Do you enjoy the freedom of the open road? Want to experience the new craze called #vanlife? Or are you just looking for an epic USA road trip? No matter the case, there is no better way to experience the USA than to do it by campervan. A campervan gives you the freedom to decide where, when and how long you get to experience a town, city, campground or national park.
But choosing the right campervan rental can be a daunting task. Lucky for you, we’ve been around the block, and know what to consider before renting a campervan.
If you are ready to rent a campervan for your next road trip adventure, but have questions and don’t know where to start, this article is for you.
Let’s dive in.
How many people can FIT IN THE CAMPERVAN?
The number of people each campervan rental can accommodate is determined by the number of seat belts in each vehicle. Before your trip, nail down the number of people who will be traveling with you in order to make sure you have enough space for both seating and sleeping everyone in your group. In our experience, a two-passenger campervan rental is the most common option available. If you are traveling with a larger group, be sure to find a campervan rental that can seat and sleep the number of travelers in your party.
Some rental companies offer additional sleeping arrangements inside the van, others on the roof (usually in a roof-top-tent), and some might not provide a sleeping area for extra travelers (rare, but possible). If you happen to rent a campervan that does not offer extra sleeping room, we recommend bringing or renting a ground tent, or even asking if the rental company for a group discount so you can take two campervans instead of one.
Tip: Just because the campervan rental states it can sleep more than 2, it does not mean that everyone will be comfortable. We recommend checking the size, capacity and comfort-level of your sleeping accommodations ahead of time.
Pro Tip: If you are more than 2 people, discuss the sleeping arrangements with your group before embarking on your journey. This will save you a lot of headache when camping, and could potentially save your friendship!
How many miles WILL YOU be traveling?
Many campervan rental companies include miles in their nightly rate, while others do not include miles and require you to purchase a mileage package. Before you start your research, plot out the length of your trip and assess whether it makes sense to pre-purchase a mileage package or pay for the miles when you return.
Most campervan rental companies allow travelers to go over the mileage limit for an extra fee. If that’s the case, consider how much the additional mileage or overages will cost ahead of time to avoid surprises when you return your rental. If you know you will go over the mileage limit, ask if the rental company offers a discounted mileage package ahead of time – you’ll thank us!
Tip: If you plan to travel long distances, be sure to calculate mileage and budget accordingly. The more your prepare, the more enjoyable your trip will be!
What gear is included in the base rental rate?
Gear and equipment offerings vary greatly from business to business, but some campervan rental companies will go as far as providing all of the essentials for your trip, free of charge. These packages can include the basics, such as cookware, bedding, and camping equipment. While others offer full-service packages that include extra goodies like headlamps, propane, a deck of cards, and condiments!
Keep in mind, some campervan rental companies offer cheap nightly rates, but they often charge these items separately. While this option keeps the base price of the rental low, the add-ons can quickly add up!
Tip: Make a list of everything you will need for your trip, and determine how much the extras will cost before booking. Add-ons with some rental companies can double or triple the price of your rental, so don’t forget to read the fine print!
How old is the campervan rental fleet?
This may not be the first thing that comes to mind when choosing a campervan rental, but the age of the rental fleet is critical when it comes to safety and comfort. As a general rule, the newer the fleet, the better. With a newer, more updated fleet, you are less likely to encounter issues on the road, and the more likely it is that the campervan will come with modern-day conveniences– like a back up camera, AC, GPS, etc.
Tip: Some niche campervan rental companies only offer vintage rentals. If you’ve always dreamed of camping in a 1970s Volkswagen Campervan, by all means follow your dreams, but make sure you thoroughly understand the condition and amenities of the campervan before booking your trip.
How tall is the campervan you are renting?
Most campervans are classified as Class B RVs and tend to between 17 to 19 feet. Therefore, the length of a vehicle won’t be as critical as the height of the inner cabin. While campervans with low roofs may be easier to park and drive, it is likely that you will not be able to stand up inside. If being able to stretch out and stand up inside the van are important to you, be sure to choose a campervan rental with a high roof.
Common High-Roof Campervans: RAM ProMaster, Mercedes Sprinter, or Ford Transits.
Common Low-Roof Campervans: Ford E-Series, ProMaster City, or mini-van conversions.
If you can’t decide between a high or low-roof campervan rental, choose a campervan with a pop-top. This type of campervan is making a come-back, and many rental companies are starting to offer them to the public. Pop-top campers are a great option as they offer the benefits of a low roof while driving, and the spaciousness of a high-roof when cooking or sleeping inside.
Tip: If you are over 6 feet tall, there’s a chance you might not be able to stand upright in a high-roof campervan. If standing up without hunching over is a deal-breaker, contact the campervan rental company in advance and ask for specific measurements (or alternative options).
