Motorhome Rental: all you need to know about renting a motorhome or campervan

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

Aside from an epic road trip, hiring a motorhome also provides you with the opportunity to ‘try before you buy’. When you rent an RV you can dip your toes into the van life water before splashing out big money on your own vehicle.

However, 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.

Spaceships Rentals motorhome hire
Picture source: Spaceships Rentals

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Motorhome rental for an epic road trip 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 hotel walls staring back at you when you wake up each morning, you can open your eyes to brand new scenery every single day.

Why we looked into renting a motorhome

We first looked into motorhome rental back in 2019. Why did we do that when we already had our own van?

Well, less than two weeks before our planned road trip wedding to Scotland our old VW Cree leaked out all its gearbox oil.

Panic set in! What the heck shall we do now, we asked ourselves. As our poor old van got carted off for repair we thought we might have to call the whole thing off.

But no. When the dust settled we got to researching online and couldn’t believe how many RV rental companies are out there. Indeed, as supply tries to meet the demand, we found that there are now over 100 independent motorhome rental companies in the UK alone. (1)

Surely we’d find one that could take us all the way to Gretna and back?

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

Where to rent a motorhome

After trawling through page after page of different RV rental companies, we figured that the most important things could be narrowed down to these main points…

The best motorhome rental companies offer the following…

  • Excellent, ultra modern vehicles (unless you want something older and more quirky)
  • Unlimited mileage (something some rental companies don’t offer)
  • 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 or empty the loo)

What is your road trip itinerary?

As luck would have it, just as we were about to hit the ‘book now’ button, we got a call from the mechanics telling us that our van’s gearbox would be fixed in time for our wedding trip. Yippee! However, the bill came in at £1500. Ouch!

Once back on the road we were ecstatic to be able to do the trip in our old VW motorhome. Though we were hugely envious watching the more modern motorhomes whizz past us as we struggled up some of the bigger hills in the Scottish Highlands.

This raises an important question about motorhome rental…

Where are you hoping to go on your road trip holiday? What is your itinerary? There are some routes in the UK that are best avoided in larger motorhomes. We’ll explain more in a moment.

Let’s consider some other questions that will help you choose the right vehicle for your touring holiday…

What’s best – motorhome or campervan?

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.

We’ve got 15 questions below that will help you choose the right vehicle for your needs…

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

15 Questions you must ask the 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.

Just before you get in touch with the rental company, ask yourself the first 5 questions…

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; in the UK 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: Find out about motorhome payload and why ignoring it could land you in big trouble!

Q 2: How many people will be travelling?

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!

And you also need to know how many seat belts are in the vehicle. There are some motorhomes (mostly older ones) that are stated as 4 or even 5 berth but have only 2 seat-belts (i.e. none in the hab area). Double check with the hire company!

Q 3: Are you planning on taking your pets?

Not all hire companies and individuals who rent out their motorhomes allow pets. And even if they do, you might have to pay extra on insurance or a bigger deposit for cleaning.

So, if you’re planning on taking furry animals with you make sure to ask when you contact the RV firm.

Q 4: What interior layout do you prefer?

There are so many different layouts that it pays to shop around and see what’s on offer. Most modern motorhomes have a fixed bed at the back with a kitchen/dinette area nearer the front (behind the cab).

Older vans (like ours) have a slide-out bed. Indeed, if you’re thinking of renting an older, quirky van you might have to make up the bed each night. Even the modern campervans might have a bed that you need to make up, but this is usually a simple matter of pressing a button or pulling a lever.

Many RVs have over-cab beds which are ideal for kids and petite couples.

Q 5: Do you need an onboard loo/shower?

Having an on-board loo means that you must empty it every day or two (depending on how regularly it’s used, of course). And that means having to use campsites or finding recognised waste disposal sites (which are few and far between in the UK).

If you’re planning to wild camp instead of staying on campsites, where will you empty your toilet cassette?

Some of the smaller campervans you can hire don’t have a fixed loo. Instead, they have a ‘porta potty’. The small campers don’t tend to have a shower either. There’s simply not enough room for such things. But the larger RVs are fully fitted with a loo and hot running water for a shower.


budget campervan rental in the UK

Whilst on the subject of loos, when you contact the rental firm ask whether they provide chemicals for the toilet cassette. They should do. (After you’ve emptied the cassette you’ll put a small amount of chemical in it to help break down the next lot of waste and neutralise the smells).

Once you’ve contemplated the questions above, it’s time to find out more info from the motorhome rental company. Try to get the next 10 questions answered…

Q 6: What kitchen equipment does the motorhome come with (if any)?

You really don’t want to have to lug your crockery and pots and pans from home!

Ask about cutlery, cups, plates etc. Is it all included in the motorhome? You shouldn’t have to take a picnic set with you!

Q 7: Does the campervan/motorhome come with bedding?

Since the pandemic we’ve all become hyper cautious about sharing things.

So, does the RV come with its own duvets (and even if it does, would you prefer to take your own bedding, perhaps choosing sleeping bags instead?)

Q 8: Is a satnav included and if so will we be shown how to programme it properly?

Most of the newer RVs have built-in satnavs which are purposefully designed for motorhome use. In other words, they won’t take you down roads that are too narrow or anywhere near low bridges!

Older motorhomes and campervans might not come with a satnav. But, of course, you can always take your own (or use a trusty road atlas like we do).

RELATED CONTENT: See the satnav our subscribers swear by – for less than £80!

