Beginner’s Guide to Renting a Campervan

17 Important Campervan Rental Tips (for Newbies!)

Ever find yourself daydreaming about living the vanlife? Well, what if you could rent the vanlife? Renting a campervan is an awesome way to get a taste of life on the road. And it’s a great alternative for anyone who loves the outdoors but isn’t into camping in a tent. 

There are so many companies that offer campervan rentals, it can be difficult to choose one. These campervan rental tips will help you find the right rental for you so you can make the most of your adventure!

Text: Essential Tips Renting a Campervan for First-timers
Image: A white campervan is driving away from the camera with mountains in the distance. In the foreground is tall grass and yellow flowers.

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Renting a Campervan vs. RV

Before we jump into the tips, let’s touch on how renting a campervan compares to an RV.

The biggest benefit of a campervan compared to an RV is the ease of driving. Campervans tend to be smaller and feel much more like a large SUV or truck. As a result, campervans also tend to get better gas mileage than RVs.

The biggest potential downside to renting a campervan vs an RV is that many (but not all) campervans don’t have a toilet or shower. For a short-term campervan rental, this may not be a big deal. Many national and state parks have access to showers and bathrooms as do truck stops and campgrounds. But, not having access to a bathroom in the vehicle could be a deal breaker for some – though it’s essentially comparable to camping in a tent in that way.

If you’re looking at options for long term travel or living, I recommend doing a deeper dive to decide between van life or rv life.

Campervan Rental Tips: Before You Book

As I searched the internet for the perfect place to rent a campervan, I discovered quickly that the difference is in the details. Sure, the photos of the campervans look incredible, but there are a lot of questions to ask before entering your credit card info.

A foil packet dinner and blue plastic cup sits on a wooden picnic table in the foreground. In the background is the rear of the campervan open with lights on showing a small sink and refrigerator.
Dinner, campervan style! Salmon and veggies in a foil packet after a long day of hiking.

1 | Check daily mileage allowances and fees.

Think you found a deal on a campervan rental? Check the daily mileage allowance. If your experience is like mine, you’ll probably find that only 100-150 miles are allowed per day of rental. That low mileage doesn’t get you very far, though it may work if you plan to drive somewhere and park the van for a few days. 

Before booking a campervan rental, find out what the fee is for going over the mileage allowance (can be more than $0.25/ mile). Some companies, like Voyager Campervans, allow you to purchase unlimited miles before your trip for a daily rate. Alternatively, companies like Escape Campervans USA will refund you for any mileage you don’t use!

Other common fees for campervan rentals include cleaning fees and a security deposit. The security deposit is typically refunded if the vehicle is returned in good condition and often requires a credit card.

Pro Tip: Estimate the total distance you expect to travel before renting the campervan and divide that by the number of days you plan to rent. If you’re over the daily mileage allowance, consider alternate routes or purchasing unlimited miles.

2 | Verify whether there is a minimum rental requirement.

Similar to hotels and RV rentals, it’s not uncommon for campervans to have a requirement that you rent for a minimum number of days. It can be difficult to find campervan rentals that allow just one night rentals.

3 | Check the pickup and dropoff times.

If you are imagining picking up your campervan first thing in the morning and hitting the open road, you may be disappointed. Almost all campervan rental companies I found had pickup times in the afternoon. This makes sense as they need time to clean them between rentals, but it felt like my first day was kind of a waste.

Similarly, on the other end, the dropoff time was usually before 12pm. This means you need to stay within a few hours of your dropoff point the previous night (or drive all night if that’s your style). Obviously, you could book an extra day on either end if your budget allows.

Pro Tip: Plan your route with these times in mind. I tend to stay at a campground 1-3 hours away from the dropoff destination and get up early to make it back in time.

4 | Does your car insurance cover you while driving the campervan? 

Call your insurance provider to find out if you are covered specifically for renting a campervan, which is different from a rental car. Alternatively, some credit cards will offer coverage if you use their card to make the purchase. If neither of these offer you coverage for the campervan rental, most rental companies will offer insurance coverage during the booking process.

In general, I recommend getting the insurance. At the very least, consider getting coverage for a cracked or broken windshield. On my 4-day campervan rental in Arizona, I got 2 rocks to my windshield which both caused cracks or divots. The insurance covered 100% of the repair cost.

5 | Are pets allowed in the campervan? 

Not all campervan rentals allow pets, so if you plan to bring your furry friend check the company’s pet policy. If pets are allowed, check to see if they have a pet fee.

A boston terrier dog is sleeping on its dog bed inside of a campervan during a light rainstorm. Natural light from outside is coming in through the windows and the van is surrounded by a green forest.
My boston terrier, Hank, enjoying an afternoon nap in the campervan during a short rainstorm.

6 | Ask if more than one driver is allowed on the rental.

If you plan to have more than one driver, find out if that is allowed. If so, their driver’s license information may be needed at the time of booking. 

Pro Tip: For campervan rentals in the US, it varies by state but it’s unlikely that you will need a special driver’s license. However, if you are renting a campervan in a country different from where you driver’s license is issued, you will want to verify that it’s accepted by the campervan rental company you choose.

