Motorhome Rental: what you need to know before hiring an RV

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LAST UPDATED: 11.05.2022

Motorhome rental has seen a massive increase over the last couple of years as people opt for a self-contained yet more adventurous holiday experience.

Indeed, in the UK alone as supply tries to meet the demand, there are now over 100 independent motorhome rental companies. (1)

Aside from an epic road trip holiday, hiring a motorhome also provides you with the opportunity to ‘try before you buy’. You can dip your toes in the water before splashing out big money on your own RV.

But if you’ve never driven a motorhome before there is a ton of stuff you need to know…

On this page we’ll highlight all the questions you need to ask any motorhome rental company before you hit the road. And we’ve got a FREE PDF checklist you can download straight to your phone…

motorhome rental advice - what you need to know before you hire a motorhome or campervan
Original Image: Spaceships Rentals

Motorhome rental – for your touring holiday

Before we get into the nitty gritty of motorhome rental let’s take a moment to consider the traditional family holiday…

Tethered to a B&B or hotel room for a week or two, lounging around the pool for hours, taking an occasional day trip somewhere – but always having to return to the same place at night.

It comes down to choice, of course. Some folks like familiarity, others like change and new experiences. And that’s what motorhome rental offers…

With an RV, instead of those same four walls staring back at you when you wake up each morning, you can open your eyes to brand new scenery every single day.

We first looked into motorhome rental in 2019 when our old 1992 VW Cree broke down less than two weeks before our planned wedding and road-trip honeymoon in Scotland!

VW motorhome being winched onto breakdown truck - less than two weeks before our wedding road trip!
Our old VW Cree getting rescued by Green Flag after the gearbox leaked out all its oil

During our research we discovered there were loads of motorhome rental companies out there.

But we figured that what you want most from RV rental can be narrowed down to these main points…

The best motorhome rental companies

The best motorhome rental companies are those that offer the following…

  • Excellent, ultra modern vehicles (unless you want something older and more quirky)
  • Unlimited mileage (something some rental companies don’t)
  • Breakdown cover
  • A range of insurance options (we say get the best you can afford)
  • Basic kitchen equipment (you don’t want to be lugging your pots and pans from home!)
  • And an instruction manual and/or video tutorials before you travel so that you feel confident about driving and using all the on-board equipment. (You don’t want to waste half your holiday trying to figure out how to work the appliances)

We spent hours scrolling through the pages of different RV rental companies before finally settling for Spaceships Rentals. (2)

Spaceships Rentals motorhome hire
Picture source: Spaceships Rentals

So why did we choose ‘Spaceships’ over all the other RV rental companies?

  • We had decided that we didn’t want to hire an older, quirky van like our own (which might break down just as ours had!)
  • We were sure we wanted a motorhome and not a campervan (we like having enough space, even though it’s just the two of us)
  • The wealth of info and helpful tutorials on the Spaceships website and blog impressed us
  • And Spaceships prices seemed cheaper than many of the other companies (especially with their regular special offers)

As luck would have it, our old motorhome got fixed just in time for our road trip honeymoon (at a cost of £1500 – ouch!)

Although we were ecstatic to be able to do the trip in our own van, we were hugely envious watching those ‘Spaceships’ whizz past us as we struggled up some of the bigger hills of the Scottish Highlands in our 1992 VW Cree.

This raises an important question…

Where are you hoping to go on your road trip holiday? The fact is that some roads in the UK are best avoided in larger motorhomes (more on this in a moment).

So, let’s explore some questions that will help you choose the right van for your touring holiday…

Choosing the right motorhome or campervan for your travel itinerary

Before you go diving in and hiring a motorhome for what could be the most amazing adventure of your life, there are a few important things to think about.

Even though the pandemic seems to have passed, some campsites will still prefer you to be fully self-contained. That’s no problem for a modern RV as you’ll have all the facilities you need onboard (loo, shower, sink for washing up etc.) This makes it much safer for you and your family.

But there are a whole heap of other things to consider…

We’ve got 18 questions below that will help you choose the right vehicle…

full range of motorhomes and campervans at Spaceships Rentals
Image: Spaceships Rentals

18 questions to ask any motorhome rental company

There are a lot of questions here but they all need asking when you make contact with the RV rental company. You want to find out as much as you can.

Q 1: Does your driving licence allow you to drive the vehicle? You need to be at least 21 years old to hire from most RV rental companies. Also, the date you passed your driving test might affect the size of motorhome you can hire; if you passed your test before 1st January 1997, you will automatically be licensed to drive category C1 vehicles, meaning that you can legally drive vehicles weighing up to 7,500kg. If you passed your driving test after 1st January 1997 you will only be licensed to drive vehicles up to 3,500kg.

This is an important point to bear in mind, especially if you’re thinking of hiring one of the larger 7 berth motorhomes and filling it with all your travel belongings – and 7 people! Go over the weight limit and you could be in trouble with the law and invalidate your insurance!

