Renting an RV could cost you a couple thousand dollars a week, or it could cost you nothing at all. If you’re thinking about renting one for your next vacation, be sure to read this article before you book anything.
Seriously, a Free RV Rental? How is That Possible?
When rental companies end up with too many RVs in one location and not enough in another, they have to move vehicles around to balance things back out. An economical way for them to do this is to offer a deeply discounted relocation rental to anyone who’s willing to drive an RV to its destination within the specified time frame.
If that time frame is only two or three weeks out, the rental rate will often be listed as free or $1 a day, and there may be extra incentives thrown in, like free gas, free linen and kitchen kits or a travel allowance.
Who Qualifies for a Relocation Rental?
If you have a driver’s license and are over the age of 21, you should qualify for most relocation rentals. No special license is required to drive an RV. If you plan to rent an RV while traveling in another country, you’ll likely need a translated version of your driver’s license. So, make sure you have that sorted out before you go.
Where to Find an RV Relocation Rental
RV relocation rentals are available in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and to a lesser extent, in Canada and Europe. Some rental companies handle their own relocation bookings, others use third-party sites to handle the arrangements for them. Here’s where to look for a relocation deal:
Best Time to Book an RV Relocation Rental …
RV relocation deals are most plentiful in the spring and fall months. In the spring, rental companies need people to move RVs from snowbird hot spots, like Florida and Arizona, to popular summer vacation destinations. They also need people to pick up their new RVs from the factory.
In the fall, rental companies need people to move their RVs back to the snowbird hot spots, and they also need people to pick up their old RVs and drop them off at a facility where they’ll be refurbished and sold.
That being said, there are still plenty of RV relocation deals to be had in the summer. During peak season, rental companies are constantly having to shuffle vehicles from one location to another to keep up with reservation demands.
If you want to snag one of those free or $1-a-day rentals that I mentioned earlier, wait and book your RV two to three weeks before your trip. Rental companies offer the best deals on short-notice trips, and will often continue to pile on extra incentives, until someone books the trip.
Before You Book Your First Relocation Gig …
Make sure the terms of the offer are a good fit for your needs and trip plans. Here are some things to consider:
Length of Rental and Mileage Allowance
- How many days do you have to get the RV to its destination? Will that give you enough time to do the things you want to do along the way? How many hours a day will you have to commit to driving?
- Do you have the option of adding additional days? What’s the cost for doing so?
- How many miles are they allowing you? Is that going to be enough? What’s the cost for going over?
Type of Vehicle
- How big is the RV that you’ll be driving? Are you comfortable driving something that size?
- Does it have a manual or automatic transmission (most, if not all, U.S. rentals have automatics)
- Does it run on gas or diesel?
- How many people does the RV sleep? How many passengers does the rental company allow? Can you bring kids? What about pets?
- How many car seat anchor points does it have?
Amenities and Incentives
- Are they offering a fuel allowance? Sometimes they’ll give you a free tank of gas, or reimburse you for the fuel you used, if you provide receipts.
- Are they offering any sort of travel allowance?
- Is there a bathroom on board? Is there a shower?
- If you’re relocating an RV during the off-season, or picking one up from the factory, will the bathroom be winterized (and therefore unusable)?
- Does it come with a complimentary kitchen kit and linen kits? If not, what’s the cost for adding those?
- Is insurance included?
- How much is the liability bond? (they’ll put a hold or charge on your credit card for this amount, and remove the charge when you return the vehicle)
- Will your auto insurance or home owner’s insurance provide any coverage?
- Do any of your credit cards offer primary or secondary car rental coverage? If so, does it extend to recreational vehicles?
- How much would it cost to buy insurance from the rental company? Would it cover things that your auto insurance or credit card coverage wouldn’t?
Other Costs You May Incur
RV relocation rentals are a sweet deal, but that daily rental rate doesn’t cover everything. Here are some expenses you may need to plan for:
- Fuel. If the rental company isn’t covering some or all of your fuel, this will be a considerable expense. Consider renting the smallest RV that meets your needs to minimize the cost.
- Camping and hook up fees. Figure on around $25-30 a night to camp.
- Generator usage. Most of the RV rental companies charge an hourly or daily rate for using the on-board generator, but you can easily avoid this charge by not using it.
- Insurance. If it isn’t included in the offer, or covered by one of your existing policies or credit cards, you’ll need to purchase insurance.
- Mileage. If your rental doesn’t come with unlimited mileage, you’ll be charged extra, if you go over your mileage allowance. Make sure you know how much you’ll be charged for each additional mile.
- Dumping/refill fees. You may have to pay to have the black and grey septic tanks dumped, before you drop the vehicle off. The propane tank may also need to be refilled.
- The cost of getting to and from the RV rental facility. If you don’t live close to the pick up/drop off site, you’ll have additional transportation costs to take into account, whether that involves renting a car, taking a train, taking a bus or flying.
Common U.S. RV Relocations Routes
While RV relocation rentals can pop up anywhere, these are some of the most common routes that you’ll find up for grabs:
Las Vegas <-> San Francisco
Las Vegas <-> Los Angeles
Las Vegas <-> Denver
Los Angeles <-> Phoenix
Los Angeles <-> San Francisco
Orlando <-> Miami
Orlando <-> Michigan
Chicago -> all rental destinations (factory pick-ups)
St. Paul, MN <-> all rental destinations (factory pick-ups/drop-offs)
Phoenix <-> all rental destinations (factory pick-ups/drop-offs)