Thinking back to my very first RV trip as an adult, I remember fear. I had been traveling with my family for a long time as a passenger, but the thought of commanding a 30-foot rental RV by myself sent a chill down my spine.
RVs are just so… monstrous. How was I going to maneuver this gas-guzzling beast through the streets of downtown Denver?
Aside from a few nicks, dings and scratches (and a constantly clogged toilet) I made it through my first trip unscathed. It helped that I was traveling with 5 of my best friends who lent “encouragement” (i.e. mercilessly made fun of me) each time I got behind the wheel.
I persevered through the experience and will forever have memories of that trip. However, looking back years later I now know there may have been an easier and less costly option than shelling out close to $5,000 in rental fees, insurance, gas and supplies for a 10-day road trip.
What am I talking about? The Class B RV Rental.
Today, we’ll take a look into why I think the Class B RV offers the least stress, greatest flexibility and overall best experience for the new RVer.
Click HERE to jump right to our recommendations of the best place to find Class B RV rentals!
The Basics: What Is a Class B RV Rental?
The Class B RV (also know as a “campervan”) is a small truck or van-like vehicle that offers both transport and sleeping capabilities. As one of the smaller types of RV’s, these vans closely resemble a mini-bus or delivery truck rather than a typical motorhome. Similar to other classes of RVs, there is typically no barrier between the cab where the driver sits and the living portion of the vehicle.
Due to its small size, the Class B RV can house 2 people – making it ideal for couples or close friends who are comfortable enough to share a close space (if you are shacking up with a farter … watch out!). Class B RVs typically come equipped with a raised sleeping area in the back that can fit a full or queen-size bed, a small kitchen and a two-burner gas hob.
Larger models, which can be made from delivery or postal trucks, may feature a water heater for a small shower, space heating and a portable toilet. Some models can be equipped with a porta-potty toilet and sometimes an external shower which operates with the privacy of a campervan awning.
One of the defining features of the Class B RV is the raised roof, which allows space for stand. This may not seem like a big deal at first blush, but it gives the campervan a more home-like feeling then simply traveling in a passenger vehicle.
Class B vs Class C: The Debate
You will find split opinions amongst RVers on the Class B vs Class C debate. Just like some people prefer GMC’s over Jeeps or Miller over Bud, there is a lot of “model loyalty” when it comes to RVs.
Most traditional RV rentals are Class C motorhomes. The Class C is your “traditional” motorhome that most first-time RVers think about when looking to rent an RV. Driving similar to a large SUV or pickup truck, the Class C is a popular choice for a rental for its ample sleeping capacity and relatively straightforward navigation on open roads.
Despite their many advantages, many beginners find Class Cs intimidating and don’t know where to begin with the accessories and features necessary to operate these sizable rigs. Some of the drawbacks of the Class C RV are:
- Intimidating size
- Difficult to drive in urban areas
- Cumbersome to park
- Variety of buttons, switches and devices that need to be learned
- Dumping sewage
- High costs of fuel
You will need to be ready to wrangle with many of these issues while renting a Class C RV. On my first RV trip I experienced issues with clogged toilets, numerous failed attempts at parking in downtown areas, overheating and a few other minor issues that cost us both time and energy.
This is not to say that Class C RVs are not a great rental option. The Class C is a great option for families and those looking to travel with a larger group of friends, It may take some time, but you will get the hang of the many idiosyncrasies that you will face that are not typical in your family automobile.
The big takeaway: expect a learning curve with the Class C RV. It will take some time to learn how to drive and how to properly use all the features and functions in this sizable rig.
If you are planning a trip for more than a week prepare to face some level of issues. All you have to do is look at the reviews on any RV rental website to find all sorts of problems people encounter in their class C’s. If you are prepared and in the right mindframe to handle hiccups along the way, the Class C is an amazing option.
The Class B RV Rental: Function and Flexibility at Affordable Cost
Until recently, the Class B vs Class C debate for rentals was non-existent. Why? Because Class B RV rentals have only become a “thing” in the past few yeas with the rise in popularity of campervans.
If you went into a RV rental agency and asked for a campervan you may get a cross-eyed look (at best) or laughed out of the joint (at worst). However, as #Vanlife has risen in popularity with over 9 million hashtags on Instagram at the time of this post, rental companies and peer-to-peer sites have jumped on the Class B RV rental craze.
Why has the Class B RV rental become such a hot commodity in the RV rental market?
- Similar feel to a car makes for easy drivability for beginners
- Offers many of the same amenities as larger motorcoaches
- Less maintenance and things to know
- Better gas mileage than other motorhomes
- Class B RV rentals are COOL!
Let’s take a little deeper dive into why Class B RV rentals are becoming more popular:
Class Bs Drive Like a Car
Unlike the Class As and Class Cs that can be sluggish and awkward to maneuver (have you ever tried driving a Class C over 55mph?), the Class B RV drives just like (dare I say?) … a car. Built on a van-body, the Class Bs will feel familiar to beginner RVers as they drive very similarly to a car or van and are easy to maneuver on any type of road.