What amenities does the campervan have?
And How does it all work?
Before you head out on your adventure, make sure the campervan rental company provides a thorough overview of the equipment and key components of the campervan before you head out. With the rise of #vanlife and custom van conversions, campervan build outs can vary greatly in appearance and amenities. And often, there is a learning curve to understand how to operate all the key elements.
Most campervan rental companies display and promote the onboard amenities on their websites, but if you are unsure what equipment is part of the rental, don’t hesitate to ask! It is also critical that you ask for a detailed walkthrough (if it is not part of their standard protocol already) before hitting the road. That way, you are not trying to figure out how to operate the heat, power, or water system while in a remote location.
Tip: As a part of your travel plans, be prepared for 30-minute walkthrough or orientation when you pick up your campervan rental. Most rental companies will provide an orientation of the van before you leave for your trip to ensure you know how to work everything. Pay attention and ask for clarification if you don’t understand something – you’ll thank us later!
Pro Tip: One of the best things about camping (in our opinion) is cooking under the stars, but many campervans have fully-equipped kitchen galleys inside. If your campervan rental comes with a built-in stove, but you prefer to cook outdoors, be sure to ask the rental company for a portable camp stove, or bring your own burner instead.
Will I be cold sleeping in the campervan?
Nightly temperatures will depend based on the region you are traveling in. So if you are traveling in colder climates or areas of higher elevation, it is important that your campervan rental have proper insulation and heating. This can make the difference between a goodnight’s sleep and being flat out uncomfortable.
The good news is that most campervan rental companies that operate in cooler climates offer some form of heating for their vehicles. Let’s rate the most common heating options from best to least appealing:
Diesel, Gas, or Propane Heaters (installed into the campervan with the proper exhaust): These forms of heaters are often easy to turn on and off, and can be operated when the van is not running. They usually rely on little electricity, so you won’t have to worry about the battery running out.
Cold Weather Rated Sleeping Bags: These fluffy cocoons can do wonders in if they are rated to appropriate temperature. Down sleeping bags tend to be warmer than synthetic, but can be more expensive. If you are renting, be sure to ask about the temperature rating and material of the bag.
Electric Blankets: These are a great option if you need to warm up quickly, but they use quite a bit of power. Therefore, this is only a realistic option if the campervan has shore power or an internal power station with ample wattage. Tip: Confirm with the rental company what devices/appliances the battery can handle before plugging anything in. (You’d be surprised how much power a hair dryer needs!)
Warm, Comfy Clothing : Wool hats, socks and a fleece can do wonders to keep you warm at night. If sleeping in cool climates, bring layers. By arranging your clothing in layers, you’ll be able to control your body temperature more easily.
Stand-Alone Propane Heaters: While these types of heaters put off plenty of heat, you must be extremely careful when running them in an enclosed space. Most campervan rental companies have a policy against running stand-alone heaters (like the Mr. Heater Buddy) indoors. It is both a fire and health risk. So, if you plan to use one of these heaters, use it only when you are outdoors.
Tip: For added warmth and insulation, cover the campervan windows. Most rental companies offer insulated window covers that not only to keep the van warm, but also offer privacy when you are camping.
DOES THE CAMPERVAN HAVE A BATHROOM?
Unlike traditional RVs, most campervans will not have a bathroom inside due to space restrictions. If a bathroom is a must, there are some portable toilet options specifically designed for campervans that you can use. Some rental companies offer these camping toilets for an additional fee – just make sure to thoroughly clean it before you return the van!
Tip: If you must have a proper bathroom, camp at developed campgrounds. There are plenty of campgrounds that have toilets and other amenities around the country – just be ready to pay for it.
What about camping at an RV Park? Is there anything I should know?
As strange as it may seem, some RV Parks have both minimum & maximum length requirements. It’s most common to encounter maximum length restrictions, but in some cases, RV parks may require campers to be at least a certain length.
Since most campervans fit the “Class B RV” category, it is safe to assume that your rental will be around 17-20 feet long. If you are worried about this, call the RV Park ahead of time and ask about minimum length requirements – and be sure to confirm the exact length of your campervan with the rental company ahead of time. If you want read more about finding the best RV park, check out this article by Outdoorsy.
Who is Overland Discovery?
Overland Discovery offers overland Jeep rentals and campervan (class B RV) rentals in Denver, Colorado. Our Jeep camper and campervan rentals come equipped with everything you need for the ultimate camping trip. With locations in Denver and Las Vegas (coming soon), you’ll get to explore, camp and adventure throughout amazing national parks and across the beautiful, rugged landscapes of the Western US. Just bring a sense of adventure, and we’ll take care of the rest. Learn More About Overland Discovery