Travel

Renting an RV for $1/day

When you are on a road trip and you see all these huge RVs around you, it seems to be the ultimate way of living the American dream. Out of curiosity, you may go check on the Internet how much you’d pay for a weekend, and realize that, maybe, it’s not worth the money. But did you know that there actually is an “inexpensive” way to rent these motored homes?

We had heard from Nikki’s husband (one of our former CISC members from The Netherlands) that you could go on a website where they offer RVs for 1$/day provided that you take them from a specific pickup location and drop them off at another specific location.

Of course, this is an ad, and you won’t really spend just 1$/day; you’ll need to pay for:
– an insurance;
– the fuel (though some deals may include up to 200$ of fuel);
– any additional miles or rental days that are not included in the deal;
– campsites;
– your return trip.
Still, it remains a better deal than paying full price. Also note that the website only publishes the offers last-minute.

So, after months of longing, my husband finally found us a deal that could work for us (as we are both working and I don’t have any paid vacation, we need to wisely choose our days off ): he had to go all the way down to San Diego to get the vehicle, but the RV call was so strong he couldn’t resist.

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The deal we found was 3 days at 1$/day and we had to bring the RV somewhere in the Bay area. The drop-off location was closed on our third day, so we added a fourth one at full price. In the end, though it was an interesting experience, this type of travel did not correspond to us at all. Here is why:

  1. Since we’ve been in the US, we have become active tent campers and we love the concept of “primitive” campgrounds, i.e. free camping in public lands with no amenities. We’re used to drive to these secluded places with a car – first a sedan, now a comfortable SUV – and we thought we’d use the same method with the RV (especially because renting it last minute on a busy weekend meant that all “usual” campgrounds would be full). It turned out that those campgrounds – which are not that numerous along the Pacific Coast – are not that easily accessible with a 25-feet long vehicle. Lucky me: I wasn’t the one driving! No, I was the one selecting the places where we would stop for the night through iOverlander, an app specifically dedicated to RV free overnight spots. In the end, the spots I found were okay, but not as nice as those we usually camp in, and the road to those places sometimes turned out to be particularly windy and narrow.
  2. When you want to visit a city, a park or even go to the grocery store, finding a parking space can become a true challenge. And we were happy to only have a 25-feet long RV – I can’t even imagine how people who have bus-like RVs do. So, you end up losing a lot of time trying to find a spot that would fit your RV.
  3. An RV is actually extremely noisy when you drive, not only because of the powerful engine, but also because of all the metallic appliances and stuff that wobble in the motorhome.
  4. We knew that an RV would need more gas than our SUV, but we weren’t expecting it to be a gas-guzzler: for a 650 miles trip, we used about 90 gallons of fuel, i.e. our consumption was about 8 miles /gallon or 29 l/100 km! To be honest, we took a lot of mountainous roads, which might also contribute to such a high mileage. Still, for people who usually travel on a low carbon footprint, it was shocking.

Of course, we did like some things about this experience – and I must tell that it’s extremely comfortable: you have a real bed, a real kitchen and a real bathroom. Plus, the weekend we rented the motorhome was wet and cold, so we were happy to be able to spend the night in this mobile shelter.

However, for all the reasons summed up above, this first experience with an RV will also be our last one. Especially because we thought we would be able to park it easily and that it would be synonym of freedom, but in the end, it was more of a burden, and we were not connected with the surrounding nature as we are when we camp in a tent.

We also almost missed the visit of one of the least known National Parks of the US – Pinnacle National Park – because we didn’t know where to spend the coming night: we only had 45 minutes to spend in the park if we wanted to arrive at a campground whose gates were closing at 5 pm. The park looked beautiful and we were frustrated that we had to leave. Plus, we were running out of water for the shower and kitchen and we didn’t know where to go to fill the tank. That’s when my husband came with the suggestion of knocking at the door of the numerous farms that were just outside the park. We stopped at the first ranch whose gate was open and asked if we could have some water. Having a good feeling about these farmers, my husband also dared to ask if we could spend the night on their property, to which the farmer answered positively, explaining to us that a lot of campers stop at their ranch to ask for hospitality when they realize that this side of the Pinnacle National Park did not have any campground. This was by far our best overnight spot: quiet, surrounded by nature and horses, where we enjoyed a BBQ seating next to a campfire. Besides, we were able to go back to Pinnacle National Park the day after, which turned out to be as beautiful as we were expecting!

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