RV travel is on the rise as we seek out unique outdoor adventures beyond the traditional camping experience. For those that are just starting to look at renting RVs, you quickly learn that the marketplace is quite unique and very different from say, car rentals. Undoubtedly you've seen the roadside RV depots in rural parts of the country but how can you find RVs for rent by owners online?
There has to be an Airbnb for RVs right? Well, your instincts are right. There absolutely is. Keep reading to find out about Outdoorsy and how it works.
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Table of contents
- How to find RVs for rent by owners
- How does Outdoorsy work?
- Frequently asked questions
- Finding RVs for rent by owner is as easy as ever
How to find RVs for rent by owners
RV sales have been soaring and there has also been a huge surge in interest around RV travel whether you're in the US, Canada, Europe, and many other parts fo the world.
The allure is that each night in an RV can be less than your typical hotel stay, it gives you flexibility on where you can road trip to, and gives you that outdoor experience without sacrificing too much comfort.
So you're looking for an RV but would like to do it a little bit differently. There are so many people that own their own RVs that there has to be a way to find RVs for rent by owners right?
The traditional way of renting RVs
We've covered how to find RV rentals in Ontario but if you look there, you'll see that all of the companies mentioned there are your traditional outlets of where you can get an RV.
It's similar to car rentals. Big companies own a fleet of RVs and they rent them out to the public. Their offering is pretty standardized in the types of RVs available, they are dependable, and they can also be pretty expensive.
You know what you're getting with guys like CanaDream, Cruise Canada, and Cruise America. These are also the ones you see on the road all the time so you'd think they're your only option.
Luckily, they're not!
Is there an Airbnb for RVs?
It feels like there's an “Airbnb of X” analogy for almost everything nowadays as the share economy industry has really taken off this past decade.
People own RVs and for some, they sit on a driveway a large part of the year so why don't owners rent them out?
This is where a platform like Outdoorsy comes in. They are the Airbnb for RVs.
Outdoorsy has been around since 2015 and while relatively young, they've quickly become one of the largest and most trusted companies to find RVs for rent by owner. They operate in 14 countries including the United States, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Germany, France, and Italy.
With approximately 17 million RVs that sit idle in North America, tap into this peer-to-peer marketplace that connects RV owners with travellers that want the experience of using an RV without the burden of ownership.
This is great and all but how does Outdoorsy work and what are things you should watch out for? Let's jump into that next.
How does Outdoorsy work?
Outdoorsy is the perfect way to get around whether you're looking for a weekend getaway in the wilderness or planning an ambitious road trip that hits up multiple national parks.
Here's a step-by-step guide on how to rent an RV with Outdoorsy.
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Search for RV rental by owner
As with all online marketplaces, it all starts with a search of RVs in the destination you're interested in going. You could be starting at home to start your road trip or somewhere you're perhaps flying into.
You start by entering your location, and start and end dates.
You'll immediately get shown a huge list of RVs for rent on the left and a map of where they're located on the right.
Filter down to what you're looking for
There are quite a number of criteria you'll want to immediately select to help filter down to a smaller subset of RVs for rent by owner.
Drivable vs Towable
This essentially is your pick of the type of RV you're looking for. This is when you realize there are so many types out there.
Driveable are standalone vehicles including the campervan, truck campers, and Classes A, B and C. Towable ones will require your own vehicle to pull some type of trailer.
Each has their pros and cons but for those wanting to get their feet wet, a drivable RV might be the best place to start especially if your vehicle doesn't have a tow hook to begin with.
This is easy. What's your budget for your trip?
This should look pretty similar to Airbnb.
Unique to RVs is your choice of 3 options when it comes to delivery/pick up.
- You pick it up – Similar to a car rental, you go to a location to pick up the RV.
- Owners deliver it to a location – You can designate a drop off that could be your home or starting point
- Stationary – You can have the owners plop the RV at a specific location such as a campsite where you don't plan on driving it anywhere.
You'll notice that most RVs only have one or a few of these options so this is usually one of those things where you should probably keep your requirements open to see what's available.
Similar to renting a cottage or vacation rental, you can pick what kind of features you need to have in the RV. This could be something such as air conditioning, bike rack, or awning.
Most importantly, this is where you can specify how many people can sleep inside the RV.
TIP: Only choose specific amenities if they are deal breakers. Otherwise, keep this open because your choices diminish rapidly with each selection.
This is a catchall for everything else but a few important ones to look at in your search for RVs for rent by owners are:
- Pet-friendly – Not all rentals allow pets so if you're travelling with one, make sure this is selected.
