questions before signing anything.
- Drivers – Finally, can you authorize multiple drivers on the rental or just yourself? Some rental companies charge extra for additional drivers, while others may allow spouses to be included for free. If you’re the only one on the contract, it can limit your travel options. Driving while drowsy is already dangerous in a car or truck, but it can be deadly with an RV.
Step Three: Plan Your Itinerary
Once you know what kind of rig you’re renting, the next step is to plan your RV trip. Even if you’re not the type to break down your itinerary hour by hour, it helps to know where you’re going to stop for the night, even if it’s just a city. For example, maybe you know you’ll be stopping in Las Vegas, but you’re not sure where exactly.
Here are some considerations to make as you plan your RV road trip.
Using Apps for Navigation
Fortunately, we’re living in a golden age of technology, and there’s always “an app for that.” RV apps allow you to plan your routes to avoid obstacles like weight restrictions, low bridges, and places that aren’t very RV friendly.
The best RV navigation apps will update your route in real time, so you don’t have to follow a pre-planned guide. This way, you can explore more of the road without worrying about encountering a bad situation.
Some apps may also highlight necessary amenities like truck stops, dump stations, roadside attractions, RV parks, and more. This way, you can see what’s around you at any given time and adjust your trip accordingly.
Check out our list of the best camping apps here.
RV Parks vs. Campgrounds vs. Boondocking
One of the primary questions to answer when planning your RV road trip is where to stop for the night. While the nice thing about renting a recreational vehicle is that you don’t have to pay for a hotel, you often have to pay for a parking space.
There are three options available for RV owners or renters when stopping overnight – RV parks, campgrounds, and boondocking. Here’s a breakdown of each one.
An RV park is dedicated to renting spots for recreational vehicles and nothing else. Some parks are little more than a parking lot with water and power hookups. Other parks may include on-site accommodations like laundry services, dog parks, swimming pools, recreation centers, mailboxes, and more.
Before deciding on an RV park, it’s best to look at online reviews from people who’ve stayed there before. Unfortunately, many locations will upsell their services, even if everything is run down or broken. Basically, hearing from regular RV owners will tell you if a park is worth the lot fees or not.
Most campgrounds offer RV parking spots, but some areas can fill up fast, so you need a reservation. For example, many national parks will fill up months in advance, so you should reach out and reserve a spot as soon as possible.
As with RV parks, campgrounds can vary in quality and accommodations. Some spaces may only have water and power, while others may offer shower and bathroom access. No matter what, you’ll have to pay campground fees to plug your RV in overnight and refill your water tanks. Some campgrounds may even have a dump site so you can empty your black water tank before heading out.
Boondocking is when you park somewhere that isn’t designated for RVs. Examples can be on federal land, at a Wal-Mart parking lot, a regular non-RV campground, or just on the street. As a rule, boondocking in a city is not suitable for more than one night, and it may be illegal in certain cities or neighborhoods. Finding free campsites on National Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management land is completely legal, and you can often stay up to 14 days.
The advantage of boondocking is that you don’t have to pay any fees to stay the night. The disadvantage is that you can’t plug in anywhere or refill your tanks. Also, if you’re doing it “under the radar,” you may have to worry about getting a knock on your door from local law enforcement.
If you’re interested in boondocking, check out our article: How to Find Free Campsites
Emptying and Refilling Water Tanks
Fortunately, many state parks, campgrounds, and RV parks offer dumping sites where you can empty your gray and black water tanks. You may also do this at some rest stops, gas stations, and RV dealerships.
Emptying and refilling your tanks is only a problem if you’re boondocking for more than a night or two, or if you’re camping out in the middle of nowhere. So, it helps to know how much water you can use before the tank gets too full. This way, you know how much flexibility you have. That said, it’s always smart to empty your tanks every couple of days, just to be safe.
Step Four: Pack for Your Trip
Packing for an RV trip is a bit different than packing for a regular road trip. First of all, you won’t have to be lugging bags and clothing from one hotel room to the next, so you can settle in a bit more. Second, you can bring lots of other supplies to make your trip more enjoyable and accommodating.