7 | Are one-way rentals available?

Not all companies are prepared to handle one-way rentals, which means you have to return the campervan to the same location as you picked it up. If your heart is set on a one-way adventure, verify this before you book.

8 | Transportation to the pickup and dropoff locations.

This might seem obvious, but you need to get to the pickup and dropoff locations for the campervan. In some cases these are easily accessible and in others they’re not.

Will you be driving yourself? Find out if you can safely park your vehicle near the pickup/ dropoff location. If you’re not driving yourself, do shared ride services or public transit connect to the location? Some of the campervan rentals I found had pickup and dropoff locations an hour outside of Minneapolis, which just wasn’t feasible for me.

9 | Is your destination campervan friendly?

Maybe this should be at the top of the list, but it’s important to check that your destination allows campervans to park there. Many state and national park campgrounds require advance reservations, though some are first come first serve. 

Pro Tip: If you plan to visit several state parks, find out if it’s cheaper to get an annual pass instead of day passes and consider joining the state park passport club (varies by state).

The rear doors of a campervan are open in an empty parking lot surrounded by forest. A boston terrier dog is happily sitting on the bench during a pit stop on our campervan rental trip.
Hank and I found the perfect stop to enjoy our lunch in the campervan.

Campervan Rental Tips: Before You Go

So you’ve booked your campervan rental and are super excited to hit the road! Hold up, though. Before you go, try these tips to prepare you for your road trip!

10 | Find out what gear is included.

Space is limited in a campervan, so be sure not to duplicate gear that will be provided as part of the campervan rental. For instance, the campervan I rented from Voyager Campervans included a one burner stove with extra fuel, pots, pans, plates, silverware, a knife, camping chairs, bedding and more. I ultimately decided to use my own bedding but was so thankful not to have to lug the rest of my gear!

Wondering what to bring? This car camping 101 guide is a great place to start for ideas!

The rear doors of a campervan are open showing the countertop pulled out. Food is cooking in a skillet on a burner on the countertop. The bed is setup as a bench with cooking supplies sitting on it. The van is parked at a campsite in a forest.
Voyager Campervans includes a pullout countertop for cooking or working as well as a burner and fuel!

11 | Familiarize yourself with the van layout. 

It will be really annoying if things don’t fit where you expect them to fit. For instance, will the bag you plan to bring fit in the available storage spaces? How much storage space is available? The last thing you want is to overcrowd the little space you have in a campervan. Knowing the layout will give you a reality check to prevent you from overpacking.

Pro Tip: Worried there won’t be space to store all of your luggage in the campervan? Ask the rental company if they offer luggage storage!

Lifetime Warranty on all Hydro Flask purchases!
Lifetime Warranty on all Hydro Flask purchases!

12 | Plan your meals in advance.

Because space is limited, some basic meal planning will allow you to bring only the food that’s needed. Voyager Campervans come with a small fridge, so I chose to pre-chop veggies and put items in smaller containers. This allowed me to optimize the space. 

If possible, consider buying your groceries before you pickup the campervan. This way, you can hit the open road right away. If that’s not possible, having a grocery list before you go will allow you to get in and get out quickly.

13 | Plan for a rainy day.

Unless you’re like me and enjoy hiking in the rain, consider bringing some items for a rainy day. This is the perfect time to watch downloaded episodes of your favorite shows, read a book, write in your journal, meditate or nap.

Pro Tip: Download or purchase one of the best adventure travel movies or books before you go!

The view from laying in bed in the campervan. The curtains are pulled to the side of the two rear windows of the van. A boston terrier dog is looking out the window at the forest.
Enjoy some downtime in your campervan rental! The blackout curtains and my Rumpl blanket made it easy to sleep in.

14 | Download offline versions of maps.

Before you go, be sure to download offline versions of the maps in and around your destination. I do this on the Google Maps app. This way you can easily navigate, whether or not there is cell phone service.

Pro Tip: Add pins to your Google Maps for your destination and places you’d like to stop along the way. This works well for things like trailheads and restaurants. Your pins are available in the offline version of Google Maps too!

15 | Ask about roadside assistance.

What do you do if your campervan breaks down? Ask if the rental company has roadside assistance that you can call for help!

During my rental with Escape Campervans, the check engine light came on while I was in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully they had a phone or text 24/7 roadside assistance option. Together we were able to quickly determine it was a faulty oxygen sensor that was tripped by the altitude changes.

Campervan Rental Tips: During Your Trip

Ready to go, right? Well, almost. Be sure to read these final campervan rental tips before you leave the pickup location. 

16 | Take a photo of existing damage.

Remember that security deposit you probably paid? Well, this is one way that you can make sure you get all of it back. Do a quick walkaround the entire vehicle, inside and out, to look for damage and take photos if you find any. Personally, I took a short video of the entire vehicle before and after my trip. 

For a campervan, it’s also a good idea to do a quick inventory. Is everything they told you would be included actually inside the van? If not, it’s best to note that before you leave so that you aren’t held responsible for it.

Pro Tip: Voyager Campervans actually required me to send a few photos of the outside of the vehicle and inside before I left. This was easy to do via text or email.

