Summer vacation planning is well underway for many Americans, and there are few better ways to see the country than driving along U.S. highways and byways.
While most of us automatically choose to drive our own car on a road trip — another option that can save a bundle of money by serving as both transportation and lodging is the all-American recreational vehicle. RVs can be rented for cheap — sometimes as little as $1 per day — if you know where to look.
Yes, it’s true.
They’re called relocation deals. In exchange for allowing you to use the vehicle at a rock-bottom rate, RV and car companies make use of you as a cheap labor to deliver their vehicles to specified destinations.
The reason is that rental companies sometimes need to balance out their inventory — because they end up with a glut of vehicles in one area, and too few somewhere else that they are in demand. You get the screaming deal because you’re helping them get vehicles to where they are needed.
And these deals aren’t only for U.S. travel. There are similar programs in Australia and New Zealand, with some starting to pop up in Europe, which could give you a chance to see parts of the world you might not otherwise. (Bone up on driving rules in those countries, and make sure your license will be considered valid if you want to try it.)
To get one of these great bargains — instead of paying a charge of $175 and up per day for an RV, plus mileage — you have to be a be flexible both about the timing of your trip and about what places you’ll be visiting.
In the case of RVs many — but by no means all — of the rent-to-deliver deals start in the Chicago area, since that’s where many are manufactured. The actual $1 rentals are fairly rare, but there are more if you can pony up $25 per day – still a lot cheaper than the retail price.
The time frame the rental company allows for delivery of the vehicle can be as short as a few days, or sometimes as long as a few weeks. Also, the deals can pop up with just a few days notice, so you need to be prepared to jump on it.
If this sounds like an adventure you’d like to take on, check out some options: iMoova specializes in relocation deals, and Jucy often has deals of its own, as do Apollo and El Monte. All of these sites include rental options in Australia and New Zealand. In Europe, sites like Spaceships and Wicked Campers are good places to start.
Other costs to weigh
Even if you get a dollar-a-day deal, be sure to factor in other costs before pulling the trigger. Since the rental is only one-way, there will be other travel involved — either getting home from the end point, or getting out to the starting point.
Some companies renting RVs don’t care about the mileage you put on the vehicle, as long as you get it to its destination within the allotted time frame. But in other cases they may add mileage costs. That would be incentive to travel fairly directly from point A to B — and not go from Chicago to New York by way of Dallas.
Insurance is another wild card. Company policies vary, but generally they include some level of insurance embedded in the rental price with deductibles that start at about $1,000. Some companies offer supplemental policies to lower that deductible. If you want to go that route, check to see if your existing auto policy, or even your credit card, might already give you a deal.
Be sure to ask about fuel consumption. Some of the bigger RVs get as little as 6 miles to a gallon of gas, according to the Changin’ Gears RV blog, though smaller camper vans can be far more efficient. It can vary a lot, the blog notes:
RV fuel consumption is affected by vehicle weight, engine size, fuel type, driving habits, gear ratios, wind resistance, topography, and numerous other factors.
One of the great advantages of traveling by RV is that it provides relatively cheap lodging at campgrounds or RV parks — which typically charge modestly for the parking space, electrical hookups and water. Plus, RVs do come with a kitchen, so you can save money by cooking your own meals. You can have at least as many travelers as you have bunks — and the possibility of splitting the costs.
Have you ever gotten a cheap rental with a relocation deal? Let us know about the experience in the comments or on our Facebook page.