Renting a Van or RV

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Good agency for van rental?

Sept 2010

We are looking to rent a car (possibly a van) in December for a week (long drive). Looking for recommendations on a agency that has nice, clean cars. We almost always rent from Hertz, but notice their rates are much higher than others. Would like to hear about others experiences with Alamo, Dollar, Budget and if they would recommend their use for a family with young children. js

As a travel agent I have dealt with all of these companies. Since you in the U.S., they are reliable and safe options as your personal car insurance covers you in your rental. To find a good deal, first check Expedia for a general range of prices. Then see if your frequent flier miles are tied into points for the rental. Also, AMEX offers discounts as does AAA. Greg

I rent a car maybe once or twice a year, so not frequently enough to join premium plans. I usually just go with the best deal I find on Expedia for the agency that's most convenient to where I am. Haven't hd any problems.


Car seats in rental RVs

August 2005

I'm considering renting a small RV for a roadtrip with my husband and 1.5 year old, but I'm having a hard time getting a straight answer about using car seats in an RV. I've talked with two rental agencies that assure me there are seatbelts in the RVs, and that lots of parents rent RVs and use car seats-- usually facing sideways on a sofa area. I don't know of a forward- or rear-facing car seat out there that is made to use sideways...and for freeway/highway driving especially, I'd like to use the car seat as it should be. I've been assured it's not illegal to use a car seat sideways in an RV, yet the rental agencies' fine print says to use car seats where applicable and according to the manufacturer's installation instructions (not sideways). But they tell me the only forward-facing seat with seatbelts is at the dining area where the table will likely block the car seat. Has anyone rented an RV and used it with a car seat? If so, where did you put it? And would you recommend the experience? Thank you! Road trippin' mama

My sister owns an RV business in Salinas, so I asked her and she said ''The Rv's I used to rent (I no longer rent Rv's) had a chair that was behind the passenger seat. It was a stand alone not attached to a dinette table or anything. People would put car seats in the chair rear or forward facing it didn't matter. The seat had a seatbelt just like the dinette seats do. A car seat really would not work @ the dinette seat. I've never used a car seat sideways. Bobbi

well to make a long thing short it is against california state law to use a carseat facing sideways. The law states As of January 1, 2005, California law requires children to ride in the back seat in a properly restrained in a child safety seat or booster seat until they are at least six years old OR weigh 60 pounds. Even the ''safest'' seat may not protect your child if it isn't used correctly. therefore if you install teh seat sideways you are not using the seat properly.

the reason why they cannot ride in a side facing seat is because the seats either failed when tested that way OR they were not tested that way in which case you would use your child as a human crash test dummy. Now if there are seats that face forwards you can use them. If the table will get in the way can you remove it for driving times?? also is there an airbag?? can it be turned off?? If so put the baby up front. Just a few thoughts. good luck Melinda

Rental RV's don't come with setups that enable proper use of car seats, that I know of. Safe use requires a chassis-bolted seat belt in a forward-facing seat. The side-facing seats in newer (rental) RV's have shoulder straps, so you can legally transport kids in them. The child safety transport laws are written only for cars. Small children can legally ride unrestrained on motorcycles and planes, for example.

I personally feel it is safe enough to drive with kids secured in side-facing seats in RV's to risk injury for a fun vacation. RV's are not likely to roll, be driven fast, or driven in congested areas, so the liklihood of children being thrown from their seats is lower than miles traveled in cars.

Hello, We rented an RV last Summer and used the car seat for our 12 month old. We placed it on the couch (behind the driver's seat) facing sideways and it was fine. He was thrilled with being able to see everything and the novelty of the RV. Not to mention there was a TV above the driver's cab in case he got fussy. nborreani

When we were considering renting an RV last year, and were planning on installing carseats in them, we learned that the bench seats are attached to a plywood base. This is different than in a regular car, which has the seat anchored into the body of the car. In a crash, the entire bench seat is not as stable as a solidly anchored seat in a passenger vehicle. You may want to verify this for yourself to see if any models have safer bench seats. Shannon

VW Camper Rental

June 2004

I'd love to rent a VW camper for a couple of weeks this summer to travel with my husband and 4 month old baby. Does anyone have a recommendation for where to rent one at a reasonable price in Northern California? Also, any experience traveling with an infant in a camper? Thanks!

Hi, you might look at the last couple of Recommendations Given newsletters, re. Calif. Campers (in Redwood City) tel. 650-346- 2871 We had mixed experiences with the Westy's themselves on our latest trip (last year). CA Campers has vintage late 1980's vans. former Westy renter

Small RV to rent mid June?

May 2004

We would like to rent a camper van or small RV for a family get-away in mid June. Can anyone make a suggestion? Are there private party rentals out there? My husband and I have a clean driving record and would be able to take out supplemental insurance, etc....The cruise america agreements are so restrictive and pricey! lj

We recently rented a VW Camper Van from California Campers in Redwood City for a week-long trip down the California Coast. We rented a 1988 vehicle that worked great, has a pop top that sleeps two and a pull out back seat that also sleeps two. Working stove, sink and refrigerator in the van. We brought our dog and it worked well. We had a wonderful trip and the price was pretty reasonable (I think it worked out to about $700 for the whole week.) The guy who runs it is very laid back and helpful. Anon

Hi, just my input on CA Campers and renting a Westy, which we've now done twice. LOVE the camper itself for our family of 4, and the first trip several years ago was wonderful. The second time around, the original van broke down so the owner drove a new one to us (4 hours away!) and swapped it out and covered our motel. Then it broke down a second time and we had to get it fixed ourselves since we were by now at least an 8-10 hour drive away. Not necessarily a negative reflection on CA Campers, but on renting a circa late 1980's van (mechanically easier to fix than the new ones, but somewhat risky in my opinion). Have fun! anon

Renting an RV for a week

Feb 2004

We want to rent a medium-sized RV for about a week this summer. Has anybody done this before? If so, where should we go to do it? What should we look for and what kind of questions should we ask? Thanks happycamper

Our son (7) has become enamored of RVs with an ''upstairs'' as he calls them. We would like to rent one for a week or so, but I have looked and looked on the internet and even the smallest ones (I prefer small, actually) cost almost $1,000 a week, with limited mileage! I also looked into the VW campers (although I'm not sure they would be entirely satisfactory to my son...), but they, too, are prohibitively expensive (about $750/week with limited mileage). So... before I give up on my son's top vacation request, does anyone have any suggestions for less expensive ways to rent? never thought I would ask this question...

