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Would you LOVE to see the country in an RV or a campervan? How about a drive that spans one coast to another? 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.
I recently spent time in the Finger Lakes, New York area with my family, and we stayed in a HOTEL the entire time. I was dismayed and totally disliked the hotel! I couldn’t make my own coffee, eat my own food, or drive around and park at a beautiful view point for lunch.
It was during this recent trip that I realized I really prefer traveling in my campervan over staying in a hotel, and I think a van or an RV is a great way to take a cross-country road trip.
But, where do you start? Renting an RV or a campervan can be a daunting task if you’ve never done so before. Fortunately, I’m here to help. This is the ultimate guide to renting an RV for a cross-country trip.
Table of Contents
The Best Companies for Renting an RV For for a Cross-Country Road Trip
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.
- One-Way Fee: read the fine print closely, as many companies charge a one-way fee
- Mileage: Does the company cap your daily miles or provide unlimited miles?
Here are a few companies to check out when planning your trip:
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
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 for your cross country RV road trip:
- 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
Indie Campers offers rentals in both Europe and the United States, and is a company that offers cross country trips.
Simply check the “Drop off the vehicle in a different city” option when searching for RVs and dates on the website. One thing to keep in mind is that Indie often charges a “one way” fee, so make sure you check and see how much that is!
You can pick it up in one city like San Francisco or Salt Lake City, and drop it off in another, say, Phoenix or Denver. Convenient, isn’t it?
Whether you’re starting your journey in Los Angeles and making pit stops in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, or cruising along the East Coast from Orlando to Miami, you’ve got a ticket to endless adventures. You get to experience so much more, from the sunny beaches to the mountain peaks. This is such a good way to travel across the United States in an RV or campervan.
Here’s a bit more info about Indie Campers:
- Operates in 12 cities throughout the U.S.
- One way is available, but check for fees
- 24/7 Pick-up & Drop-off (Indie fleet)
- All digital experience
- Offers a variety of campers, including Class B RVs, a Jeep Wrangler camper, Mercedes Metris and a Class C option
MotorVana for Renting an RV for a Cross Country Road Trip
Motorvana is an RV rental company based in Portland, Oregon that offers a one-way option for a cross country roadtrip. Motorvana’s business model is to work with a variety of RV rental companies to make it easier for you to book a rig. The company’s interface is easy to navigate; just select your pickup and dropoff cities and your dates to see prices and available rigs.
You can choose from a Class B campervan, Class C overcab bed rig, or sometimes, even a giant Class A! Make sure you’re comfortable driving the vehicle you choose for your cross country RV road trip.
Choose from rental hubs such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Diego, New York, Orlando, Chicago, etc. What’s great at Motorvana is you get unlimited miles for your cross country RV road trip. Many companies limit miles, so that’s something to keep an eye out for.
Here are some of Motorvana’s main features:
- Lots of locations for one-way rental options
- A variety of types and sizes of rigs
- Contracts with trusted RV rental companies
- Provides basic essentials with the possibility of upgrading
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.
What Type of RV Should You Rent for Your Road Trip?
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.
Where to Stay On Your Cross Country RV Road Trip
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.
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.
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!