Audrey Patterson, a San Diego-based mother of two, often vacations in an RV with her family. But she’s only actually driven an RV once — a brief stretch near Burbank, Calif. — en route to Yosemite National Park for their 2021 summer vacation. from downtown Los Angeles is a tangle of freeways, difficult to navigate by any vehicle.
“I was super upset and just felt bad for everyone, especially my husband,” Patterson said.
Patterson’s husband usually drives. At the time of the family’s 2022 summer vacation — a camping trip to Big Sur, California — her husband couldn’t drive because he was arriving a day late.
With the memory of Burbank fresh in her mind, coupled with the fact that she would be alone raising her two- and four-year-old boys, Patterson intended not to drive an RV in Big Sur.
“My husband suggested we look into whether we could have an RV delivered, and I was like, ‘oh my God, yes,'” she says.
THE RISE OF RV DELIVERY
RV delivery is one of the latest trends in camping, shaking up the traditional model where you trade in your car for an RV at a rental location. One of the biggest RV delivery operators is RVshare, a company that operates like Airbnb for RVs. And while not all of the RVs offered there are deliverable, RVshare said nearly 40% of its RV rentals have been delivered so far in 2022, compared to 27% in 2021 and 16% in 2020.
With RV delivery, you don’t have to worry about driving, gas mileage, and liability. Instead, you simply arrive at a campground at an RV 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 recreational vehicles themselves. Most are regional, like 101 RV Rentals of Southern California, which delivers to campgrounds in 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 traveling to a destination with no available hotels or a place where hotels are expensive.
RVshare said its top delivery destination in 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 becoming increasingly popular. According to RVshare, RV deliveries to Fort Wilderness for the first three quarters of 2022 increased by 12% compared to the same period in 2021.
The cost of camping at Fort Wilderness Resort, including full RV hookups, is $1,300 for a six-night stay during the first week of March 2023. For a six-person cabin at the resort during the same period, you will pay $3,600 .
Of course, the cost of renting and delivering an RV eats into the $2,300 difference. But on delivery sites like RVshare and Outdoorsy, there are dozens of listings available large enough to accommodate six people that cost less than $1,000 for the week, including installation and delivery. A few even cost less than $500, making an RV rental one of the cheapest ways to sleep in Disney World.
RV DELIVERY LIMITATIONS
Some Campgrounds Prohibit Delivery: Rules vary by campground and are inconsistent between state and national parks. For example, RV delivery is prohibited in Yellowstone National Park, but is acceptable for certain sites in Yosemite National Park.
You can’t stop overnight anywhere you want: For many, part of the charm of an RV trip is the ability to stop along the way.
Patterson says she prefers delivery if she gets to the campsite in one day with minimal stops. But for a leisurely trip with lots of stops, she might default to driving the motorhome, especially since it gives her kids room to spread out.
Delivery costs can be confusing: Outdoorsy allows owners to set delivery costs, which means that a cheaper RV can sometimes end up being more expensive if the delivery costs are high. Some companies charge a flat rate for delivery (usually $150 to $300), while others charge by distance (usually $4 to $6 per mile). Even then, most limit deliveries to a certain area, which varies by owner.
You Can’t Pack That Much: For rentals near you, you can pack the RV from your own driveway. Otherwise, you will only be equipped with what you can put in the vehicle that brought you to the campsite. This particularly limits bulky items, such as bicycles and surfboards.
BENEFITS OF RV DELIVERY
RVs can be one of the most desirable ways to camp, offering conveniences like air conditioning, kitchens, power outlets, and Wi-Fi. Many of their challenges can be alleviated by delivery.
You save gas by driving a car—not an RV—to your destination: Cruise America says that, on average, its RVs get 6-10 mpg. Instead, you drive your car – which gets better gas mileage – down the road and have an RV delivered from a location closer to your destination.
Insurance coverage is often cheaper: the rental company Outdoorsy requires all renters to have insurance covering liability and damage. For fixed deliveries, this insurance is cheaper because you do not pay to cover the platform on the road. Sometimes it’s less than a quarter of the cost of Full Coverage from Outdoorsy to insure an RV you’ll be driving.
No expensive setup: Motorhomes can be tricky (especially for beginners) to plug in, which is necessary to access fresh water, sewer and electricity.
Since Patterson doesn’t have a place to store an RV if she had one, she rents every time. But each type of RV has its drawbacks. With a van, she has to remove the hookups and secure the items inside each time her family leaves the campsite. A removable RV trailer offers more freedom.
“But maneuvering detachable trailers on twisty roads is tough,” she says. “With VR delivery, everything is almost 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 a motorhome for beginners (and what it costs) https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-beginners-guide-to-renting-an-rv