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How to rent an RV for only $1 a day

May 05, 2022
15 min read
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I’m seeing many recreational vehicles, also known as RVs, driving along U.S. interstates. After all, with travelers looking to get outdoors this spring and summer, RVs are an attractive way to travel. The main problem: RV rentals tend to be expensive.

However, RV rentals don’t have to cost a fortune. In 2018, I managed to rent a five-person RV for $1 per day from Las Vegas to Denver. Also, in the summer of 2020, I snagged a mid-pandemic RV rental from Los Angeles to Dallas for just $1 day. The rental company even reimbursed all of my gas receipts and provided a $100 travel allowance on my first rental.

Although finding deals that include gas stipends and travel allowances take patience, it’s not impossible. Additionally, $1 or $5 per day RV rentals without gas or travel allowances are relatively easy to find. The secret is that companies are willing to pay you to transport their vehicles (in this case, RVs, but car rental companies do something similar) when they need specific vehicles at a particular location. This is called a “relocation rental.”

Relocation rental daily rates and incentives vary greatly and often change or disappear with no notice. However, there are usually excellent deals available. Here’s everything you need to know to find, book and complete a relocation rental.

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Who can do a relocation rental?

El Monte Coachman Leprechaun RV rental. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Most drivers can do a relocation rental. No special license is required to rent or drive an RV in the U.S. However, most rental agencies require that renters be over a particular age (usually 21) and have held a license for a certain amount of time (typically at least two years).

If you’re renting in a country other than the one that issued your driver’s license, you may need a translated version, such as an International Driver’s Permit.

And although RVs can be great for family trips, some relocations don’t allow children under a particular age. Some rental agencies rent car seats, while others require parents to bring car seats for relocation rentals.

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All the relocation rentals I’ve seen allow at least two occupants, but some agencies may charge an additional fee for each driver after the primary renter. Some relocation rentals allow up to six occupants. Be sure to consider where everyone will sleep before deciding to travel with the maximum number of passengers, though.

Some relocation rentals even allow pets. But most — especially in the U.S. — expressly forbid pets. So double-check the terms and conditions before booking if you’re planning to travel with a pet.

Related: 6 things you should know before you rent your first RV

How to find relocation rentals

Wekiwa Springs State Park in Apopka, FL. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Some RV rental companies list relocation rentals on their websites. The easiest way to find RV relocation rentals, though, is to check websites like Imoova, Transfercar and Coseats periodically. In this section, I’ll give a quick overview of each of these websites.

Imoova

For U.S.-based drivers, Imoova is the most comprehensive search engine I’ve found for relocation rentals. You can filter listings by many criteria, including pickup city, drop-off city and the number of passengers.

When I checked on April 14, there were some good options. (Screenshot from imoova.com)

When you book through Imoova, you’ll usually need to pay a $35 to $50 booking fee. Imoova also has listings for Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Europe.

Related: I rented a tricked-out RV for two days: Here’s what it was like

Transfercar

Transfercar is another resource for RV relocation rentals in the U.S. However, as its name suggests, the company usually offers more cars than RVs. You can use Transfercar’s handy map of current pickup locations to browse all the listings.

(Screenshot from transfercarus.com)

Or, you can check a list of options and sort by vehicle type, pickup location, drop-off location, number of days and what’s included in the rental.

Transfercar usually has fewer options than Imoova. It’s worth checking both sites, though, especially if you want to relocate a car instead of an RV.

Related: I love luxury hotels, but rented an RV and lived to tell the tale

Coseats

Coseats primarily offers ride-sharing. However, the site often lists some camper van relocations in Australia and New Zealand that you can reserve without paying any booking fees.

(Screenshot from coseats.com)

Other tips for finding relocation rentals

If you find a promising listing on Imoova, Transfercar or Coseats, read the listing details to see which rental company offers the relocation rental. Then, check that company’s website to see if they’re advertising relocation rentals on their site.

