Have all these articles on pop up campers made you curious about what it would be like to curl up and sleep in one? How about the bathroom situation? You know a lot about cassette toilets, but could you really use one if you had to?
If you’ve ever owned a large trailer or even an RV, then admittedly, living the pop up camper life means downsizing. While you’re not exclusively reserved to boondocking, the design of many pop ups is made for going off the grid.
Before you plunk down money on a vehicle you might not like, why not rent a pop up camper first? This way, you can be sure you’re comfortable with all aspects of this trailer, from the small size to the limited bathroom and setup times.
If you’ve never rented a pop up before, you may have a lot of questions. Where can you even rent one? How much money are you going to pay for a weekend or longer? What happens if you need to cancel?
In this article, I will go over all those questions and more. Here are 10 things to know before renting your first pop up camper.
1. It’s Important to Find a Reputable Place to Rent
RV rental services are incredibly common, but not all of them offer pop up campers. You’ll have to do your digging to ensure these vehicles are available for rent.
You’ll want to search for a rental company that’s located in the area you plan on driving. For instance, maybe you’re based in Denver, Colorado, but you want to go to Yosemite National Park. In that case, you’d have to get down to California and rent a pop up there. Of course, if you plan on staying locally, then search for a local rental company near you.
How do you know the rental company is reputable? You’ll have to do your due diligence. Read reviews to gauge how past experiences have been for other RVers. Ask questions if you need more information. Listen to your gut.
You can also try some of these recommended rental companies:
2. Don’t Get Too Excited by the Rates…Until You Read the Whole Listing
You’re never going to pay as much to rent a vehicle as you are to own it. Since pop up campers are renowned for their affordability, renting them is often a cheap venture. For example, let’s look at this 2007 Jayco Jay Series 1008 pop up available on RVshare.com.
It’s $59 to rent! Woo-hoo, right? Not so fast. That’s not the overall cost you’ll pay to rent this pop up camper, even if it is older. That’s the nightly rate. You also have to read the fine print a little, as it’s required that you rent out the camper for at least two nights. That’d be $118 you’re spending.
There are weekly and monthly rates available that cut the nightly price a bit. For instance, you can pay an upfront fee of $372 to have the camper for a week, which saves you about $40. You can also pay an upfront fee of $1,505 to rent for a month, which saves you $265 assuming there are 30 days in the month.
Im not saying you’re going to need this pop up for a month, but the option is there on most sites if you want it. Definitely don’t allow yourself to get overexcited by the listed rental price, as there are always more fees associated with renting. For instance…
3. You Will More Than Likely Have to Put Down a Deposit
The chances are high that you’re going to have to put down a deposit on the rental before you get the keys to the pop up. This is just like when you rent anything, from vehicles to an apartment. The owner wants to make sure they’ll get their item back in one piece. When you pay a chunk of money ahead of time, it’s more likely that you’ll take care of the item when it’s in your possession.
Let’s use the same RVshare.com listing for the 2007 Jayco Jay Series 1008 pop up camper to get a feel for deposit prices. For this rental, you’d have to pay a $500 damage deposit fee. This deposit is indeed refundable, provided of course that you don’t wreck the camper while you’re borrowing it.
Still, for the time you have the camper, that $500 is in the owner’s bank account. You have to add it to the total you’re paying to rent the camper, then. Now you see why it’s not so smart to get excited about a cheap rental price. By the time you’re done adding fees like deposits and insurance (more on that shortly), the price is a little more balanced out. It’s also higher than it seemed at first glance.
4. Make Sure You Get the Amenities You Need
Here’s another area in which it pays to read the whole listing carefully. Not every amenity in the camper may be included for your rental. That’s just how it is. If there are certain amenities that you absolutely cannot live without, then scour rental listings until you find one that has your list of requirements.
Going back to the Jayco camper we’ve focused on, you get a lot of amenities with this listing. There’s a fire extinguisher, cold and hot water supply, stove, fridge, toilet, shower, kitchen sink, and roof air conditioning. It does not have power steering and cruise control.
Here’s another listing from RVshare.com for a 2017 Viking pop up. This tiny trailer costs $100 a night. You get features like a toilet, shower, cold and hot water, kitchen sink, fire extinguisher, roof air conditioning, stove, fridge, microwave, and a radio. There’s also a freshwater tank included.
You might want to contact the renter and ask about the toilet and shower situation before you finalize the rental. A toilet in a pop up camper can mean a portable cassette toilet or an attached marine toilet. Most showers will be outdoors, but not all. If you can live with that, then more power to you. Otherwise, you want to be sure what you’re getting so there are no unpleasant surprises later.
4. Don’t Turn Down Rental Insurance
If you rent from one of the sites we listed above, then most of the time, you get rental insurance built into your rental package. Yes, you may end up paying extra for this, but it’s often not a huge fee. The price is commensurate with the cost of the rental itself.
If you were to rent this 2014 Salem Forest River 195BH for $115 a night on Outdoorsy, then you get can both trip insurance and Outdoorsy’s $1 million insurance coverage. The trip insurance would provide a refund for all taxes, fees, and camper rentals if there was an error on the part of the renter. This would include vehicle availability delays, interruptions, or emergency cancellations on their part.