- Smoking allowed – Any smokers will want to pay attention to this.
- Unlimited mileage – In the RV rental world, unlimited mileage is quite rare so I'd recommend leaving this off.
- Cancellation policy – I like that they have this because you can't really do this type of filtering on Airbnb.
Reviewing RV listing on Outdoorsy
When you're looking at RVs for rent by owners on Outdoorsy, you'll realize how much they've replicated the look and feel of Airbnb.
This is a good thing because if you've used Airbnb in the past, everything should be located where you almost expect it to be.
That said, there are a bunch of things you should pay attention to that are unique to RV rentals:
- Mileage – Pay close attention to the amount of free miles included per day and also the charge per extra mileage. I've noticed that there isn't consistency in miles vs kilometres for listings so check on that as well.
- Insurance coverage – Outdoorsy has its own insurance built into each RV rental. By default it always has “Preferred” selected but they also have “Essential” and “Peace of Mind” options. The cost is independent of the rental rate and is more based on the number of days. The main differences are in the deductible, liability amount, and inclusion of accident interruption. All options include 24/7 roadside assistance. Note that this is mandatory. More on this later.
- Add ons – Each rental has different options. For instance, bike racks may be available but it isn't included so you have to pay a daily rate to have it added in.
- Specify delivery – If the owner offers delivery, in the map section, you'll be able to enter the delivery address and it will let you know whether you're within their delivery radius. There is also most likely a delivery fee as well.
- Additional fees – Additional service fee is built in (% of the booking) and there's also something called “Prep and sanitation” which, like Airbnb's cleaning fee, is dependent on whether the owner wants to charge it or not.
- Refundable security deposit – This is the amount set aside in case something goes wrong. Owners decide this amount. This will actually get charged separately but is refunded if no issues arise.
- Long term discounts – Sometimes it's not obvious in the filtered results but some listings offer discounts if you're renting for longer periods of time. This usually kicks in when it's 7 days ore more.
- Cancellation policy – Again, like Airbnb, cancellation policies are either Flexible, Moderate, or Strict. They are defined in the listing so read that carefully before booking.
- Reviews – This is perhaps the most important. I'd avoid booking RVs that are brand new on the market. Reviews are a good indication of the experience with the owner and quality of the RV.
- Owner rules – Make sure to double check this to find out what's not allowed.
- Instant book vs not – Instant book means that you can immediately secure your RV on the spot without the owner having to approve it.
- Ask a question – If there's anything that's unclear in the listing, you can send a message to the owner. Like Airbnb, they force you to use the internal platform.
Making the booking
Before you get started, you'll first need an account if you haven't created one already. This should've been done before searching but Outdoorsy allows you to browse around even without an account.
Once you have that done, there are essentially 4 steps you go through to make a booking. In this example, this is an Instant Book.
- Basic information – You'll enter things like your name, email and phone number but if you're logged in, this should already be pre-populated. In this step you're also confirming that you're 25 or older (location dependent) and that you hold a valid driver's license.
- Optional protection – This is separate from the required insurance for protection for the interior or unexpected cancellation. It's optional and in many cases isn't something you can select if the owners don't have it set up. In many cases, you'll just click on ‘Continue' here.
- Payment – This is where you'll enter in your credit card information and promo code. I like that they clearly explain what's being charged and when.
- Trip details and next steps – This is the final confirmation and this also sets up the chat conversation where you can talk to the owners about pick up/drop off and other details.
If your booking requires RV owner approval, they'll get back to you within 24 hours.
Once you've got your booking, there is still one more critical step – driver verification.
Up until this point in account creation, you haven't needed to do any ID checks. It's actually not until you made a booking that this happens.
The platform will prompt you to verify drivers and passengers. For the driver, you'll be asked to input the country of your license along with photos.
If you have additional drivers, they will also need to upload their information.
This is really intuitive and easy to use. The internal chat tool can be accessed from your browser or the Outdoorsy app.
Again, drawing parallels with Airbnb, use this to coordinate final details with the owner whether you're getting a pick up, delivery, or stationary booking.
RV pick up
At this point, the owner would've communicated all the details to you through Outdoorsy.
The checklist of steps should typically look like this:
- Damage Walkthrough – The owner will actually need to take photos on the spot of the exterior and interior and upload it to Outdoorsy.
- Training Walkthrough
- RV/Trailer Set-Up Lesson
- Driving Lesson
- Final Condition Check
- Renter Responsibilities
- Mileage & Fuel Readings
- Sign-Off Departure Form (both owner and renter) & Send-Off
At this point, also make sure to double check to make sure the add-on prices and extra fees match what your booking says.
