Motorhome Rental: what you need to know before hiring a motorhome or campervan

Home » Road Trips in a Motorhome or Campervan: how to make your next adventure epic » Motorhome Rental: what you need to know before hiring a motorhome or campervan

LAST UPDATED: 16.11.2022

Thinking about hiring an RV for a road trip vacation? There’s no doubt that 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.

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

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.

Motorhome rental for epic road trip holidays

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.

Spaceships Rentals motorhome hire
Picture source: Spaceships Rentals

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

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)

All that time scrolling through page after page, weighing up the pros and cons of each, led us to a company called Spaceships Rentals. (2)

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)

What is your road trip itinerary?

But luck was on our side. Just before making the booking we got a call from the mechanics, telling us that our van’s gearbox would be fixed in time for our wedding trip. However, it would cost us £1500. Ouch!

Although we were ecstatic to be able to do the trip in our old VW motorhome, we were hugely envious watching those ‘Spaceships’ 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.

For now, let’s explore some more questions that will help you choose the right van 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.

Even though the pandemic seems to have passed, some campsites 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 15 questions below that will help you choose the right vehicle…

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 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?

We couldn’t be without our toilet! However, 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, the toilet issue is something to think about.

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.

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

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!

Luckily, Spaceships Rentals don’t do that! You can hire an RV from a UK depot and travel all around Europe if you like.

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.

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.

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 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!

Final checks to make before leaving the depot

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). 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 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 occasional special discount deals of up to 10% or 20% off

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!


Hobo Trudi’s ideas on keeping the motorhome road trip romantic!

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 monthly 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

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