Traveling in an RV has become more popular than ever before — and for good reason. In recent years, not only has the decades-old stereotype of RVing (as an activity primarily associated with traditional family road trips) been shed, but the RV rental industry has grown substantially, making RV rentals available to an increasingly diverse market. Nowadays, RVs are enjoyed by a broad range of customers that include young couples going on a romantic nature trip, groups of friends heading out to party at a music festival, families on a historical sightseeing vacation, and more.
If you’re just beginning to browse the RV rental offerings online at various dealerships, peer-to-peer platforms, and other rental outlets, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the nearly endless menu of rental options, from luxury motorhomes that are larger than a commuter bus, to teardrop trailers that can just barely fit one person for a night’s rest, to pop-up campers that fold out into a more comfortable camping setup, and everything in-between.
As a newcomer to RVing, you’d do well to take a closer look at one particular sub-category: travel trailers. Though there are certainly other great options on the RV rental market, travel trailers are noteworthy as a versatile category that meets certain minimum “comfort” and “ease-of-use” standards.
What is a Travel Trailer?
A travel trailer is a type of towable, non-motorized RV that hitches to the back of a tow vehicle. Unlike a motorhome RV, it has no engine or driving apparatus and therefore cannot be used without a tow vehicle.
Travel trailers are single-decker and range in length from 23′ to 40′ or more, on some models, with most hovering around the middle. Depending on the manufacturer, model, age, and customizations, your travel trailer rental may be configured quite differently from others on the market. As such, you are likely to find an broad range of configurations to suit a variety of personal tastes, needs, and budget limitations, from large travel trailers that can sleep up to 10 passengers, to compact travel trailers outfitted with high-quality furniture and luxury amenities.
As the shape of travel trailers is fairly standardized, tow vehicles are not limited to just pickup trucks (as they are with fifth wheel trailers, for example). Generally speaking, your travel trailer rental can be hitched to and pulled by an SUV or any other vehicle with sufficient tow capacity, though you should consult the owner’s manual (and check with the owner/dealership) to confirm that your intended tow vehicle will be compatible.
Be Mindful of Hidden Costs and Limitations
If you’re interested in renting a travel trailer RV, you should make be wary of various hidden costs and limitations that are associated with rentals, generally, as well as travel trailers.
Fees for Excess Mileage
It’s generally a good idea — if you’re going on a longer trip where you may end up taking detours from your original route — to book a rental that comes with unlimited miles. Unfortunately, many rentals offer a certain amount of miles for “free,” and after you use up the free miles, all excess miles driven will be charged as an additional fee (with some fees as much as $0.50 per mile in excess).
Generator Usage Fees
Similarly, though some rentals provide unlimited on-board generator use, many charge renters an additional fee per hour of use. This cost can quickly add up if you’re not careful. To avoid spending too much on generator usage fees, either book a rental where you can use the generator for free, or hook your RV up to a campground generator when you’re setting up.
Size Limitations at Campgrounds
Many campgrounds have restrictions on the size of the RVs allowed for overnight stays (i.e., trailers in excess of 35′ may be prohibited from staying on-premises for overnight lodging). Plan accordingly. If you’re unsure of whether a campground has size restrictions, call and speak with staff to confirm — many campgrounds have only recently moved their business online and therefore may not include all relevant information on their website.
Passenger Travel Restrictions
Most states prohibit passengers from being seated in a trailer while it is in motion. This can cause some serious organizational issues if you’re not careful, as you’ll have to be able to fit all your passengers in the tow vehicle, or you’ll have to rent an additional vehicle for passenger transportation purposes only.
Saving Money on Your Rental
There are many different ways to save money on your travel trailer rental. Consider the following.
Seasonal Discounts May Be Available
RV consumer demand varies significantly with the season, holidays, etc. As demand wanes, prices drop. If you’re on a budget when renting an RV, plan your trip dates so that they coincide with a season of low consumer demand. You’ll find rentals at significant discounts.
Rent an Older Travel Trailer Model
To save some extra money, consider renting an older model. Though dealership pricing doesn’t vary too much (as dealerships regularly maintain and replace their RVs), on a peer-to-peer platform, it’s possible to negotiate the price down for an older RV model. Be careful to check reviews and customer feedback on the condition of the rental, however, as you don’t want to end up with a dud!
Use a Peer-to-Peer Platform
Peer-to-peer rental platforms connect individual owners with prospective renters. As the individual owners are usually just renting out their RVs for some extra personal income, there is not as much pressure on them to charge the excessive rates necessary to maintain a fully-operational RV rental business (i.e., marketing costs, dealership property costs, employee salary costs, etc.). You are much more likely to find below-market rates on a peer-to-peer platform — just be patient!
RV Clubs Have Discounts
RV clubs are a great choice if you’re going on a longer trip, or planning on multiple trips. To join most RV clubs, you’ll have to pay a membership fee, but this fee pays itself back through access to substantial discounts at partner campgrounds, resorts, stores, and rental dealerships.