Once you get the keys, you'll be ready to hit the road and start your RV adventures.
Again, leveraging the Outdoorsy chat functionality, you'll coordinate the return procedure with the owner.
There's a return form that will be filled out by the owner and also signed off by both parties. Like the pick up, the owner will need to take photos of the exterior and interior.
If there haven't been any issues, this should be a simple drop off.
Built-in Outdoorsy Insurance
The advantage of booking with Outdoorsy is that you're not dealing with complicated insurance-related issues where you have to source your own policy or have to coordinate with owners on this issue.
To make things as simple as possible, the platform offers 3 packages that have been standardized and reasonably priced.
These policies are country-specific so for our case, I'll be talking about what's available for Canadians.
- Essential – This is the cheapest insurance policy with limited liability of up to $2 million however the deductible is $1,500 CAD.
- Preferred – This is the default. Liability is up to $2 million and the deductible is $1,000 CAD
- Peace of Mind – This is the most comprehensive with liability up to $5 million, accident interruption, and a $500 CAD deductible
No matter what level you choose, Outdoorsy offers up to $1 million in liability coverage, and up to $1 million in comprehensive and collision coverage.
Roadside Assistance is also available on all levels. This is done in partnership with Coach-Net which provides technical support and emergency assistance ranging from flat tires to dead batteries.
What is accident interruption protection? – If you're unable to continue your trip due to an accident, Outdoorsy will refund the unused days and fees.
Who provides the insurance?
- USA – Liability is provided by Assurant and damage is backed by Lloyd's of London.
- Canada – The policy terms is slightly different per province but all are underwritten by Aviva.
Tips on using Outdoorsy
When using Outdoorsy, there are a couple of things you should know about to make sure you have the best experience as possible.
Using the map – By default, it's set to adjust the search every time you move the map.
Limited sorting – By design, you can only sort by “Recommended” and price. I prefer sorting by the number of reviews an RV has which you can't do so you'll have to do this manually.
No +/- searches – If you're flexible on dates, you won't be able to search a larger range. Remember to try a bunch of different dates to get a better idea of what's available.
Keep all communication on Outdoorsy – This sounds restrictive but it's meant to keep you safe. All payment and ID verification is done through the platform. You don't need to provide any additional paperwork or documentation on the side so politely decline if the owners asks.
Do you still need travel insurance?
Yes you do.
So far we've only touched on insurance that covers the vehicle. This does not include any insurance for you as a driver when it comes to emergency medical. This is where travel insurance comes into play.
The only exception is if you're travelling within your home state or province because you might have your own health insurance policy that covers you.
Frequently asked questions
While Outdoorsy is headquartered in the US and has lots of inventory coast to coast, there's surprisingly good inventory in Canada as well in all major cities including Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, and St. John's.
All drivers and passengers are required to use seatbelts while the vehicle is in motion. This is tied to the Outdoorsy terms and conditions and insurance coverage.
There is no specific COVID-19 policy and instead rely on their standard cancellation policies. The first step is to work with the owners to handle cancellations and in some cases they may grant exceptions. For everything else Outdoorsy will do what they can in extenuating circumstances such as if the owner decides to cancel a booking or you become sick.
There's actually no limit to the number of drivers when renting an RV with Outdoorsy. Each driver just need to pass their driver verification process and that's it.
Yes, there's a process to verify international travellers (when renting in North America). In most cases this requires an international driver's permit (IDP) and valid passport. A heads up that there's a foreign transaction fee of 3% that's added to the rental total and security deposit when using a payment card that's outside of the country in which you're renting.
First check with the owner to find out whether cross-border travelled is allowed. They have final say. It's also good to know that Outdoorsy's insurance coverage only covers travel between the United States and Canada but doesn't cover travel into Mexico.
Most credit cards do not cover RVs which are categorized as recreational vehicles.
Your car insurance might cover RV rentals but you should ask. IN most cases, this only covers rentals that are 30 days or less. That said, there's no way to decline insurance that's included with Outdoorsy.
This will largely depend on the owners. Unlike car rental companies, there are no fixed hours of operations for owners. You will need to communicate and coordinate this ahead of time. In some cases, they may ask you to return the RV the following day if it's too late.
Finding RVs for rent by owner is as easy as ever
Thanks to Outdoorsy, you don't have to feel forced to renting an RV or motorhome with a large company. Tap into the millions of privately-owned RVs on the platform where you can access unique rentals all over the world in both towns and cities both large and small.
Booking an RV for rent by owner has never been this easy.
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Featured image via Stefan Widua