Some rental companies don’t list their relocation rentals (in that case, you’ll need to book directly through one of these search engines). However, many do — often with additional information or incentives and usually with lower fees. In the U.S., for example, Apollo, Cruise America, El Monte, Escape Campervans, Indie Campers and Road Bear tend to list relocation rentals directly.

Related: What it was like to rent an RV for $1 a day from California to Texas

When to book a relocation rental

El Monte Coachman Leprechaun RV rental. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Individual rental locations often book more rentals than their local fleet can support. When this happens, the rental company must shift RVs from one office to another to support the demand. And this need for last-minute shifting can lead to solid relocation rental incentives. Prime RV rental season in the U.S. is during the summer, so this is when you’ll see the most significant number of relocation rental offers.

Unfortunately for planners, most relocation rentals are listed no more than a week or two before the necessary pickup date — and the lucrative incentives usually don’t appear until a few before. However, if you can be flexible, or if you live in a city that often has relocation rentals, you may be able to jump on an offer for a last-minute road trip.

There’s also shoulder season demand as individual rental locations need to receive new vehicles from the factory in the spring and early summer. Factory relocation rentals are easier to build a vacation around, as you can usually book these relocation rentals a few months in advance. The downside is that the pickup location is often at the factory — which may be a few hours from a major airport. Apollo, El Monte and Road Bear offer factory relocation deals every spring. And Cruise America still had some factory relocations available for this spring when I wrote this story on April 14.

Related: 5 things people get wrong about traveling in a camper van

What to know before booking

Sawnee Campground in Cumming, GA. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

If you’ve found a tempting relocation rental offer, here are some factors to consider before booking:

Mileage and duration of rental

The distance and duration of your rental will directly affect how much you enjoy the experience. In particular, be sure to consider:

  • How many days are included in the rental?
  • Can you add extra days at an additional cost?
  • How many miles are included in the rental?
  • How does this compare with the mileage of your desired route?
  • What’s the cost if you go over the mileage? Is there a penalty fee or a per-mile rate?
  • How many miles would you need to drive each day to complete the relocation?
  • Are you required to drive only during daylight?

The most important aspect is how many miles you’ll be driving each day — especially if you want to stop at sites during your road trip. Remember that RVs generally need to be driven slower than cars. So a trip will almost certainly take longer than your favorite map app estimates. And if you aren’t comfortable driving bulky vehicles, helming an RV can be more tiring than you expect.

Be particularly careful when considering relocation rental offers in Australia, as I’ve found multiple seemingly-appealing offers that would have required driving all day every day to cover the distance needed in the time allotted.

Related: 5 things I learned from my first ‘RV resort’ stay

Type of vehicle

Relocation rentals can range from compact cars to six-berth RVs 30-feet in length (or longer). Make sure your rental serves your needs in terms of facilities and is also a vehicle you can safely drive. In particular, make sure you’re comfortable with the vehicle’s size and transmission type.

Most relocation rentals in the U.S. are in vehicles with automatic transmission. But many rentals abroad have manual transmissions. You may also prefer a smaller vehicle when driving on narrow European roads or the left side of the road in Australia or New Zealand.

Related: 9 things I learned in my first 6 months RVing full-time

Incentives offered

When I booked my relocation rental from Las Vegas to Denver in the summer of 2018, the company needed to move several RVs needed out of Las Vegas. As such, I could choose from a handful of vehicle types. I selected the one offering the best incentives: A $1 per day rate with all fuel reimbursed and a $100 travel allowance.

(Screenshot from apollorv.com)

In general, possible incentives include:

  • A low daily rate
  • $1 or $5 per day is typical for U.S. relocation rentals.
  • Fuel
  • First tank free (goes out with a full tank, can be returned empty).
  • $50 to $400 fuel allowance with receipts.
  • Full reimbursement for fuel with receipts.
  • Travel allowance
  • $50 to $100, usually no receipts are required.
  • Trip needs
  • Ferry tickets for vehicle and/or driver.
  • Toll pass.
  • Camping equipment, such as table and chairs, kitchen kit, linen kit or sleeping bags.
  • Free generator usage.
  • Propane
  • Full tank provided, can be returned empty.

