10 Tips For Saving Money on a Camper Van Rental
Renting a camper van can be one of the most economical ways to travel. It’s much cheaper than a car rental plus hotel every night, and you can save up to $1,600 compared to renting an RV. For those of you who are really ballin’ on a budget, we put together our best hacks for saving money on a camper van rental.
**Please note, these tips were written pre-COVID-19 and may conflict with some of the current social distancing orders. Please be advised to follow all local, regional and state guidelines when taking a campervan trip**
1. Book your campervan for the off-season
Like airlines and hotels, camper van rental rates respond to demand. This means that in the summer, rates are generally much higher than they are in the off-season (roughly October through April). This is also when places like National Parks are most crowded and it can be impossible to find a campsite. If you don’t mind being flexible with the weather, fall, winter, and spring are the best times of the year to save money on a road trip. We also offer an electric kit, which includes a space heater and extension cord. This is not required for the camper van to function, but if you know there’s some cold weather on its way, you can stay at a campsite with a hookup and run the space heater overnight.
We offer price breaks for renting for more days, so the longer you rent for, the cheaper the daily rate gets!
2. Go with a group
Camper van trips are better with friends! Our Mavericks and Big Sur models seat 5 and sleep 4-5 with the rooftop sleeper added (5 people if you have small children or if you don’t mind getting cozy – the bed inside the campervans is huge!). Bring more friends means more people to split up costs with, like gas, food, and campsite fees.
3. Choose a pre-paid miles package
Most camper van rental companies offer pre-paid miles packages of some sort. At Escape, it’s $0.25/mile without a miles package, but we have 100 miles/day, 200 miles/day, and unlimited miles package options available depending on how long your trip is. Before you come in to pick up your camper van, open up Google Maps and estimate how many miles you think you might drive on your route. Then, give yourself some leeway in case plans change and you go over that amount (most of our renters end up driving further than they had originally planned).
4. Book the cheapest flights
We always recommend reserving your campervan first before booking flights, campsites, etc., as we have limited availability. That said, once your camper van is booked, there are several tips out there for saving money on flights to get to the depot(s) you’ll be renting from. We rounded up our top tips below.
5. Bring your own camp gear
If you have room in your luggage or are renting locally, you can save some money by bringing all your own camp gear instead of renting ours. For reference, each Escape camper van includes a convertible queen-sized bed, an interior “dining room” fit out with a table and benches, a kitchen with a sink, refrigerator, and stove, and a solar-powered light over the kitchen in the back. We have several articles that can help with what to pack below, and you can also join our Escape Campervans Community Facebook group to ask fellow Escape renters (past, present, and future) what they recommend.
- Road Trip Packing Tips and Checklist
- Guest Blog: 51 Van Life Tips to Make the Most of Your Escape
- Guest Blog: Top 6 things to know before you go
- Road Trip Planning 101
- Logistics For Campervan Trips with Young Kids
- Guest Blog: USA Road Trip Essentials
- Top 10 Tips for International Travelers Planning a USA Campervan Trip
Of course, we know that owning all your own camp gear can get expensive! That’s why you have the option to rent anything you might need from us, from bedding kits to bike racks, ready to go when you pick up your camper van. (This can also be a lifesaver when you’re flying into a different depot and don’t have room to pack a bunch of extra gear.) Here’s a complete list of available extras that we offer.
6. Get free stuff from our depots
Past renters end up leaving a variety of “recycled” items from their trips at many of our depots when they drop off their camper van. You’re free to browse through these when you pick up and take whatever you like for free! Common items you might find include dish soap, dry shampoo, bear spray, blankets, canned soup, spices, coolers, and more.
7. Cook your own food
The beauty of renting a camper van is that it’s super easy to make delicious meals in the kitchen! You’ll have a 5-gallon pump sink, 2-burner Coleman stove (propane is available for purchase at our depots), and a dual-powered fridge (for size reference, it fits about 24 beers). Whether you’re making instant ramen or a full-blown lobster bisque, cooking yourself is a great way to save money (and eat healthy!) instead of going out to eat for every meal.
8. Be smart about where you camp
Camper vans fit in most tent sites, so there’s no need to book big expensive RV sites with hook ups. Note that our Newport Camper model requires a hook up to function properly, but our camper van models don’t need them unless you plan on using the electric kit with the space heater and extension cord as mentioned above.
If you’re open to getting a little more adventurous, dispersed camping is the name of the game! It’s usually free and can be pretty easy to find once you get the hang of it. Just be sure that you’re aware of what your chosen insurance option covers (must be on state- and county-maintained roads, for example).
- Dispersed Camping 101: Free camping in the US
- Guide to Dispersed Camping in Canada
- Tips for Dispersed Camping on the East Coast
- How Do I Find Where to Camp? Tips From Past Renters
- When to book national park campsites for the summer
- Don’t have reservations? Here’s how to find camping in Yosemite
- How to find camping in Grand Canyon National Park without reservations
9. Apps are your friend
There are apps for everything these days! Including road trips. Get them before your trip so that you can download offline maps and info. You can also get apps like Gas Buddy, which tells you where the cheapest gas prices are along your route.
10. Be on the lookout for specials
We have new specials all the time! The best deals are often relocation specials. Here’s how they work: we occasionally need to move a certain number of camper vans from one depot location to another. It’s cheaper (and more fun) for YOU to drive it there for us rather than for us to put it on a tow truck. Win-win all around! Check out our specials page, sign up for our email list, or join the Escape Campervans Exclusive Deals & Relocation Specials Facebook group to be the first to know about new specials.
Now that fall is right around the corner, it’s the perfect time for saving money on a camper van rental. So get ready, and book your trip today!