Ultimate Guide to Renting an RV for Camping in the USA

Maureen Hochdorf, aka Mommy Mo Adventures, has always been an avid traveler. Beginning her adventures alone, she was eventually joined by her husband and now travels with her daughter too, recognizing the importance of passing on the value of travel to her family.

Maureen writes frequently of her experiences while traveling to other countries, and here she details the thought process she went through when renting an RV for the first time in the USA. Hopefully, the tips and advice that Maureen shares here will help those of you thinking about renting a mobile home for your holidays overseas. There are many things to consider, and some you might not have thought of, so huge thanks to Maureen for writing it all down.

Since Maureen and her family enjoyed their experience in the USA, this is a great resource for those of you based in Europe who have always dreamed about renting an RV and exploring America's great open roads! However, if you want to stay local, you might want to check out info about the caravan basics for a bit more local information.

Toll Gate in USA
Hit the open American roads

“If you're considering embarking on an RV adventure but feel a bit lost on where to begin, you're reading the right blog! Recently, my family and I had an amazing experience during our inaugural 10-day RV trip in the beautiful state of Arizona. It allowed us to intimately connect with nature and create everlasting memories together.

However, if you're like us and new to the world of RVing, you may be uncertain about how to get started. Don't worry, we're here to assist you. I've compiled some valuable information to help you prepare for renting an RV and ensuring a successful journey.

Choosing the Right RV Type

Undoubtedly, one of the first questions you'll ask yourself is which RV type suits your needs, as there are so many to choose from when you are looking at renting an RV. It's an excellent question! Selecting the ideal RV depends largely on your expectations and requirements. Although we watched countless RV videos, we realized that finding the perfect fit for your family's size is crucial. Consider the following vital questions when deciding on the most suitable RV for your trip:

  • How many individuals will be traveling with you?
  • How many sleeping arrangements do you need?
  • Is ample storage space necessary?
  • What are the requirements of the campgrounds you plan to visit? (Some have limitations on RV length)
  • What kind of kitchen facilities do you require?
  • Will you need a workspace during your journey?

Since we are a small family of three, we didn't need an overly spacious RV. We prioritized maneuverability and ease of parking. However, as both my partner and I work remotely, we needed some workspace while on the road. Ultimately, we opted for Cruise America's Compact Plus 21 ft. RV. It struck the perfect balance, compact enough to fit into regular parking spaces yet spacious enough to accommodate our needs. This size is ideal for couples, small families with one or two young children, or solo travelers who are renting an RV.

Tip: Don't solely rely on the stated sleeping capacity when you are renting an RV. Make sure to personally inspect the sleeping arrangements to ensure they meet your comfort requirements.

Renting an RV: Cost Factors

The cost of renting an RV varies depending on several factors, including the RV model, size, included amenities, duration of the rental, and seasonal demand. Similar to car rentals, you'll typically pay a daily rate for your RV. As a general rule, larger RVs tend to have higher daily rates. It's advisable to check rental companies' websites for any current specials or deals before making your decision about renting an RV for your camping trip.

Different companies may also incorporate additional charges such as per-mile fees or generator usage fees, while others offer unlimited mileage and generator use. It's crucial to review and clarify these aspects before finalizing your rental agreement. On average, RV rental prices range from $60 to $200 per night, with the average falling around $150 per night, depending on the chosen RV model.

Additional RV Fees

In addition to the rental cost, be aware of potential extra fees associated with renting an RV for camping. Most likely, you'll be required to provide a deposit, which will be refunded upon returning the RV, provided there is no damage. Insurance is also a necessity, but it is worth reading the small print as with some companies, the fee already includes insurance coverage.

Furthermore, you have the option to rent a Renter's Kit that includes essential vehicle items like kitchenware, brooms, kettles, etc., for $110. Additionally, there's a Personal Kit available, which includes towels, bedding, pillows, and more. These kits are particularly useful for out-of-state or international travelers.

Planning Your RV Trip Budget

Budgeting for any trip, camping or otherwise, is both enjoyable and necessary. However, planning a budget for your RV trip can be slightly challenging. Consider the following items when creating your budget when you are renting an RV:

  • RV Rental Costs – for those of you camping in Europe, check out Camperguru's article highlighting some of the best budget European campsites.
  • Campground Fees
  • Food and Supplies
  • Fuel Expenses
  • Activities
  • Miscellaneous expenses

Gas Mileage Considerations

Be prepared for lower gas mileage when renting an RV; it's an inherent aspect of the experience. On average, RVs typically achieve 8 to 10 miles per gallon. So, don't be surprised if you find yourself making more frequent fuel stops than usual.

Tip: Apart from the RV rental price, our total expenses for the 10-day trip were approximately $1000.