The biggest advantage? You guessed it … parking! You can park your Class B RV rental at campsites or urban shopping centers without much hassle. We’re not saying to try parallel parking your campervan at your local WholeFoods (are you out of your mind?) but you can easily access spaces that any truck or large SUV can pull into.
Feeling comfortable on your trip can give you peace of mind and take away much of the anxiety of your first RV trip. Once you feel like you mastered the Class B RV, you should have the confidence to graduate to larger models.
Modern Class B RV Rentals Offer Wide Range of Amenities
Historically there has been a large gap in the amenities package when you jump from a Class C RV to a Campervan – but that gap is closing. With more and more young people taking to the road, the very idea of what a campervan can be has been re-imagined to fit the needs of a new generation of travelers.
Campervans are typically “fitted-out” (customized) from the body of a van. Amenities in campervans are similar, but significantly smaller, to those you would expect in other types RVs. These can include a queen-size bed, a kitchen with a cooktop, a microwave, a small fridge, a sink and sometimes a small oven. Some also include small bathrooms with either a toilet or toilet/shower combo.
Other modern additions found on customized campervans include tanks for drinkable freshwater, propane, and wastewater. These vehicles can also feature stand-alone heat and air conditioning systems for comfort. Other add-ons that may be available include generators for additional power, awnings for outdoor shade and solar panels.
For the adventurous type, Class B RVs can offer top-of-van luggage or equipment carriers for items like suitcases, bikes, surfboards or kayaks. With pop-up tops (pictured above) travelers have even more head and storage space to make your van feel more like home.
Mo’ Vehicle, Mo’ Problems
Do you know how to empty a black water (sewage) tank? How about fixing a roof leak? Have your tires ever melted on a hot day? These are all issues that you may encounter when renting a larger Class A or Class C RV rental.
The size, weight and functionality of larger RVs models makes them susceptible to all sorts of minor malfunctions on the road. While most are not of a serious nature, the last thing you want to do while spending a week on the road is wasting a day having an RV repaired.
Class B RV rentals aren’t perfect, but they are much more reliable and easily maintained than Class A and Class C RV rentals. The lack of amenities like central plumbing and A/C in Class Bs means there is less weight in the vehicle and less appliances where something can go wrong.
The truth is that sometimes that Class C RV can just be too much. Too much vehicle. Too much to think about. To much stress. For those who just want to get out and hit the road without any additional hassle, the Class B will be your best option.
Better Gas Mileage than Class A or Class C RVs
A huge consideration when considering an RV camper rental is cost. While RV vacations can be more economical than an average hotel vacation, costs and hidden fees can add up very quickly on any class of RV. It’s critical to look for places to save money on your RV trip wherever you can.
While it’s hard to compare rental costs of different classes of RVs due to the wide range in amenities, one thing you can compare is cost of fuel. Below is a handy chart to help understand the fuel capabilities and requirements of each class of RV.
Average Gas Mileage by Class of RV
|Class||Class A||Class B||Class C|
|Average Miles Per Gallon||8-13||18-20||10-15|
|Average Tank Size||80-150 gallons||25 gallons||40-80 gallons|
Let’s take a look at a simple equation on cost:
You rent a Class C RV that gets 12 miles per gallon at an average of $3.00 per gallon. If you travel 500 miles, you will use 42 gallons of fuel on your trip. 42 x $3.00 = Class C total fuel cost of $126.
You rent a Class B RV that gets 20 miles per gallon at an average of $3.00 per gallon. If you travel 500 miles, you will use 25 gallons of fuel on your trip. 25 x. $3.00 = Class B total fuel cost of $75.
Under this common scenario, you would save $51 on from a Class B RV rental compared to a Class C RV rental. That’s a whole lotta hamburgers and hot dogs for the grill!
Class B RVs are COOL
For many of us, the Class B RV reminds us of Scooby Doo “mystery mobile” (where exactly was all that smoke coming from?) For others, we conjure up romantic images of a VW bus camper from the 70’s complete with hippies gently strumming guitars while sipping oolong tea.
The Class B RV or “van life” community has its own unique culture separate and apart from all other classes of RVs. Currently, there are over 9.1 million hashtags for #vanlife on Instagram. Campervan cultural is defined by freedom, youthfulness and desire to live life on one’s own terms.
The “van life” community is a fast-growing segment of the American population that has chosen to sell or store their belongings and move into a campervan. The campervan culture is all about traveling the globe, with some people working remotely or others just doing it for the experience.
Van-lifers will often park their van in public or private campgrounds or in free campsites on public lands.
Due to the affordability, maneuverability and freeing lifestyle that the campervan offers, campervan’ers tend to significantly younger than other classes of RVers. Mostly, this may be due to the relatively affordability of campervans, but also the ability for younger people to live in small, cramped spaces without being overly bothered.