RELATED CONTENT: We talk about motorhome payload in this blog post

Q 2: Is it just you and the dog or are you travelling in a large group? Knowing how many people are travelling will help you determine the size of motorhome you need. We would suggest you don’t need a massive 7-berther if it’s just the two of you!

Q 3: How many seat-belts do you need? And how many does the vehicle come with? There are some motorhomes (mostly older ones) that are stated as 4 or even 5 berth but have only 2 seat-belts. Double check with the hire company!

Q 4: Are pets allowed?

Q 5: What interior lay-out would you prefer? There are so many different layouts that it pays to shop around and see what’s on offer. This leads nicely to the next question…

Q 6: Do you want a motorhome with a fixed bed? If you’re going for an older, quirky campervan you might have to make up the bed each night whereas the more modern RVs have a fixed bed at the rear (and also an over-cab sleeping area – ideal for the kids).

Q 7: Do you need an onboard loo/shower? Some of the smaller campervans you can hire don’t have a fixed loo, using instead a ‘porta potty’. The small campers don’t tend to have a shower either. There’s simply not enough room for such things!

Questions about rental RV essentials…

And in addition to a loo/shower, there are many other questions about what your rental vehicle comes with.

Ask the hire company…

Q 8: What basic kitchen equipment does the motorhome come with (if any)?

Q 9: Does the campervan/motorhome come with bedding or is this something we must provide ourselves? (In these uncertain times you might want to take your own).

Q 10: Is a satnav included and if so will we be shown how to programme it properly?

Q 11: Does the motorhome come with levelling chocks and an electric hook-up cable? (See our road trip essentials page). Any rental van should come with many of the things we recommend.

Q 12: What about chemicals for the toilet? Are they provided? And will we be shown how to set this up properly?

Q 13: Is there a limit on the amount of miles we can travel? (Some rental companies place a mileage limit which we think is daft. Luckily, Spaceships Rentals don’t do that! You can hire an RV from a UK depot and travel all around Europe if you like.)

Motorhome appliance operating instructions

Ask these questions if you’re not sure…

Q 14: How do we change the gas bottle if needed? Don’t make the same mistake we did! (Gas bottles have a reverse thread on them).

Q 15: Is there an awning and will we be shown how to use it?

Q 16: Will we be shown how to use all the on-board appliances and how to empty the waste tanks etc? You don’t want an over-flowing toilet!

Q 17: Will we have to return the motorhome with a full tank of diesel and make sure other tanks (the loo and waste water tanks) are empty?

Q 18: What does the insurance cover exactly? Will we need extra insurance for personal belongings?

These are all vital questions to ask before you hire a motorhome. Everything needs to be taken into consideration. Plan things to a tee, like a military operation!

This could be the holiday of a lifetime, so you want to get it right from the very start.

Remember, you can download our FREE PDF checklist that neatly puts all these questions into one place for you. Then you can refer to it whenever you’re ready to contact the hire company.

RV rental for UK and Europe

How to choose the right motorhome or campervan

Having considered all of the questions above, it’s time to look at the different models Spaceships have on offer.

There’s a massive 7-berth motorhome, a slightly smaller 5-berth motorhome, or a 4-berth campervan.

Please bear in mind that if you’re on the road for a couple of weeks or more there’s nothing worse than not having enough space. Cabin fever can ruin the most thrilling of road trips!

If it’s just the two of you a campervan might be perfect, but we say go for a bigger RV if your budget allows.

Motorhome hire - 7 berth
Two of the vans available for hire at Spaceships Rentals. Above, a 7-berth motorhome, below, a 4-birth campervan.
Photo source – Spaceships Rentals
Motorhome hire - campervan

But just before you make your choice of vehicle, there’s one other thing to be aware of if you’re visiting the UK from abroad…

The UK’s notorious single-lane roads!

The UK has a mycelium-like network of small single-lane roads that can take some getting used to. This can be even more unnerving when there are no passing places or high hedges so you can’t see round a bend!

The thing is this…

If you’re coming from overseas, not only will you be driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, but when you hire a motorhome you’ll be driving something much bigger than what you’re used to.

Not only that, but some routes in the UK, especially in the Scottish Highlands, might be considered too risky to attempt in a larger van, such as the journey into Applecross. We thought about doing this in our old VW but chickened out!

Have a look at this video to see what we mean…

Can you imagine having to reverse a large motorhome 100 yards or more – with a sheer drop to one side – because there’s nowhere to pass an on-coming vehicle?

One false move and you’re over the edge! Not to mention that some of the inclines are 20% or more.

So, really think about the right size of vehicle for your needs, driving competence, and travel itinerary.

Motorhome rental tutorial videos

If you’re not a super confident driver, we suggest you choose one of the smaller campervans or simply avoid routes that are not ‘motorhome friendly’!

