Tuesday, October 3, 2023


RV Shrink: Would you advise a rental RV road trip?

Dear RV Shrink:
We are considering renting a motorhome and doing a western National Park loop with our teenagers. We usually fly somewhere and rent a car, but flying sounds unappealing to us with the virus and the reduced flights. Renting a motorhome sounds like a great adventure, but what are some of the downsides we are not aware of? Any info would be appreciated. —Novice in Novi

Dear Novice:
First, let me warn you that the parks have limited opening operations this season. In most cases, you will have to camp outside the park and do day trips to explore them. 

Last week I explained that in many cases the rental RV units are not well maintained or cleaned. That might be more of an issue this year than most. If I were renting a unit this year, I would do my own thorough cleaning after taking delivery before I started my trip.

While shopping for a rental I would concentrate on rental dealers with a good reputation for prior trip training, and an adequate service agreement. You do not want to spend your vacation time trying to figure out how things work or having them fixed. You can often find reviews on many of the dealers in your area that rent RVs. If you’re renting from an individual it may be harder to find a review from a past renter. 

I have friends (two brothers) who, a few years ago, decided to both rent motorhomes and tour Yellowstone with their families. One brother flew his family to Bozeman, Montana, and rented from a national chain. The other brother found an individual on Craigslist with a 40 ft. pusher for rent in Rapid City, South Dakota. He flew his family to Rapid City, picked up the motorhome and received about 10 minutes of instruction. Wanting to get to Yellowstone as soon as possible, they drove late into the night before finding a campground around 10 p.m. He said everybody in the campground hated them because the motorhome had a backup alarm and it took him a half-hour to finally get the monster backed into their site.

When they reached Yellowstone it was decided to pile both families into the 40-footer and tour the park for the day. Toward the end of the day, my friend said he remembers the owner telling him about dumping the gray and black water tanks. He couldn’t remember how much they held so he decided he should go dump. When he checked, he found both slide valves in the open position. They had been leaving deposits from Rapid City to West Yellowstone and the utility bin was totally disgusting. 

Another friend rented a Class A with a slide-out kitchen/couch. They were going from Florida to Ohio for a family reunion. They put grandma on the couch. Checking the rearview mirror, my friend noticed the slide, and grandma riding about halfway out. They pulled over and retracted the slide but they couldn’t keep it from creeping back out during the whole trip. 

The point is, many systems can become an issue if the RV you rent has not been maintained properly, you have not been trained properly, or you rent a rock-star bus and have never driven anything bigger than a Beamer (BMW).

Gas mileage often shocks new recruits to the RV lifestyle, but consider all the savings of not eating out, flying, and paying for hotel accommodations. There can be real savings with this mode of travel if you cut the right deal. Read the small print, watch for add-on costs, and make sure you get the “out the door” price before agreeing to anything. 

This is not meant to discourage you. Life is an adventure. Adversity builds character – you just don’t want to build too much at a time. Buying or renting takes some thought, patience, study and planning.

One more suggestion. Find all the seat belts. Often they are under the couch and dinette and have not been used. You probably saw the article in last week’s RV Travel of the Class A motorhome rental involved in a head-on crash. The motorhome rolled over but all the occupants were uninjured because they were all wearing their seat belts.

Have a great trip. You may just discover piloting a land yacht is a lot more fun than flying.

—Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Can’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his e-books, including Book 2 in his two-book series: Dr. R.V. Shrink: Everything you ever wanted to know about the RV Lifestyle but were afraid to ask or check out his other e-books.



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3 years ago

My wife and I rented from CruiseAmerica to see 49 of the 50 states over a 30 year period.
They are very thorough at helping newbies; you are shown a video and then afforded a walk-through of the unit to acquaint you with the layout of the motor home.
The 800 number they provided got us through the very few problems we experienced over the years.

3 years ago

FLYING is still the safest form of transportation on the planet. No other form of transportation is close!

A Boeing 737-700 and 737-800 are equipped with HEPA filters along with a high cabin air exchange rate making the air in the cabin much cleaner than the air you are breathing your home and car. In many instances on par with hospitals.

To give up on flying because you THINK you will be safer driving that flying is foolish.

Maybe you can become one of the almost 40,000 people a year we KILL on our roads because after all EVERYONE is good driver.

Don’t believe it?

Just ask em!!!

3 years ago

We have rented a lot using rvshare and outdoorsy websites and only one time have we had some minor problems. For the most part the class a and c rvs have been in good shape with no issues. The advantage is that you can drive close to your location and then rent the rv and only have to drive around an hour or two. This saves on gas as well. So if you don’t use an rv for more than 4 or 5 times a year, you are probably better off renting.

3 years ago

Renting an RV to get away? You and 5 million other people with the same idea! And 2 million of those already rented one and made reservations last Feb. Another 3 million went out and bought an RV just so they don’t have to fly. We’re on the road now and if your not comfortable boon docking ( or don’t know what that is) your going to have some trouble finding campsites. Good luck and Happy Trails.

3 years ago

We rented a small Class C for our honeymoon from a private party. At that time, no craigslist- it was from the yellow pages. Picked it up and had about 5 minutes demo. The water didn’t work so we bought a 5 gallon water jug and used that. Only later after purchasing a camper of our own did I realize that the rental had to have an on/off switch for the water pump…
We returned the motorhome without dumping as we had absolutely no clue what that was.

3 years ago

Good luck getting reservations anywhere at this time. It takes at least a year to get in, unless of course, you don’t mind camping in Walmart!

3 years ago

Life is an adventure. Get out and enjoy it. This is a one way trip.

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