That doesn’t mean that RV camper rentals are limited to the younger generation. In fact, former British tennis star Annabel Croft, who was at one time the #1 ranked women’s tennis player in Great Britain, has dedicated her time to fitting out an old parcel truck which she is turning into a state-of-the-art campervan.
Drawbacks Of The RV Camper Rental
There are tons of compelling reason opt for the Class B RV rental. That said, it’s not all sunshine and unicorns when you trade in flexibility for comfort. Here are some of the few drawbacks to the Class B that you will encounter:
The fact is: you will be living out of a van. There is room for a driver, passenger, small storage and kitchen amenities and a bed. You better make sure that you absolutely ADORE the person you are traveling with as you will be sharing personal space for the duration of your trip.
Go small or go home.
Forget trying to cram in any more than 3 people in your campervan – it’s not going to happen. The freedom and flexibility of the Class B RV rental allows you to travel all around the country on a small budget, but even for minimalists it can feel very claustrophobic after a week on the road.
No shower. No toilet. No heat … no problem? When you choose to travel in a Class B RV rental you are choosing to forego the modern comforts that you are used to at home. While the idea of traveling with no strings attached is romantic, you must be comfortable with the idea of using public bathrooms and showers for all your needs.
A lack of storage in the Class B RV rental can be liberating … or it can be crippling. You will find you need to stop much more often to stock up on essentials like food, toilet papers, and other essentials that you simply won’t have space for. It can be a great revelation to learn just how little you really do need to survive, but there will be a point where the lack of modern conveniences will leave you questioning: is this really worth it?
Best Places to Get Your Class B RV Rental
[BeginRV does not earn commission or payment from any of the below companies]
While Class B RV rentals are still not the industry standard RV rental, it’s becoming more and more common to locate these model of RVs rentals. At this moment, you’ll have an easier time finding a RV camper rental at a peer-to-peer rental site like Outdoorsy or RVShare than you will at a traditional RV rental company, but the number of campervan rental agencies are growing.
Below, we’ll explore a few options for your Class B RV Rental.
Escape Campervans is the largest Class B RV rental company in North America. With twelve rental locations in the US and Canada (mostly West Coast) Escape Campersvans maintains more than 600 custom-built campervans in their extensive fleet.
Escape Campervans come fully decked out with:
- Queen (or double) sized bed
- Foldaway in-van table + benches
- 2-burner propane stove
- Dual-powered refrigerator
- 5-gallon water tank + sink
- Aux + Bluetooth capabilities
- Drawers for extra storage space
- Optional rooftop sleeper
The cool part? Each van is hand-painted by top artists in Los Angeles making you look dope as hell while traveling on the road.
Outdoorsy is one of the leaders in the peer-to-peer rental market. Peer-to-peer rentals are where you rent directly from the RV owner. Just like Airbnb’s website for overnight stays, peer-to-peer rental websites provide an easy platform to choose from hundreds of RV rentals.
Outdoorsy’s attractive combination of selection, price and customer service make it a top choice for Class B RV rentals. The easy-to-navigate website and straightforward booking process make the rental process seamless from start to finish. In addition to a wide selection of RVs, many Outdoorsy owners offer convenient straight-to-your-door delivery for a small fee.
RVShare is the largest online peer-to-peer RV rental site. Just like Outdoorsy, RVShare Class B RV rentals come with convenient offerings including vehicle drop-off, comprehensive insurance, 24/7 roadside assistance and emergency supply delivery.
If you live or are visiting the Los Angeles or San Francisco regions, Lost Campers specializes in high-end campervan rentals. Family owned since 2007, Lost Campers offers:
- unlimited mileage
- free bedding, free kitchen kits, free basic camping equipment (camping stove etc.).
- 24 hour roadside assistance.
- Flexible pickup times.
Lost Campers is a great West Coast alternative and is more like your traditional brick-and-mortar RV rental agency. With a 4.9 star-rating from 279 users on Google, users rave about the easy-to-use online booking, contactless pickup and the high spec vans. As a fun touch, all van rentals are given a special name (“Jentastic” is our favorite!)
Final Word on Class B RV Rentals
Staring up at the beast of the Class C RV I rented a decade ago I thought to myself: how did I get into this mess? Luckily, my first RV trip as an adult didn’t end in disaster, but it definitely wasn’t the easiest.
With the modern day tech, amenities and comfort that campervans offer, I strongly believe that the Class B is the best introduction to RVing for beginners. The Campervan offers the freedom and flexibility to explore the country in an affordable and stress-free manner.
As you get more comfortable with the ins and outs of life on the road, you can ease into the larger Class C or Class A RV models. The larger models offer great advantages for families, large groups or for those who want to take comforts of home on the road.
What I don’t want is for you to go too big, too soon and sour on the entire RV lifestyle because of a bad experience on your first RV trip.
Hope you enjoyed learning a bit about the Class B RV rental experience. We encourage our readers to share comments, questions or general flights of fancy with us.
Thanks for joining. Stay safe. Stay strong. And, as always …