But that’s the dilemma, isn’t it? We want those types of driving experiences! We want the thrill! And we all hunger for never-to-be-forgotten moments. It’s what adventure is all about.

Gav recalls driving across the Pyrenees along tiny, single-lane tracks, right on the edge of a thousand-foot drop – through a layer of cloud! Visibility was down to less than twenty feet but still he kept going because he had no alternative; the road wasn’t wide enough to turn around and there was a queue of traffic behind!

Thankfully, Spaceships Rentals provide you with online tutorial videos so that you can feel competent, no matter how challenging the terrain.

But even so, we would still encourage you to really consider your travel itinerary…

Where are you hoping to tour? What places would you like to see? What drives are you hoping to do?

RELATED CONTENT: Check out our best road trips for some stunning drives in the UK

the spectacular Elan Valley in Wales
Road trip in the spectacular Elan Valley in Wales

Two motorhome rental depots to suit your travel plans

If Spaceships Rentals is your choice for motorhome hire they have two UK depots (in London and Edinburgh) so you can pick up and drop off your van to suit your travel itinerary.

Spaceships pride themselves in being the only campervan and motorhome hire company in the UK offering 24/7 pick-ups and drop-offs 365 days a year!

But it’s not just the UK and Europe you can travel with Spaceships; they also have depots in Australia and New Zealand.

Motorhome rental – try before you buy

Apart from the obvious reason of needing a vehicle for your touring holiday, the other reason you might want to hire a campervan or motorhome is to ‘try before you buy’.

Driving a much larger vehicle can take a little getting used to. It’s nothing like pootling down the country lanes or around town in your VW Polo!

The thing is that when you pick up your rental motorhome from the depot you want to feel competent enough to drive it right from the off. After all, you might be having to negotiate your way out of a busy town before your road trip properly begins.

So, let’s look at something really important if you’re hiring one of the bigger 20+ foot RVs…

Key things to be aware of when driving a rental motorhome

We can narrow down the main driving tips to the five points below.

Be aware of these at all times…

  • Low bridges
  • Height barriers, such as at car parks
  • Overhanging tree branches
  • Narrow country lanes (with tall hedges that can easily scratch the sides and windows of the van and few – if any – passing places)
  • And if you’re hiring one of the bigger motorhomes, be mindful of the back-end swinging out if you’re manoeuvring amongst other vehicles, such as in a car park

In our old van, we have a card stuck on Gav’s sun-visor stating the height, length and width of the vehicle. Always handy to know.

Spaceships offer a short (minimum 3 day) hire option, giving you time to test your driving skills on a mini holiday and get a feel of what it would be like to have your own motorhome.

You might get the motorhome bug like we have and want to buy one yourself!

Or, you might decide van life is not for you and that hiring a motorhome for a few days has actually saved you thousands of pounds you would have spent buying your own vehicle. A win-win situation!

Before hitting the road in your rented RV…

One final thing we’d like to point out before you hit the road in your rental motorhome…

Do a thorough check inside and out before leaving the depot.

On the outside, look for scratches on the paintwork and any damage; the rear bumpers, overcab area, and side mirrors are the most vulnerable places that usually get knocked.

Make sure that the hab windows are not cracked (which are made from double glazed plastic).

Inside the motorhome, look for stains on carpets and upholstery and that there are no broken cupboard door latches or appliances.

Any faults or damage to the van should be noted before you leave the depot, otherwise you’ll be liable for them (if such things are not covered by the insurance you’ve taken out).

Special offers on motorhome and campervan rental

One more thing…

Whichever rental company you go for, always ask for special offers and discounts.

With all mod-cons on board new motorhomes – including central heating and hot running water – you’ll remain warm and snug no matter what time of year you’re travelling.

Check out Spaceships Rentals special offers…

SPACESHIPS RENTALS SPECIAL OFFERS

Spaceships have special discount offers throughout the year where you can get 10-20% off the usual motorhome rental prices.

Hit the red button to find out more…

Get ready for an epic adventure!

We hope you’ve found this page helpful and that it has given you some valuable tips and advice about motorhome rental.

Whatever hire company you’re going for, remember to ask them all the questions we’ve highlighted here – and always ask about special offers!

But most importantly, have a memorable road trip holiday!


Notes:

(1) There are over 100 independent RV hire companies according to the Camping and Caravanning Club

(2) Other motorhome rental companies we looked at included: Quirky Campers, Goboony, Indie Campers, Camptoo and Bunk Campers. We chose Spaceships Rentals as their prices were cheaper and we liked their professional yet relaxed approach (much like our own!) As Spaceships Rentals affiliates, we’ll get a small commission if you rent a motorhome or campervan from any of the Spaceships links on this page – at no extra cost to yourself. We thank you in advance for this! You can see our full affiliate disclosure policy here.

No copyright infringement has been intended by the use of any media on this page. If you see an issue please contact us and we’ll put it right asap.

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Here’s the link once again to our free checklist with all the questions you need to ask about renting a motorhome

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