Q 9: Does the motorhome come with levelling chocks and an electric hook-up cable?

Many newer motorhomes now have an in-built hydraulic system that enables you to get the van level at the press of a button. Older models should come with levelling chocks that you place under the wheels. These are essential items because you can’t always guarantee a flat surface on campsites.

Also, if you are planning on using campsites, you’ll need an electric hook up cable (EHU) so you can plug into the electric grid. (See our road trip essentials page). Any rental van should come with many of the things we recommend.

road trip essentials - what you need in your RV
Original Image: Jairph

Q 10: Is there a limit on the amount of miles we can travel?

Some rental companies place a mileage limit, which we think is daft.

You don’t want to be worrying about how far you’ve been and obsessing about the miles you’ve done when you’re trying to enjoy an epic road trip!

Q 11: 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. Instead of undoing the gas connector, we were making it even tighter!

In all likelihood, your rental RV should have plenty of propane or butane gas (used for cooking, heating, and keeping the fridge cold) but it’s best to ask, just in case.

Q 12: Is there an awning and will we be shown how to use it?

Most rental motorhomes and campervans are fitted with an awning which you can pull out to increase your living space when you’ve set up at a campsite.

Most awnings simply pull out from the top/side of the vehicle and then roll back into place when you put it away. Some RVs have ‘air awnings’ which inflate at the press of a button.

A word of caution: using an awning if you’re wild camping (such as in a layby) is frowned upon. Find out why in our article on wild camping in a motorhome: how to stay safe and keep out of trouble

And if you’re hiring a campervan with a pop-top roof, you’ll want to find out how to safely put it up and back down again.


Spaceships Rentals for motorhome and campervan hire

Q 13: Will we be shown how to use all the on-board appliances?

You’ll need to know how to operate the fridge (on electric, gas, and 12 volt), how to turn on the heating (if you’re renting the motorhome during the colder months) and understand the control panel in the habitation area.

Then you’ll need to know how and where to empty the waste water tank and toilet cassette and how to fill up the fresh water tank.

What about plugging into the electric circuit at a campsite? Where does the cable go?

If the van has corner stabilisers (really useful when parked up in windy weather) you’ll need to know how to operate these. And what about the hydraulic levelling system that we mentioned earlier?

Q 14: Will we have to return the motorhome with a full tank of petrol/diesel?

It is usual practice to return the motorhome to the depot with a full tank of fuel. Not only that, but the grey water tank should be empty, as well as the black water tank (the toilet cassette).

And you’ll probably need to make sure the van is pretty tidy as well, otherwise you might be charged extra for cleaning.

Q 15: What does the insurance cover exactly?

Ask the RV rental company what the insurance actually covers. Will you need extra insurance for personal belongings? Is more than one person allowed to drive the vehicle?

Read the small print before deciding. Our advice is to go for the best insurance you can afford.


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.

motorhome rental: what you need to know before you hire an RV
Original Image: Spaceships Rentals

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, a 4-berth campervan or a 2 birth VW camper car (if you’re on a tight budget and want to travel light). If it’s just the two of you or if you’re road-tripping alone, then a campervan or camper car will be perfect.

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!

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. If your road trip itinerary includes places like this, we suggest hiring one of the smaller campervans.

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

Motorhome rental tutorial videos

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.

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.

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

Hiring a motorhome not only gives you an epic road trip holiday, it also gives you the opportunity to try van life before buying your own van. Indeed, if you’re in two minds about van life, renting a campervan or motorhome for a few days will help you decide.

Perhaps you won’t like being cooped up in a small space, especially if the weather is bad? Or maybe you’ll love the freedom of van life and the open road?

One thing is certain: 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 Skoda Citigo!

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 van life bug and want to buy your own motorhome soon after your road trip holiday. 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!

Key things to be aware of when driving a rental motorhome

When you pick up your rental motorhome from the depot you want to feel competent enough to drive it right from the off. So, let’s look at something really important if you’re hiring one of the bigger 20+ foot RVs…

We can narrow down the main driving tips to the five points below. Be aware of these at all times as soon as you leave the motorhome depot…

  • Low bridges (read the road signs warning of these)
  • Height barriers, such as at car parks
  • Overhanging tree branches (on country roads)
  • 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 VW motorhome, we have a card stuck on Gav’s sun-visor stating the height, length and width of the vehicle. Always handy to know.

Final checks to make before leaving the motorhome rental depot

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

Do a thorough check inside and outside the motorhome 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). For this reason, we’d advise you to take pictures on your phone of any damage, scratches, faults etc. before your road trip holiday begins.

Special offers on campervan and motorhome rental

One more thing…

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

With all mod-cons on board newer 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 the latest Spaceships Rentals special offers…

SPACESHIPS RENTALS SPECIAL OFFERS

Check out the latest motorhome and campervan rental deals

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. It could be the first of many!


Notes:

(1) According to the Camping and Caravanning Club there are now over 100 independent RV rental companies in the UK alone!

(2) Other motorhome rental companies we researched included: Quirky Campers, Goboony, Indie Campers, Camptoo and Bunk Campers. Search around until you find the one that best suits your needs.

If you like what you’ve been reading sign up to our mailing list to receive our free newsletter and be the first to hear of more RV rental special offers and other great van life stories from the UK and overseas.

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

Check out Hobo Trudi’s blog post: How to make your motorhome road trip romantic!

This page contains affiliate links which means we may earn a commission from certain products we’ve recommended. There is no cost to yourself. You can see our full affiliate disclosure document 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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