Outdoorsy’s $1 million insurance coverage includes comprehensive collision coverage as well as liability coverage. It’s nice to have that kind of protection.
Over on RVshare.com, their insurance works a little different. You pay a daily fee for it. If you were to rent the 2007 Jayco pop-up, you’d pay $9.95 a day before sales tax. As for the 2017 Viking pop-up, the insurance for that costs $14.95 daily. They also charge a $50 cleaning fee, which is why you should always, always read through the listing completely.
Not just anyone is allowed to rent a camper. Some renters will put limitations on their vehicles. You may have to be at least 25 years old to rent. Pets may be restricted, and smoking may be banned as well. These precautions are all to keep the renter safe and the camper in the best condition so it can be rented out again and again.
6. Plan Your Trip Before You Rent
Rewinding a bit, once you decide where you’re going to get your pop up camper from, you also need to determine where you’re going to go in it. This way, you can plan out the exact mileage so you know how much you’ll pay in gas.
Having your route planned will also allow you to narrow down your rental options. If you’re going to a campground with size limitations on RVs and trailers, having a pop up is to your advantage. That said, even some bigger pop ups may be too large to fit in smaller campgrounds. Knowing before you go is best.
You’ll also need hookups, like freshwater or city water. Not every pop up rental will come with the hookups or tanks you need, so you’d have to dig around to find a camper with blackwater and freshwater tanks at the very least.
7. Don’t Cancel Too Late
Listen, sometimes things happen and you have to cancel your pop up rental. That’s okay…if you cancel early. I really can’t stress this enough. Failing to cancel within the parameters set by the renter will result in more money out of your pocket.
Let’s cover the cancellation fees and provisions for the three camper rentals we’ve talked about so far.
Starting with the 2017 Viking pop up on RVshare.com, this renter has a strict cancellation policy. If you need a full or partial refund, you could be hit with a cancellation processing fee up to $99. The renter would prefer to not offer refunds.
The 2007 Jayco pop up renter is much more lenient. If you cancel 30 days before your trip, you can get half your money refunded to you. That cancellation processing fee of $99 may be charged to you in some instances.
While the Outdoorsy listing for the 2014 Salem Forest River 195BH camper doesn’t outline a cancellation policy, it says the cancellation rules are “strict.” That means try not to cancel if you can help it.
Why do the cancellation policies vary from one listing to another? It’s because, although these third-party renters are on sites like Outdoorsy or RVshare.com, the individual renters themselves get to make most of the rules. If the renter wants to have a strict cancellation policy, then so be it.
If you’re concerned about being hit with a cancellation processing fee, then maybe only choose listings with more flexible cancellation policies.
8. Treat the Vehicle Like It Was Your Own…to an Extent
To avoid those unwanted end-of-service fees, it’s best to treat the pop up camper like it’s your very own. Take good care of it and keep it clean. Dump your tanks when necessary. Treat the upholstery and cabinetry with respect. Don’t overload the fridge and don’t strain the AC or the heat.
At the end of your trip, clean everything up so it looks like you were never there. That’ll make the renter happy and your wallet as well.
9. Don’t Be Late Dropping the Camper off
As you browse around for pop up campers online, you’ll notice in the listings that most renters tell you when you can pick up and drop off the vehicle. For the 2017 Viking, you can pick it up after 3 p.m. on the arranged day. It’s also due by 3 p.m. on the drop-off day.
The 2007 Jayco camper renter lets you get going on your adventures even earlier. You can pick up the vehicle by 8 a.m. or later on the arranged day. When the time comes to drop the vehicle off, it’s due back by 4 p.m.
While most sites don’t charge you for dropping off the camper late, there is a chance you wouldn’t get your full deposit back. Considering that was $500, is it really a good idea to risk it? We didn’t think so.
10. Have Fun!
Above all else, enjoy your time in the pop up camper. This is a fresh and new experience, so make sure you take it all in. Whether you rent for a weekend or longer, plan a nice trip so you can get a full feel for the true pop up experience.
Driving with a pop up in tow can be strange for first-timers. You should spend some time practicing before taking off on your adventure. Given that most pop ups are lightweight, small, and towable with almost every vehicle, they’re a great choice for beginners. You have less risk of jackknifing and experiencing other forms of trailer sway. Just take it slow and steady and again, have fun!
If you’re on the fence about whether a pop up camper is for you, I recommend renting one. For a few hundred dollars, you can borrow a camper over a long weekend or even a month to get a feel for one firsthand.
Most pop ups for rent can sleep four to six people. You also typically get plenty of amenities, like a toilet, AC and heating, a working kitchen, and living space. If you have questions about any amenity, we recommend you contact the renter personally to get everything straightened out.
[box type=”info”] There are fees to be aware of when you rent a pop up. These include deposits (often $500 and they are refundable), cancellation fees, and optional fees like cleanup or delivery. If you take care of the camper and treat it well, you can get your full deposit back.[/box]
Now that you know all this information about renting a pop up, I hope you make the choice to try one of these great, dependable vehicles for yourself!