Hi I found your post interesting because I have seen other families inquiring about RVs. Last year I got lucky I got a FREE 25 foot Winnebago Brave RV from Craigslist. Its a long but very nice story. Anyways, she is in good condition, but has needed some upgrading which we are doing little by little. Our next project is upholstery and tires. Then she is ready to roll. Because I was so lucky, my family and I would like to offer ''Winnie'' to other families for short trips. While she doesn't have an upstairs, every kid I have known thought it was the coolest thing. It has a TV, Radio Casette player with surprising good sound quality, stove and fridge that operate on propane, bathroom with shower. It also runs on electricity. Of course Winnie would be much less affordable then renting from say El Monte, but I think she would suit your needs. We are just trying to defray the cost of upgrading her. If you are interested, send me an e-mail at ljkwaiting AT Lori

RV for Road Trip

May 2003

I'm thinking of renting an RV this summer to road trip back to the Midwest and have already checked with Cruise America but it's too expensive. Does anyone know of any alternatives? If you've done this before do you think it's worth the expense? I have two children under 4 and the thought of us being cooped up in our car that long is not very appealing! Any advice is much appreciated. Thanks. Jackie

An RV will provide you an alternative for accomodations, but won't change the driving experience: your children will need to be in their car seats whether they are driving in your car or traveling in an RV. So if they have a hard time traveling a long distance in the car, the RV would make no difference. It does give you a lot more flexibility about where you stop for meals and for the night, though. Barbara

I am trying to answer your query before my husband does because he will tell you that renting the Cruise America RV was one of the finest, funnest things that he ever did with his (our) life.

Here is what I consider to be the objective reality: 1) We rented a Cruise America RV--one of the bigger models--to go from New Orleans through LA and MI, up to Oxford, MI (Faulkner's birthplace and home) and back to New Orleans, in a weeks time. We then recuperated in a 5-star hotel for another week.

2) My then two-year old son and 8 1/2 year old daughter thought the RV was the finest thing since Ben 'n Jerry's ''One Sweet Whirled.'' They got such a kick out of the concept and journey.

3) I find these things intimidating to drive--our wonderful nanny and my husband drove it with ease; I did not, and would not, drive it. I had visions of getting stuck under overpasses and taking out whole city blocks of innocent bystanders.

4) Someone has to ''hook up'' the darn thing in the RV parks, and, worse yet, let the ''junk'' out--''junk'' is my euphemism for bodily waste.

5) For some reason, even though we paid for a larger model with a ''complete'' bathroom, we never showered in the RV. We used the showers in the RV parks, and other RVers seem to be doing the same thing. Don't shower where you eat, maybe? I don't know. It just seemed to be everyone's instinct.

6) The hotel on wheels concept mitigated, and, maybe, even eliminated, arguments about some of us not being ready to go. My husband merely disconnected us, stepped on the gas, and we were on our way. So, in this way, the RV may be a friction-reducer.

7) There is another outfit, with Swiss-manufactured RVs (Mobius, or something like that)--they looked sleeker and more modern, but they had not outlet in New Orleans. There are only a few of them in the States, I believe.

8) Would we do it again--absolutely. My husband and children and nanny and, okay, I, had fun. And the photos of our life in the RV are precious.

9) You might ask if Cruise America offers a AAA discount.

10) Feel free to e-mail me, not my husband, if I haven't covered something.

11) Oh, yes, factor in gas costs--gas is much more expensive than when we we Glad I did it, ONCE! P

Older Recommendations


I rented a camper van from someplace in hayward. It was just me and my infant daughter. It was pretty spendy and fun. The camper could easily hold 2 children and dogs contained a toilet stove microwave and fridge. Presumably if youd only be using it to sleep in and not stuck in the rain inside with all mentioned family members it would cheaper then a Rv.

My family of 4 just rented an RV and traveled to the Grand Canyon over the Easter Break. We had a blast...really relaxing for everyone and a fun, safe adventure. We rented our RV from CruiseAmerica and you can find out all about them at You pick it up out on 66th near the Oakland Coliseum. We rented a 20' and got upgraded to a 24' which was fine but I still would go smaller next time. They give you a terrific book on all RV parks in the US so we would just figure out where we wanted to stop, read a description and head that way. We never made reservations, but I would recommend it for inside the Grand Canyon (we just got lucky). The CruiseAmerica units are fully contained, clean, and well-maintained. We only had full hook-ups one night and it never was a problem. Getting the fridge to stay cold is a little tricky on just propane, but we figured out the trick and the rest of our trip everything stayed cold. Inside the Grand Canyon (South Rim), I would recommend Camp Mather which does not have hook-ups but is much prettier than the camp with full RV hookups which is more like a parking lot. I would also recommend that you pick up your RV unit and then go home and load it because the RV does not come with ANY kitchen utensils, blankets, pillows, or anything and while you can rent a Personal Package, they are expensive and not extensive at all...we just brought all of our own which was more comfortable and easier. Kathleen