Have you been thinking about renting an RV for your next vacation? Of course, several big company names come to mind immediately and their phone numbers are easy enough to find if the jingle didn’t stick, but there is an insider secret that the highly experienced RVer may know that you don’t: You can save hundreds to even a thousand dollars, in some cases, per week and get twice the value of the unit by renting from private owners. Of course, everything has its pros and cons and is subject to personal opinion and bias, but here are some things to think about.
Quality. First of all, make sure you understand the differences between Class A (looks like a bus), Class C (more like a camper), Class B (the size of a large van) and, of course, pull-behinds and 5th wheels which are towed instead of driven. Many companies specialize in one type and Class A’s are at the top of the quality scale. An owner of a $100,000+ motor vehicle is highly likely to take excellent care and give special attention to his or her RV. Renters of a privately-owned motorhome are also usually better scrutinized and are more respectful of the property they are renting so the unit itself is usually well cared for.
Over my head in overhead. Of course, everyone knows that companies have overhead costs to cover. Private owners are much more likely to offer considerably discounted rates for your rental, simply because they can!
Fees, fees and a few more fees! The big companies love them so much that sometimes they don’t even tell you about them until you’re picking up the keys. This is a common complaint in the industry. When comparing prices, always ask about Prep Fees, Cleaning Fees, Camping Kit Fees, and Dump Fees. Most private owners don’t charge them. This alone can save you $400-$500 on your rental.
One thing that does represent a legitimate concern is breakdowns. Many of the well-known RV rental companies are able to offer free road-side assistance (or RSA) should the vehicle become disabled. Individual owners are not able to offer a free road-side assistance program along with the RV because, except on a “fleet policy”, RSA programs are issued in an individual’s name, not in the vehicle’s name. You can turn this into a positive by using a portion of the savings to purchase an RSA program from a company that specializes in RV services. For about $100, Good Sam’s offers a one-year RSA program that will cover the RV while you are on vacation and then covers you and your spouse (and all children living in your household) on anything you drive for the rest of the year (even if you’re driving a friend’s car!) It would also cover any other RV you rent during the 1-year membership.
Unscrupulous Owner-Renters. This is the tough one. As in all things money, caveat emptor (buyer beware) and make sure you get a signed Rental Agreement AND read it. Do a little research, ask for some references and follow your instincts. An online search of the owner’s name or the unit information is likely to reveal any disputes in which the owner has been involved. The fact is that most owners are highly respectable, moderate- to upper-income-level executives and business owners who are merely interested in a win-win situation.
So, do a little homework and you are likely to enjoy your vacation, save a chunk of your change for souvenirs and make some new friends, at no extra charge.