While this list isn’t extensive, it should help you understand what to bring (and what to leave behind).
Appliances and Equipment
Adapting to RV life can take a while, but you’ll eventually get used to living in a smaller space. One advantage of this kind of trip is that you can pack a lot more than you would with a regular vacation. For one, you can bring small appliances, such as:
- Coffee Maker
- Hair Dryer/Curling Iron
- Hot Plate (if there are no kitchen supplies)
- Space Heater
- Electric Kettle
As a rule, you don’t want to run these appliances when drawing off the RV battery. Although your rig will have multiple deep-cycle batteries, it’s better to wait until you have electrical hookups. This way, you can save that power for when you really need it.
Also, if you don’t have these appliances already, it helps to buy low-voltage versions. While you can draw shore power when the RV is plugged in, you don’t want to overload the circuits. As a rule, anything with a heater (i.e., a microwave or coffee maker) will draw lots of energy. So, you shouldn’t run multiple appliances at once.
Most class C and class A RVs come with a built-in entertainment center, complete with TVs, recliners, and sofas. However, unless you plan on watching streaming services during the entire trip, you’ll want to bring other materials like:
- Fishing Equipment – If you love to fish, you can bring everything like bait, tackle, and fishing poles.
- Off-Roading Equipment – Renting a toy hauler allows you to bring these vehicles without towing them behind your main rig.
- Puzzles and Board Games – If the RV has a dining room and living space, you can play games with the family pretty easily.
- Outdoor Cooking Utensils and Equipment – Barbecuing is both a form of cooking and entertainment. If you love the idea of making your meals outdoors, you can bring a small grill and various utensils.
- Hiking Gear – If you’re going to be visiting national and state parks, you’ll likely be doing a lot of hiking. Bring some backpacks, sturdy shoes, binoculars, and anything else that might make your trips worthwhile.
- Biking Gear – You can off-roading on more than just a dirt bike or ATV. Bicycles give you a wide range of movement, even if you’re boondocking or parked in the city.
Ideally, you’ll only encounter sunny, clear skies during your road trip. However, if it rains, snows, or hails along the way, you need to be prepared. Weather-related gear shouldn’t just be a few coats and hats, either, some RV-centric materials include:
- Tarps – If you’re camping in one spot for a few nights, hanging a tarp next to the RV gives you more space to stay dry without spending all your time in the motorhome.
- Umbrellas – Large umbrellas work well for wet and sunny weather. For example, if you bring camp chairs and a folding table, an umbrella can help you stay cool.
- Fans – Battery-operated fans can work well for summer road trips. While your RV will have air conditioning, it might not be suitable to use all day long. Also, if you’re outside, a fan can be a huge benefit.
- Shoe Racks – If you’re hiking in the mud and dirt, you don’t want to bring all that inside your RV. Portable shoe racks allow you to dry your footwear and keep the interior clean.
Some RV rentals will come fully loaded, while others will offer little more than the bare minimum. So, it makes sense to bring extra supplies like:
- Tire Ramps – Some parking spots will be lopsided, so ramps allow you to keep the RV steady so you’re not tilting all the time.
- Bed Linens – If the rental company doesn’t provide sheets and blankets, you need to supply your own.
- Bathroom Supplies – Get travel sizes of everything like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and more.
- Kitchen Utensils – You may need to bring your own silverware, plates, cups, bowls, and serving trays.
- Cooking Supplies – Do you have spatulas, frying pans, pots, and everything else to cook while you’re on the road? If not, you’ll need to eat out all the time.
Are you Ready for your Cross Country Road Trip?
Exploring the U.S. by an RV is a great way to see our country’s public lands. Whether you choose a Class A, Class C, Class B or even a tow-behind camper, you’re sure to have a great time with some planning and research.
We hope this helps you have an awesome cross country road trip in an RV!
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