Essential Supplies for Your RV Trip

Another significant question to address is what supplies you'll need for your RV journey. You definitely don't want to find yourself at a campground only to realize you've forgotten crucial items, as we did with a can opener. While personal preferences come into play for some supplies, many are universally essential for your trip. Here's a checklist to keep in mind when you are renting an RV:

  • Bed linens (sheets, blankets, pillows) for each bed in the RV
  • Cookware and kitchen supplies (pots, pans, utensils, etc.)
  • First-aid kit or basic tool kit for emergencies
  • Stock your fridge and cupboards with healthy and enjoyable snacks, as one of the advantages of RVing is the ability to save money by cooking your meals. During our entire trip, we dined out only once!

Tip: Remember that you'll be living in a smaller space than you're accustomed to, so pack sparingly.

Choosing the Perfect Campground

Selecting the right campgrounds is a critical aspect of your RV trip, as they will serve as your temporary home during your travels. Campgrounds vary in amenities and luxury, catering to different budgets and needs. Consider the following factors when making your decision:

  • If you plan on utilizing your RV's amenities, seek campgrounds offering full hookups, including electric, water, and sewer connections. Most campgrounds have dump stations available if one is not directly on your site.
  • Depending on your preferences and budget, choose campgrounds that align with your requirements. They range from basic functionality to luxurious options.
  • During our RV trip, we stayed at four different campgrounds, including two Arizona state parks, one national park, and one private park. All provided hookups and restroom facilities, but only one had Wi-Fi. Surprisingly, the national park had no phone service at all.
Renting an RV
American camping rig: fifth-wheel trailer

Tip: Book your desired campsite well in advance, as some popular parks fill up months or even a year ahead of time. Waiting too long may result in missing out on your preferred locations.

Boondocking: A Thrifty Camping Option

Boondocking, or camping without water, electricity, or sewer hookups, can be an excellent way to save money during your RV trip. In Europe, this might more commonly be called ‘wild camping'. However, adequate preparation is crucial for this type of camping, which is akin to backcountry camping or parking overnight in a designated area. If you're interested in boondocking when renting an RV, ensure you're well-prepared by following these steps:

  • Make sure your fresh water tank is full, and your grey/black tanks (sewer and used water tanks) are empty.
  • Consider bringing a generator for electricity, ensuring it has a full tank of gas.

For another look at getting started with wild camping, you can read our article free and wild camping, which is a bit more Europe-specific.

The wilderness is so much more prominent in the Americas

Dealing with Tank Dumping

Addressing waste disposal concerns when renting an RV may seem daunting at first, but it becomes straightforward with a little practice. The specific process may vary depending on your RV rental, but the overall concept remains consistent across most RVs. When renting an RV, ask for a demonstration on how to connect and disconnect hoses and tanks. Additionally, fellow campers are usually helpful if you encounter any uncertainties while at the campsite.

Tip: Carry disposable gloves with you to wear while dumping waste. This is an item we initially overlooked and had to acquire during our trip.

Embrace the New and Exciting Experiences

Embarking on an RV journey will introduce you to a multitude of novel experiences, some of which require on-the-go learning. The first golden rule of RVing is to remain flexible! We quickly learned this lesson during our initial drive to Flagstaff. A minor bump in the road caused an unsecured container of salsa to crash and create a spicy mess throughout the RV. The lingering scent of salsa remained for days. From that point forward, we made sure to secure all items before hitting the road, both inside and outside the fridge.

Helpful Apps to Enhance Your RV Trip

There are numerous apps available dedicated to camping, RVing, and road-tripping. While some prove more valuable than others, here are a few that greatly enhanced our journey when renting an RV:

  • The Dyrt, Campendium, and FreeRoam: These campground apps assisted us in finding suitable campsites during our trip. We relied on reviews, checked amenities, and viewed photos.
  • AllTrails: A fantastic app for hiking enthusiasts, providing trail information for both trips and non-trip adventures.
  • NPS: This app serves as my go-to resource when visiting any National Park in the United States. If you plan to explore national parks, this app is a must-have.
  • GasBuddy: This app conveniently displays the lowest gas prices in your current vicinity.
  • CruiseAmerica: If you rent an RV with Cruise America, their app provides specific how-to videos tailored to your RV model.

By following these tips and utilizing the suggested apps, you'll be well-prepared to embark on an extraordinary adventure when renting an RV. Enjoy the journey, embrace the freedom of the open road, and create cherished memories that will last a lifetime!”

Big thanks to Maureen from Mommy Mo for letting us share her stories.

By Natasha Beckerson • July 2023

Tasha and Tristan are enthusiastic camper travelers, currently journeying in their orange vintage Mercedes van. Natasha, who previously lived in Borneo working for orangutan conservation, brings a minimalist lifestyle to their vanlife. The couple, without a permanent base, take on various projects across Europe, from pet-sitting to house renovation, earning enough for food and petrol. They constantly seek incredible camper stops to share with Camperguru members.

Check 12 Verified spots at Camperguru by Natasha Beckerson.

We partner with Amazon Associate and earn from qualifying purchases.

Upper Class Gear

Gear maximizing your experiences in the wild outdoors

Our ambassadors hand-selected the highest quality & most endurant gear that they use themselves. Exclusive sellection of renowned providers delivering to your home or camper.

All Gear