My family and I set out on the road this summer for an All-American road trip to the Grand Canyon. While our trip was no Griswold Vacation, a little more preparation would have smoothed out some of the rough spots.  Here is my list of RV renting tips I wish I had known before taking the keys and getting behind the wheel. Do yourself a favor and learn from my mistakes.

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1.  Rent in the Off-season

You will get better pricing and better selection in the off season. Summer is the busiest time for RV rentals, by avoiding the summer rush you will save on rental fees and avoid the higher gas prices. With the summer rush, RV rental outfits will be scraping the bottom of their inventory to meet demand.  The age and mileage on the vehicle you rent will be determined by which vehicle was last returned.  During off season months, rental companies will send out the newest of their fleet first to avoid maintenance issues and increase customer satisfaction.  Your chances of getting a newer and more reliable RV go up the further away from the summer rush you rent.

2.  Get Your Own Insurance

As soon as you book a reservation, call your auto insurance company and find out what coverage you can use toward the RV.  You may be covered already, but you will need to provide written proof of insurance at the time of pick up.  If your existing auto insurance policy does not cover RV rental, call your credit card companies to inquire about possible coverage, before paying your auto insurer for an extra rider to cover the RV.  No matter which way you choose to insure the vehicle, be sure to bring proof to the rental pickup appointment.

3.  Road Support

Do your research on the rental company and find out what type of road support is available if you run into trouble.  A 24/7 support line will keep you from finding yourself stranded along without any assistance.  If you have roadside assistance through AAA or your automobile insurance, find out if your coverage will provide support for RV’s.

4.  Generator

Before you sign the vehicle out make sure the generator will power the electrical systems in the RV.  Just because the generator starts up easily, does not mean it is powering the electrical system.  When the generator is started, look at the microwave and see if the clock is on, or have the rental service person turn on the air conditioner using the generator.  The A/C system will place a heavy load on the generator and is a good way to test if the electrical system is working properly.

5.  Learn How to Read the Gauges

Most RV’s come equipped with auxiliary gauges that measure the levels of the onboard water and sewage tanks.  Know how to read these gauges and check them before heading out on the open road.  The last thing you want to do is head out on the road with an overflowing waste water tank.  This is not only unsanitary, but will also decrease your gas mileage with the added weight.  Nearly every RV campground has a place to dump waste water, use it before setting out on the next leg of your trip.

6.  Water System

As part of the check-out routine, make sure the water tank is full and that the water pump will deliver water to the kitchen sink and toilet. Believe me, you will want to be able to use the bathroom and wash your hands while on the road.  If the pump is not working or there is no water in the tank you will find yourself stopping at every rest area you pass between RV campgrounds.

7.  Window Screens

Make sure all windows in the vehicle have properly fitted insect screens.  You will be miserable if you cannot open the windows and cool off the interior because there are too many bugs.

8.  Know Your Vehicle Clearance

Make sure you find out how tall the RV is before you get behind the wheel.  While most public highways and over-crossings will not be a problem., tearing the A/C unit off the roof of an RV in the McDonald’s drive through would not be a pleasant experience.  Be hyper-aware of low hanging tree branches and other unmarked overhead objects.

9.  Bring Along Some Tools

Add to your packing list a small set of tools.  Nothing extreme is required, leave the Skil Saw at home, but having a screw driver to tighten a hinge or a pair of pliers to replace a fuse will save you a lot of hassle and money.

10.  Don’t Shop at Costco

The storage and living spaces on an RV are much smaller than those in your home.  Warehouse store, stock-up sized packaging will not fit in your RV’s small storage spaces and miniature refrigerator.  If you insist buying in bulk at Costco or Sam’s club, be prepared to repackage items in smaller containers before packing up and hitting the road.

(photo credit El Monte RV) 

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