A campervan with a turquoise and black design reading Voyager Campervans is parked at a campsite. In front of it, a boston terrier dog is laying on a towel in the sunshine.
My dog, Hank, recovering from his first time swimming while on our campervan trip. He was not a fan of the water but loved the van life.

17 | Document mileage at start of trip.

With the daily mileage allowance, it’s important to note the mileage on the vehicle at the start of the trip. The easiest way to document this is to take a photo of the odometer.

Renting a Campervan Made Easy!

Now all there is to do is enjoy every second of the vanlife. Be careful though, you might be tempted to buy one after get a taste! 

Related content to read next:

USA Campervan Rentals: Escape Campervans Maverick Review

4 Day Arizona Road Trip: Phoenix to Monument Valley by Campervan

An Adventure-Packed Arizona Road Trip

Los Angeles to Denver Road Trip | An Alternative Southwest US Route

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Text: How to rent the van life - A Beginner's Guide
Image: A campervan is backed into a campsite. It is wrapped in a bright turquoise and black graphic reading Voyager Campervans. Behind the van is green forest and blue sky.
Text: Essential Tips Renting a Campervan for First-timers
Image: A white campervan is driving away from the camera with mountains in the distance. In the foreground is tall grass and yellow flowers.

17 thoughts on “Beginner’s Guide to Renting a Campervan

  1. Farrah says:

    I think it’s gonna be a while before I ever get to do this butttt I’d love to someday! *-* Saving this to re-read again for when that time comes! <3

  2. Mayi says:

    I never thought about renting a campervan before but I guess it is a great option for road trips. I will be sure to check out these great tips again when I try renting one out.

  3. This Big Wild World says:

    I completely understand, Tara! It can feel overwhelming – so many details to figure out. Hope this helps make it less overwhelming! I’ll definitely be writing a blog post about my personal campervan rental experience soon!

  4. This Big Wild World says:

    You should definitely give renting a campervan a try! Glad you found the checklist helpful (I love checklists too!). Oh my gosh, if you’ll wear Hank out he can come with the rental – he needs to get his energy out!

  5. This Big Wild World says:

    Voyager Campervans was great! I was having trouble finding a 4 day window that was available so I emailed them explaining what I was looking for and they were so helpful in finding options for me. The campervan is just a totally different experience than a hotel. Depending on where you rent and where you’re going, the price can be comparable between the two. But, with a campervan you can wake up refreshed in the actual park, near a trailhead, or wherever you parked. So, it’s like camping but more comfortable!

  6. This Big Wild World says:

    You’re welcome! I was a bit surprised by how much the mileage varied by company. You seriously can’t go very far (which is fine for covid reasons right now) with just 100 miles allowed per day. The cost of additional miles can add up quickly! I squeaked in within 2-3 miles of my total allowed ha ha.

    I have similar reservations about living in one 24/7, but I’m intrigued by renting one occasionally or owning one that I rent out in between adventures. We’ll see – so much is up in the air right now!

  7. This Big Wild World says:

    Ha ha yes, Hank LOVED the vanlife! He was quite pleased with himself. Yeah the cost can vary quite a bit on campervan rentals. I found several that were really expensive but if you are flexible at all with dates, there are some less expensive campervan rental companies. I rented with Voyager Campervans which I felt was reasonably priced. Definitely more expensive than camping but comparable or cheaper than hotels/ Airbnb’s in the area. Plus, there’s the added bonus of being right in the park like you’re camping but without the hassle of putting up the tent and sleeping on the ground.

    This totally made me want to own a van… we’ll see what the future holds 😉

  8. Tara says:

    Awesome post! All of these logistics are exactly why I haven’t rented a campervan yet! I’ve thought about it lots of times, but I always get bogged down with the details, especially with finding hidden fees and figuring out transportation to and from. You’ll have to write another blog post about your personal experiences!

  9. Karen says:

    We’ve been thinking about renting a campervan for a longer trip so this is so helpful. I love a checklist I can pull out and tick off. And Hank is adorable. Does he come with the rental?

  10. Kristen says:

    How did you like working with Voyageurs Camper Vans? I’ve checked out their website before and they seem like a great company. Do you prefer the camper van or for the price would you rather do a less expensive hotel?

  11. Claire Ramsdell says:

    Thank you for this, I had no idea about the daily mileage allowance! I would not have factored that into my budget at all.

    The setup in the van you got looks so cozy….it’s reignited my #vanlife thoughts a bit. For awhile I wanted to live in one 24/7 and then talked myself out of it for various reasons. Maybe renting one here and there is a better compromise.

  12. Josy A says:

    You covered the most important point there at the end – does Hank like van life!? We have LOVED watching various van-lifers on you tube this summer, so we did look into renting one for our trip to the Rockies. This year, everyone else did the same thing, so it was just a bit too expensive for us (staying in hotels was miles cheaper- which seems a bit mad when you think about it!)

    Still I do like the idea of bringing Monty along for a trip and giving van life a go for a holiday at some point.

    p.s. Did this make you want to do up your own van?

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