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
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
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