By SALLY FRENCH from NerdWallet
San Diego-based mom-of-two Audrey Patterson often vacations with her family in an RV. But she’s actually only driven an RV once — a short trip near Burbank, California — en route to Yosemite National Park for her 2021 summer vacation. The area northwest of downtown Los Angeles is a tangled web of freeways that connect with are difficult to navigate in any vehicle.
“I was totally overwhelmed and felt sorry for everyone — especially my husband,” says Patterson.
Patterson’s husband usually drives. When it came time for the family’s 2022 summer vacation — a camping trip in Big Sur, California — her husband couldn’t drive because he was arriving a day late.
With memories of Burbank fresh and the fact that she would be raising her two- and four-year-old boys alone, Patterson was determined not to drive an RV to Big Sur.
“My husband suggested we research whether we could have an RV shipped and I was like, ‘Oh my god, yes,'” she says.
THE RISE OF CAMPER VAN DELIVERY
RV delivery is one of the latest camping trends, turning the traditional model on its head where you swap your car for an RV at a rental facility. One of the largest RV suppliers is RVshare, a company that operates like Airbnb for RVs. And while not all of the RVs it sells are deliverable, RVshare said nearly 40% of its RV rentals in 2022 have been delivered so far, up from 27% in 2021 and 16% in 2020.
With RV delivery, you don’t have to worry about driving, fuel consumption and liability. Instead, you simply arrive at a campground to an RV that’s already set up for you. Patterson rented through a similar service called Outdoorsy, which says 70% of its listings offer delivery.
Other delivery companies own and operate the RVs themselves. Most are local, like 101 RV Rentals in Southern California, which delivers to campgrounds throughout Santa Barbara, California.
WHO ARE RV DELIVERIES FOR?
RV deliveries can be great for nature lovers, but that’s not the only clientele. It is also convenient for those who are traveling to a destination where hotels are not available or to a place where hotels are expensive.
RVshare said its top delivery destination for 2021 is The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, a Disney-owned campground a short ferry ride from Florida’s Magic Kingdom theme park — and it’s growing in popularity. Fort Wilderness RV shipments increased 12% in the first three quarters of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021, according to RVshare.
The cost of a campsite at Fort Wilderness Resort, including full RV hookups, is $1,300 for a six-night stay during the first week of March 2023. You would pay $3,600 for a six-person cabin at the resort during the same period.
Sure, the cost of renting and delivering an RV makes up the $2,300 difference. But delivery sites like RVshare and Outdoorsy have dozens of available deals large enough to sleep six that cost less than $1,000 a week, including setup and delivery. Some are even less than $500, making an RV rental one of the cheapest ways to sleep at Disney World.
RESTRICTIONS ON RV DELIVERY
Some campsites prohibit delivery: Rules vary by campsite and are not consistent across states and national parks. For example, RV delivery is prohibited in Yellowstone National Park, but it’s fine for some Yosemite National Park locations.
You can’t stay overnight wherever you want: For many, part of the charm of a trip with a motorhome is that you can stop along the way.
Patterson says she prefers delivery when traveling to the campsite on a day with minimal stops. But for a leisurely trip with lots of stops, she might default to driving the RV, especially since it gives her kids room to spread out.
Delivery fees can be confusing: Outdoorsy lets owners set delivery fees, and that means sometimes a cheaper RV can end up being more expensive when delivery fees are high. Some companies charge a flat rate for delivery (typically $150-$300), while others charge by distance (typically $4-$6 per mile). Even then, most deliveries are restricted to a specific area, which varies by owner.
You Can’t Pack That Much: For rentals close to home, you can pack the RV from your own driveway. Otherwise, you will only be provided with what fits in the vehicle that brought you to the campsite. This particularly limits bulky items like bicycles and surfboards.
ADVANTAGES OF RV DELIVERY
RVs can be one of the most desirable choices for camping, as they offer amenities like air conditioning, kitchens, outlets, and WiFi. Many of their challenges can be mitigated with delivery.
You save gas by driving a car — not an RV — to your destination: Cruise America says its RVs get an average of 6mpg to 10mpg. Instead, you drive your car — which has better fuel economy — on the trip and have an RV delivered from a location closer to your destination.
Insurance protection is often cheaper: the rental company, Outdoorsy, requires all renters to have an insurance package that covers liability and damage. For stationary deliveries, this insurance is cheaper because you don’t pay for covering the rig on the road. Sometimes it costs less than a quarter of the cost of Outdoorsys comprehensive coverage to insure an RV that you will be driving.
No cumbersome setup: RVs can be challenging (especially for beginners) to plug in, which requires access to fresh water, sewage, and electricity.
Since Patterson doesn’t have space to store an RV if she had one, she rents it every time. But every type of RV has its downsides. With a van, she has to unplug and secure the items inside every time her family leaves the campsite. A detachable trailer RV offers more freedom.
“However, maneuvering hangers on winding roads is difficult,” she says. “With RV delivery, almost everything is upside down.”
This article was provided to The Associated Press by personal finance website NerdWallet. Sally French is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected]
NerdWallet: The Best Way to Rent an RV for Beginners (And What It Costs) https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-beginners-guide-to-renting-an-rv