RV rentals for smart family travelers

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Farm Forum

Families are renting Recreation Vehicles for the fun, freedom and flexibility of taking trips to special events or dream destinations. Best of all they do it without having to plan their itinerary around staying in motels or in relatives’ spare rooms.

An RV rental is a popular option for the family who is looking to maximize their two-week summer vacation by spending time together in an outdoor setting whether at a national park or by a mountain lake. While rentals generally spike in warmer weather, summer vacations aren’t the only reasons to rent an RV. Family and college reunions and tailgating at football and NASCAR events are also top reasons to rent. RV rentals are also used as temporary housing or field offices during times of emergency or disaster situations such as fires and hurricanes.

· Try before you buy: RV rentals are also popular with people who are thinking about buying an RV, but first want to experience the lifestyle before rushing out and spending thousands of dollars.

Ali and Dave Perea live in Alaska and like the benefits of RV travel, but are not quite ready to retire and don’t want the worry about storing or maintaining a motor home. They decided to simply rent an RV when they want to vacation travel over long distances for an extended period of time.

On one recent excursion they flew into Los Angeles and rented a 24-foot Class C motor home through Apollo RV (apollorv.com) near the airport. Their itinerary included traveling the southwest for six weeks before returning the RV to an outlet in Las Vegas.

“The motor home had everything in it you could want and the living room slide out really expanded the space,” said Dave Perea.

“We like camping,” added Ali Perea, “but with the luxury of a good bed and shower. This does not mean we didn’t sleep out under the stars on occasion, but with the RV we could come in out of the snow.”

The Pereas’ total rental costs ran about $50 a day, plus taxes, mileage, fuel and camping fees. The motor home averaged about 10 miles per gallon.

“Renting works for us now,” said Ali Perea, “but when we finally retire for real, we will purchase our own RV.”

The RV rental business is a $350 million industry, which continues to grow, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (rvia.com). There are more than 460 national chain outlets and local RV dealerships renting RVs.

Rates vary by season, region and unit size. The cabover Class C motor home is the most common rental model because it can sleep a lot of folks. However, vacationers can also rent larger Class A motor coach, or towable travel trailer or popup tent trailer.

· Foreign visitors flock to RVs: A large segment of RV renters are from other countries. More than 50 percent of El Monte RV’s (elmonte.com) business are foreign travelers, according to Joe Laing, the nationwide company’s director of marketing.

Visitors from overseas, Canada and Mexico find that renting an RV allows them the freedom to set their own pace and see what they want, when they want.

Martin and Samantha Weiss of Switzerland set aside three months to traverse thousands of miles crisscrossing North America by automobile and RV. The 30-something couple opted to travel by rental car from New York City, through the Midwest, into western Canada, and down the Oregon Coast. In San Francisco they picked up a Cruise America (cruiseamerica.com) 21-foot Class C compact motor home. They wanted to see a number of the America West’s vast national parks and because of lack of traditional accommodations in and around the parks, they felt an RV with its onboard sleeping and kitchen facilities would be their best choice.

For three weeks they toured Yosemite, Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, Arches, Mesa Verde, and Grand Canyon national parks, before dropping off their rig in Albuquerque, N.M. There they picked up another rental car for the final leg of their tour to Miami and return fight to Switzerland.

· Points to keep in mind:

1.) Fine print. Read the entire contract to be clear about mileage rates and costs of each amenity including housekeeping kits and linens.

2.) Fees. Ask about cleaning, generator, propane, reservation, cancellation and drop off fees. There is always a hefty damage deposit. Penalties can get pricey.

3.) Pets. Check if pets are permitted and any extra cost.

4.) Who can rent. Must be 25 years of age or older and possess a valid driver’s license and a major credit card. Usually no cash or personal checks are accepted for payment.

5.) Top off all fuel tanks. The base price usually includes full fuel and propane tanks, both of which need to full when the unit is returned.

6.) There is an overwhelming amount of information available for those who want to rent an RV for a day or a month. Go RVing (gorving.com) offers a wealth of information on RV life, travel trends, vehicles types and lists of RV dealers and campgrounds in your area.