What To Look For
Comfort and convenience should be your primary concerns when choosing a vehicle. Comfort, in the sense that you need to make sure you have enough space not only for travelers but their luggage and supplies. Convenience in the sense that the first two days of your vacation is not the time to learn how to drive a bus-size RV or how to back up with a trailer.
Going small to cut costs is an easy mistake to make. Remember, a four-person RV or camper really only sleeps four if those people are on very good terms with each other, and you still need to find room for food, camping gear and other supplies. A four-person RV can be fine for a couple and two children, but it gets a bit cozy with four fully-grown adults.
Always test out the beds before you rent. At least one bed in an RV is bound to be a pull-out or fold-out, so the person who will be using that bed should get a chance to decide if it is acceptable.
Where To Buy
Cruise America is the biggest single RV renter in North America and they have facilities all over the country. They also service and sell RVs new and used. If you are planning on renting an RV, this is an excellent place to start. Local RV dealers may also rent vehicles on an independent basis.
Camper rentals are less popular. Cruise America rents one size of camper, 25 feet long, but is less available than RV models. Local camper dealers may rent, and a website such as GetRV.com is a useful tool for locating one.
RV rentals charge for mileage, to offset engine wear and tear, in addition to you paying for the fuel. In that sense, camper rentals are cheaper in both ways, in initial cost and aggregate cost.
In 2010, a seven-night RV rental from Cruise America was $483 for a compact RV (19 feet), $553 for a standard RV (23-25 feet) and $623 for a large RV (28 to 30 feet). This reflects only the rental cost, not mileage, deposit, etc. The mileage estimate for a week rental was $224.
For camper rentals through GetRV.com, which finds local rentals based on your location, the daily rate of a 22-foot camper with a single slide was $71. The daily rate for a 32-foot trailer with a double slide was $105. These are rental rates only and do not reflect any extras.
If you don't own a vehicle capable of hauling a trailer, then generally an RV rental makes the most sense.
Campers can be inconvenient to haul, particularly if you are not experienced driving with a trailer, so they should be your focus only if you plan to camp in a particular location for an extended period or if you have a hauling vehicle and are looking to save some money.