Even if you are thinking about buying your own, hiring a campervan is a great way to set out on a road trip and get a taste for the lifestyle. Renting a camper van also lets you and your family try before you buy – and clock in some real-world experience while you’re saving up for your own.
Just be warned – you may not want to give it back once you return!
If you haven’t hired a camper van before, here are a few useful tips to consider:
1. Take stock of who will take part in your mini-adventure.
This sounds basic, but you need to know how many passengers your camper van can accommodate. Will your children join you? How about your dog?
Make sure when hiring a campervan that it has enough beds and seatbelts for everyone travelling with you. Will you have ample room for a dog to travel and sleep if needed? Not every rental company will allow dogs, so make sure you ask the question. Your pet could enjoy your camper van holiday just as much as you. After all, it’s much more fun than being left in kennels – and think how much you’ll save on fees.
Some camper vans only have only two rear seats equipped with seat belts. So, if you have three children, for instance, it might take you longer to find a rental of a camper van that will do the job. You might find camper vans that include three rear seats, a twin front passenger seat, or an extra single seat between the front and rear seat. Just note that sometimes a middle seat can get in the way when camping.
Rear seats in camper vans usually convert into a double bed. It’s possible to find a camper van that includes another double bed in the pop-up roof. But if there aren’t enough beds inside the camper, you can pack an awning or a small tent to go outside. In that case, just plan to bring a couple of camping mattresses, as needed. You can also check to see if your rental company hires equipment like this before you buy your own. (We’ll consider what else to take later in this blog.)
2. When hiring a campervan, know what vehicle it is that you’ll be getting.
Your idea of a camper van may vary from what the place you hire from has on offer, so it’s good to make sure you’re on the same page about that before you rent. It could be a Volkswagen with a pop-up roof, a high-roof van conversion – or a full motorhome. Make sure you understand the differences and get the vehicle that’s right for your trip.
For some folks, the dream camper van road trip might mean exploring the countryside in a classic VW camper van from the 1970’s. That’s understandable, and some companies do offer them for hire, but remember they are quite different from newer camper vans. You might not want to travel too far in one if you’re used to today’s cars, because frankly, they won’t have all the comfort and safety features you’re used to. Airbags, head restraints, rear seat belts – even crumple zones – are decidedly modern developments you will probably want to have along on your trip.
You and your travel companions will probably have a better experience if you rent something more recent. Most hire companies will change their rental models regularly, so you’re likely to be travelling in something quite new. If hiring a camper van direct from an owner (see next section for how to do this), then expect a wider variety of ages, conditions, and back-up support.
Say the words, “camper” and “van” – and for many people – a vision of a VW with an elevating roof may spring to mind. It’s no surprise then, that it’s a popular choice for rental fleets. One of the most popular camper vans used by rental companies these days is the Volkswagen California, however these have their drawbacks so before deciding on one make sure that it is right for you.
3. Find a rental service that suits your needs.
When it comes to camper van rentals, there’s more choice than ever – both in the UK and abroad.
There are specialist camper hire companies like Camper Vantastic, who have a fleet of new Volkswagen California and Grand California camper vans to select from. They are based in London, but if that’s not local to you, another one to consider is Bunk Campers, who have some pop-top VW campers to hire in England, Scotland, and Ireland. There are plenty of other independent camper van rental companies, many from motorhome dealers or local specialists – but not everyone has Volkswagen campers on their rental fleet.
When hiring a campervan, do you want to pick the camper van up and bring it home to pack or collect it from a point on your trip, or possibly abroad? If you want to leave a vehicle at the rental location while you’re away, check if that is possible – and secure.
Another interesting way to rent camper vans is through platforms like Camplify and goboony. They operate a bit like Airbnb, in that they put you in touch with camper van owners who hire their vehicles directly to members of the public. This could be a cheaper option as there will be a variety of types of camper vans, ages, and mileage available – and you’ll obviously need to check the situation with insurance.