Related: Going on a road trip? Take these credit cards with you

Additional costs

Renting an RV for $1 per day is appealing, especially if you can also get other incentives. However, be sure to consider the following expenses that you might incur. I’ve included the fees for my first relocation rental experience, but note they may be different for other rentals and companies.

  • Fuel expenses
  • The Class C motor home I rented cost about $0.33 per mile in fuel.
  • The Class C motor home we bought in 2020 gets between 8 and 9 miles per gallon.
  • Extra mileage fee ($0.45 per mile after included mileage)
  • Positioning expenses
  • Flights, buses or car rentals to and from the pickup and drop-off cities.
  • Uber, bus or taxi fares to and from the pickup and drop-off sites.
  • Camping expenses
  • Varies in cost, I paid $30 per night in Zion National Park for a site with an electric hookup and $42 per night at a campground near the interstate with full hookups on my first relocation rental.
  • You may be able to camp for free in select areas with no hookups (including some Walmart and Cracker Barrel parking lots, but it’s best to make a purchase and check with a manager before settling in for the night).
  • Extra driver fees ($3 per person, per day)
  • Add-ons offered by the rental company
  • Kitchen kit (included for us, but some rentals charge around $50).
  • Linen kits or sleeping bags ($10 per person).
  • RV-friendly toilet paper ($5 for four rolls).
  • RV toilet chemical ($2.50 per bottle).
  • Generator use ($5 per day or $3 per hour).
  • Optional equipment, such as camp chairs, child seats and a GPS device.
  • Cleaning fee ($150 if you don’t return the RV clean).
  • Dumping fee ($150 per tank if you don’t return the gray and black tanks empty).

I limited extras on my relocation by booking directly with Apollo, bringing sleeping bags and towels, dumping the tanks before returning the vehicle, not using the generator and cleaning the RV before returning it.

(Screenshot from apollorv.com)

However, consider paying for it if your relocation company offers tank dumping at a reasonable cost. RV tank sensors can be extremely fickle, so you may never get the sensor to show empty even if you dump your tanks entirely before returning your rental.

Related: 9 tips for finding available RV campsites this summer

Insurance options

Using the right credit card is essential when renting a car because some cards provide car rental coverage. Unfortunately, most credit cards that include car rental coverage explicitly exclude recreational vehicles. After Citi discontinued car rental coverage on its cards in Sept. of 2019, I’ve yet to find a card that provides car rental insurance when you rent a recreational vehicle.

Apollo, the company I used for my relocation rental in 2018, required a $1,000 bond and included standard liability at no cost on relocation rentals. But, not all relocation rentals include standard liability insurance.

(Screenshot from apollorv.com)

Even if you find a credit card that provides car rental insurance when renting an RV (or you purchase travel insurance that includes car rental insurance when you rent an RV), this insurance usually only covers damage to the rental vehicle. You’ll still want to make sure that your car insurance or other insurance covers liability for damage caused to other cars and personal property as well as injuries to people involved in an accident.

Related: 6 tips for surviving a road trip with a large family

How to make a one-way relocation RV rental work

El Monte Coachman Leprechaun RV rental. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Let’s be honest: Renting a one-way last-minute relocation rental is challenging for most travelers to fit into a vacation. Since you typically need to book RV relocations at the last minute, it’s best to make flexible, fully refundable travel plans as a backup if you don’t find a suitable relocation RV.

You may also need to book a one-way flight or car rental on one or both sides of your relocation. Luckily, it’s easy to find inexpensive airfare right now on most routes. I’ve had great luck using AutoSlash to find cheap one-way car rentals, although these rentals have generally become more expensive in the last few years.

Related: 7 mistakes every road tripper makes at least once

Bottom line

Renting an RV for $1 per day may sound appealing, and I’ve had great fun on both of my relocation rentals. There are additional costs to consider, though, such as fuel, camping fees, extra driver fees and supplies. However, if you’re able to jump on a last-minute relocation or a factory relocation — and are comfortable with the idea of driving an RV — it can be a great low-cost opportunity to see the country.

Featured image by Needles KOA (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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