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  1. #1


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    We are planning to tour North America this autumn and would very much like to rent a small camper van (or a van equipped with a bed as a minimum) if at all possible.

    Googling suggests that there are not many companies in North America offering small, basic vans; however, we have found two possibilities: one with depots in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas, the other in Portland Oregon.

    Are such vans available elsewhere (for example, in Toronto or New York, we where will be visiting family)? If so, how do we track them down?

    Any advice would be welcome!

  2. #2


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    How small?

    VW bus ? Or bigger?

    Owasco

    I think it'll be hard to find something smaller then that.

  3. #3
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    I don't know if these are too big, but you might want to google RV Rentals NY (or NJ). For example I found this company, Cruise America. The compact size sleeps three.

    This company has Type B Motorhomes, which are like vans: RV Rentals of America and looks like it has multiple locations for pickup too.

  4. #4


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    Many thanks, Nick and Kim, for your replies and for the links. These have been very helpful to compare with the websites we had found previously. Thanks also for pointing out that what we want is probably called a "Class B". This is very helpful when looking for quotes.

    How small? Our starting point is to say: "like a VW eurovan" (which is what we own in the UK), but obviously we can be flexible. We would like a van that is as easy to drive as a car and can be driven anywhere a car can and does as many miles per gallon as possible (since we shall be covering a lot of miles). We would also strongly prefer a sliding side door and as much window space as possible ... we feel that most larger vans tend to be too closed in and would cut us off from the world outside.

    So far as the equipment of the van is concerned our requirements are very basic. Our ideal would be to drive in a car and sleep in our little tent, but ageing joints rule that out. So all we want is a van with a bed and a small stove and some kind of refrigerator or cool box.

    After researching the links you have suggested the conclusion that we are coming to is that, although Toronto and New York are the obvious places to think of starting our big road trip because we shall be visiting relatives in those cities, we shall choose to rent from the California company that I mentioned. This company supplies more basic vans (based on Chevy Astro or Ford E150) at a much lower rental (especially when mileage charges are added in). So, although it will cost us more to fly across the continent in order to pick up the van, it seems that the extra air fares will be easily offset by savings on the van rental.

  5. #5


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    Have you googled "Campervan rentals"? I did and found a number of sites, including one in San Francisco that rents VW Westfalia.
    Bill

  6. #6


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    Thanks for the suggestion, Bill. I thought I had googled for every possible combination of relevant words but obviously not that one! I can see a couple of interesting sites which I will now investigate.

  7. #7


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    Originally posted by WSB:
    We would like a van that is as easy to drive as a car and can be driven anywhere a car can and does as many miles per gallon as possible (since we shall be covering a lot of miles).
    A couple of things.

    Remember a good North American MPG is fair bit worse then you're used to . So you might want to look up the MPG and spend some time figuring out actual fuel costs.

    The other thing unless you're driving into the downtown areas of big cities I wouldn't worry too much about the size (with in reason) Most North American roads are built so a large truck and trailer can handle things without any issues.

  8. #8


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    Thanks for the advice about mpg. The Chevy Astro and Ford E150 are said (by the renter) to do about 22 mpg, which is similar to what we get in our VW van. They say gas is currently around $3 per gallon. On my very rough calculations that would amount to $1,700 for 12,500 miles (which is approximately the distance we covered on our round trip of the States in the 1970s).

    unless you're driving into the downtown areas of big cities I wouldn't worry too much about the size
    We were thinking more about forest tracks and small forest campsites than cities! When we toured the states in the 1970s some of our best camping was in very small sites deep in forests ... we were in a "compact" car (Dodge Aspen) and managed fine, but some motorhomes might not have managed the small tracks.

    Another possibility has occurred to us ... since we are already thinking of a very basic minivan with a bed installed, why not consider a car which is large enough, and which has seats that fold flat enough, to allow us to sleep in the back? In the UK we would be looking at "people carriers" or "estate cars" (for example, from Volvo). What would such cars be called in America?

  9. #9
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    They say gas is currently around $3 per gallon
    Up that, we're approaching $4, if not over, most everywhere.

  10. #10


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    Originally posted by WSB:


    We were thinking more about forest tracks and small forest campsites than cities!

    Another possibility has occurred to us ... since we are already thinking of a very basic minivan with a bed installed, why not consider a car which is large enough, and which has seats that fold flat enough, to allow us to sleep in the back? In the UK we would be looking at "people carriers" or "estate cars" (for example, from Volvo). What would such cars be called in America?
    Estate car is a station wagon.

    People carrier? MPV? That's a mini van.

    I'd see if somebody is renting a midsized SUV 4x4. A Jeep Cherokee will handle those forest tracks sun/rain or worse. Fold the back seats down the back should be big enough unless you're really tall.

  11. #11


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    In Arizona gas is about $3.60 and up...there is a website and app that is called gasbuddy.com if you put in either the city or zipcode it will tell you where the cheapest gas/diesel is near you....there is also a US Forrest campground website that might be helpful...unfortunately I can not remember the exact name...but I think if you google it you will find it...

  12. #12


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    Thanks for the advice everyone. Clearly, we'll have to talk nicely to the bank manager about the funds we'll need to buy all the gas. (Although, to be serious, it is of course a fraction of the cost here in the UK ... I reckon 1.40 per litre equates to about $8.75 per US gallon!)

    We're still trying to work out what vehicle will suit us best, but we're tending to favour the Los Angeles company with its basic minivan conversion.