Don’t forget that you can hire camper vans abroad if you want to fly somewhere further afield and pick one up locally. The world is your oyster (when there are not restrictions on travel), although VW campers aren’t available everywhere.
If you haven’t driven anything like the size of a camper van before, don’t worry too much. They really are designed to be easy to drive, are perfectly comfortable – and you may very quickly grow to love the better views a higher driving position affords you. Although VW camper vans are designed to fit under most height restrictions, it’s always important to stay aware of your vehicle’s total height wherever you travel.
4. Understand what’s included versus what you’re expected to bring.
We’ve heard about camper van rentals that come fully equipped with duvets, hampers of food and drink, guide books, and board games so that you can just jump in and go. That’s a real luxury! It’s far more likely that you’ll be expected to bring your own kit, or have them able to hire as an optional extra. Just make sure you know what’s included when you are looking at hiring a campervan as it varies from company to company.
If it’s your first camper van trip, here are some things you might want to check availability on:
- Satellite navigation
- Deck chairs
- Outside table
- Pots and pans
- Plates, cutlery, and cups
There are also some practical considerations, like levelling chocks, a mains hook-up lead (with a continental adapter if going abroad), a gas bottle, and maybe a bike rack or portable toilet. Don’t forget to bring mobile phone chargers and a bottle opener!
Will there be a full handover process where a hiring agent will show you how everything works? What is the current state of the engine oil and tires – and where is the tire jack and spare tire in case you need them? Having answers to these questions will be really handy. There might be a lot to remember, so ask if there’s anyone you can call if you have any daft questions or problems while you’re away.
5. Make sure you are adequately covered with an insurance plan.
It goes without saying that you’ll need fully comprehensive insurance and roadside assistance, and like renting any vehicle, always know what you’re covered for (and not) when you sign on the dotted line before hiring a campervan. If you’re taking the camper van abroad, you’ll definitely need to inform the rental company and have extra insurance cover.
But also consider what happens if any kit you’re borrowing is damaged or stolen. Are your electronic gadgets or other valuable items covered by any insurance policy while away from home?
6. Choose a great place to visit that works for your entire group.
Though it might feel a bit daunting for a first motorhome trip, planning is all part of the fun. So, where are you going to go and what type of campsite are you going to choose? Camper vans don’t usually have their own showers, so at some stage you’re probably going to need access to a campsite with facilities.
For campsites with facilities of a consistent standard, you can’t go wrong by joining the Camping and Caravanning Club or the Caravan and Motorhome Club, as both have a network of sites across the UK and a foreign travel service department to help if you’re heading further afield. If you want to do more planning and research, and you’re not a Club member, we’d recommend searching the following sites:
Cornwall and Scotland are probably two of the most popular destinations for a camper van road trip, but for more inspiration, check out our some of our top picks for taking a camper trip in 2021, or some recommendations from the camper van-loving YouTube channel, ‘A Bus and Beyond.’
7. Take some care packing.
Camper van holidays are usually very relaxed and informal, so pack your favourite comfy clothes and be prepared for all weathers. Obviously, there isn’t an endless amount of storage space in a camper van, so don’t take your whole wardrobe. Prioritise articles of clothing that are versatile and can be used in more than one situation. Smaller soft bags that can easily be stowed in the back are far better than bulky suitcases.
At the end of the day, hiring a campervan is a great way to get out of the house, take in some interesting sights, and relax with your friends or family. Hopefully, this article will have prepared you well.
Better yet, maybe it’s got you excited and thinking about your next adventure already. I know I can’t wait to get back out on the road.
Ready to hit the road?
Renting or hiring a camper provides a great taste of the camper life, and once you’ve had your first trip you might be eager to get back out on the road on a regular basis. If you’re looking to take the plunge and purchase your first camper take a look at the campers for sale through our network of trusted dealers nationwide.
Got a specific design or requirement? We can help you build the camper of your dreams from scratch. Our range of camper models are designed to cover all lifestyles, from adventure-seeking couples to growing families.
Get in touch with one of our van builders to discuss your options, and sign up to our newsletter to hear our latest offers.