    We've realised that a significant issue is the cost of CDW/SLI. The renter is only able to offer a daily rate multiplied by the number of days. There is no annual or long-term deal on offer. There are companies in the UK that offer annual cover for rentals worldwide including North America; the price equates to about 15 times the daily rate, so would be very attractive for our long-term rental, but their terms seem to exclude all types of camper van and SUV. So it seems we're stuck with the renter's terms.

  13. #13


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    There are companies in the UK that offer annual cover for rentals worldwide including North America; the price equates to about 15 times the daily rate, so would be very attractive for our long-term rental, but their terms seem to exclude all types of camper van and SUV. So it seems we're stuck with the renter's terms.
    If you have (or can get) an American Express card, you might be able to get their premium rental vehicle coverage. I did that for our van rental in Europe last fall and it saved me a lot of money and covered our 9 passenger van.

    It was only about $25 PER RENTAL but there are limitation on time of rental I think....maybe 30 days max. There are probably some other limitations also, but I don't recall.
    Bill

  14. #14


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    Originally posted by WSB:
    Thanks for the advice everyone. Clearly, we'll have to talk nicely to the bank manager about the funds we'll need to buy all the gas. (Although, to be serious, it is of course a fraction of the cost here in the UK ... I reckon 1.40 per litre equates to about $8.75 per US gallon!)
    .
    Cdn gas prices will almost make you feel at home

    Toronto gas

  15. #15
    Carefully check out the rental policy for all the fees -- cleaning, emptying any tanks, additional gear, etc.

    And especially any relating to mileage.

    Someone I know looked into this with one of the companies mentioned above. There was a PER MILE fee above a small included mileage package. And for him the cost was prohibitive.

    The way he figured it, the only way it would make sense was if you rented the camper, drove it a short distance (like to a lake 100 miles from your house) used it as an alternative to a $200 hotel room, then drove it back at the end of the summer. Which is what some people do, and are blissfully happy.

    But if you drove it thousands of miles around the country thinking it was included -- bad surprise at the end of trip. So just make sure what you are paying for.

  16. #16


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    Thanks, BlueHour.

    The company which we are now thinking of using (in Los Angeles) seems to be good on these grounds ... "no preparation fee" ... "no charge for kitchen and living equipment" ... "no unexpected surprises before or after your camper holiday" ... "no hidden costs". Also we have the recommendation of our daughter and son-in-law who rented from the parent company in New Zealand.

    They provide unlimited mileage for 19 per day extra.

  17. #17
    Oh good!

    Sometimes it is difficult to get answers, or difficult to even know the questions to ask! I have never gone camper-camping, so I know I would never know where to begin.

    On the plus side, I have heard predictions that gas prices are leveling off and may fall a bit soon.

    At any rate, enjoy your holiday.

  18. #18


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    Feedback following our autumn trip:

    In the end we rented from a small company in Portland Oregon a VW camper similar to the one we own in the UK. Most importantly for our aging backs it had a rising roof, unlike the vans we had found in Los Angeles. It had been converted by Winnebago and was fitted with the basic necessities (fridge, cooker, sink, etc.) The rent (for late September to mid November) was $100 per day with unlimited mileage included but insurance $17 per day extra. We had, as recommended above, checked that there would be no hidden charges. The renters were generally pretty laid back (we imagine this is not unusual in Portland), but sadly this did not extend to understanding our point of view when we asked for a reduction in the rental for time that we lost as a result of mechanical problems

    Portland was a good place to start and end our tour, since we were well set at the start to head for the Rocky Mountain parks (from Jasper down to Grand Teton) before winter set in, and after a wonderful two weeks in Utah we ended with a glorious drive in good November weather up the northern California and Oregon coast.

    We had a glorious time. North America is truly great for camping. The van suited us well on the whole. We were not at all envious of the many large RVs we saw, although we did notice some vans based on more rugged 4-wheel drive vehicles ... mostly pick-ups with camping units fitted on the back. Next time perhaps? There are very many dirt roads in the western States, some of them quite rough, and we would have liked to have the freedom to explore some of them.

    Our daughter and son-in-law are now planning a similar trip in California this summer.

  19. #19
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    Thanks for the update, WSB, and so glad to hear that everything worked out (relatively) well. (About) how many miles did you put on each day?

  20. #20


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    Thanks for the report WSB
    Bill

  21. #21


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    how many miles did you put on each day
    We did much less mileage than we expected, not reaching Arizona or southern California. About 7,000 miles in 50 days ... so an average of 140 miles per day.

    Trip report

  22. #22
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    That's not too shabby. The Western US is very big and spread out, so points on the map can be deceiving.

  23. #23
    Can you share which company you rented your VW camper from? I am planning a trip in that area and looking for a VW rental. Thanks.


    Originally posted by WSB:
    Feedback following our autumn trip:

    In the end we rented from a small company in Portland Oregon a VW camper similar to the one we own in the UK. Most importantly for our aging backs it had a rising roof, unlike the vans we had found in Los Angeles. It had been converted by Winnebago and was fitted with the basic necessities (fridge, cooker, sink, etc.) The rent (for late September to mid November) was $100 per day with unlimited mileage included but insurance $17 per day extra.

  24. #24


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    Sorry for the delay in replying. We've been away (in our own campervan) and it's difficult to keep up with emails in France.

    The company was Road Trip Oregon.

    Here is our our trip report

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