Woohoo! You've decided to visit the stunning province of British Columbia and are eager to get out and experience the breathtaking natural landscapes that you've seen in photos and videos. You've done enough research to know that you are going to need a vehicle and you've gasped at the price of accommodations so you are considering some alternatives. Perhaps you've been meandering along with me and are inspired to turn your road trip into a van life adventure. If renting a campervan or recreational vehicle is on your mind but you've never done it before, this post is intended to help you with making RV rental decisions in Vancouver so you will have the type of experience you've been dreaming about.
Camping is not everyone's cup of tea, especially rustic camping. Many of us who loved tent camping in our youth have discovered the ground is harder, the weather is more pervasive, and sleeping bags are a lot less comfy than they used to be. We know that our enjoyment is seriously impacted by discomfort and that is not how we want to spend our travel time. On the other hand, we still want to immerse ourselves in natural settings away from urban trappings. A recreational vehicle (RV) or campervan is a solution. If you're a traveller with a thirst for adventure, road-tripping through the stunning landscapes of British Columbia in a campervan or RV is an experience you won't want to miss. But if you've never rented a camping vehicle before, there are several essential factors to consider before you embark on your road trip. Here's a guide to help you plan your BC campervan or RV rental adventure starting from Vancouver.
Vancouver RV Rental Planning Decisions
The first step in planning your road trip is establishing your budget. Determine how much you're willing to spend on your campervan or RV rental, fuel, campground fees, and other expenses. Keep in mind that the type and size of the vehicle and the time of year will affect your overall costs. A mid-range RV daily rental generally costs about as much as most 3-star hotel rooms.
image: PDPics by Pixabay
If you plan to drop off the vehicle in a different location, there may be an additional cost. On the other hand, many companies with different city drop-offs need to get their vehicles back to their home station and offer significant discounts for those willing to work within the company's schedule (often quite short). Renting during the off-season results in significant savings.
Basic weekly rental costs will vary widely depending upon the vehicle and features included in the rental. Longer rentals often include discounts.
Type and Size of RV to Rent
When thinking about which RV would best suit you it is important to consider your experience with driving larger vehicles and your level of camping experience. Larger vehicles drive differently than passenger vehicles. None of these will be nimble but the smaller vehicles will drive more like your car at home. Travellers with less camping experience may prefer a camper with more home-like features and appliances.
Consider what amenities and features you need in your campervan or RV for the duration of your trip. Some essential features may include roadside assistance, a certain-sized bed, a toilet & shower system, off-grid power, cooking supplies, indoor seating, and outdoor equipment like an axe, mat, chairs, and shade solutions. When researching, check to see what's included in the package and what extras are available. Consider any mileage charges. Look for fuel consumption information. Choosing to use campground toilet/shower facilities will allow you to select a less-expensive vehicle.
In the RV world, there are 4 basic types. Consider the size and weight of the RV based on your comfort level and the terrain you'll be navigating. Remember that larger vehicles consume more fuel and can be more challenging to maneuver, especially on BC's mountain roads.
Class A vehicles are large all-in-one motorhomes. These include many more comforts and space. Larger vehicles include slide-out sections that further increase the interior space. You will have a bathroom and very likely a shower, plus seating/eating areas, well-equipped kitchen, and multiple sleeping areas. Many will include TVs, cell boosters, and other technology important to modern travellers. Class As will suit larger groups or families.
Class A vehicles are big and that means that you will be challenged finding parking in towns. Fuel and ferries will cost more, and smaller campgrounds may not be able to accommodate your size. You will need to deal with emptying black water (toilet) and grey water (shower/sink) tanks on longer trips.
Class B vehicles are well-suited for couples and singles. These are the campervan styles that many first think of when hearing the tag "van life". Most of these are minivans or cargo vans that have been converted to include some of the comforts of home. My campervan, Wanda, is a Class B converted cargo van.
Within this class is the greatest range of possibilities and prices from basic minivans with a bed in the back and limited camp kitchen equipment to luxuriously designed long-axled and high-roofed vans and rugged 4x4 Adventure vehicles.
Class C vehicles are the campers that sit on a truck chassis and have a cab bed over the driver's seat. Some are fairly humble while others can be very large and can accommodate 6-8 people. These tend to be most popular with families and groups.
image: Siggy Nowak - Pixabay
Travel Trailers are caravans pulled by a vehicle and come in many different sizes, layouts, and options. The biggest advantage to trailers is that the trailer can be unhitched and left at your campsite when you want to explore the area. There are few options for trailer rentals. Towing experience is required, if you are considering renting a trailer.
image; Paul Brennan - pixabay
Rent a Conversion Kit Another option, especially for the budget traveller, is to add a conversion kit to a regular minivan rental. I think this is a brilliant option. Travellers take their rental vehicle to the conversion company which will remove (and store) seats and install a bed frame and storage set-up for a very reasonable fee.
image: River Leaf Van Conversion
Most RV rental companies include basic insurance but will offer extra protection. Check with your car insurance company/credit car coverage to see if additional insurance is required or recommended. Some rental companies offer VIP or premium insurance packages for an extra charge.
A standard class 5 driver's license is required for most rentals. Drivers generally need to be between 21 and 75 years old. Overseas visitors should confirm whether an international license is required with your chosen rental company.
RV Rental Companies in Metro Vancouver
Choosing the right rental company is crucial. In Metro Vancouver, you can find campervans and RVs from commercial rental companies, RV dealers, and RV rental networks. Research the options available, read reviews, and consider factors like pickup locations, fees, and available amenities. An excellent resource that lists rental companies and other camper services throughout BC is the Camping RV BC interactive map found here. I have not personally rented from any of these companies, nor am I affiliated with any. I have rented from Wicked Campers in the UK and it was very professional. I have only included well-reviewed companies used by people I trust, but please do not consider this a definitive list of reliable companies.
Recreational Vehicle Rentals and Dealers
Fraser Way RV: Located in Delta and Abbotsford, they have a wide selection of vehicles and have good reviews from returning renters. I spoke to 3 different couples who rented from Fraser Way this past summer and all felt they had a good experience and would rent from the company again.
Canadream: One of the most popular options, based upon my observations travelling around, is a Class C rented from Canadream. All those I talked to were very pleased with their choice and the service they received. One of the points mentioned most often was the thorough orientation provided to all renters, ensuring confidence. The Vancouver location is in the suburb of North Delta.
Camper Van Rentals
These companies offer converted minivans friendlier to the budget with a simple and basic setup or the fancier, fully-equipped design. In the basic models, most of the interior space is devoted to a bed over ingeniously designed storage areas. The rear usually includes a kitchen set up with a portable camp stove and basic tools. More expensive and comfortable options are built into high-roof Sprinter or Transit vans which will include a more spacious interior and greater freedom of movement.
GetAVan: is a small family-owned company with two converted Sprinter vans and will soon be adding a vintage Volkswagen and an EV camper to their fleet. I peeked into one of their vehicles this summer and the quality of the build is superb.
Karma Campers: Known for their low off-season rates, they offer budget-friendly options. A seasoned international van life camper I met said it was the easiest rental experience he had based on renting similar vans in 5 other countries.
Wicked Camper: Known for their wildly (and sometimes risqué) painted vans, they offer both eccentric and more conventional paint options. Online reviews of the Vancouver location are mixed.
image: Wicked Campers
Conversion Kit Rentals
RentACamper Canada: This company offers conversion kits for rental minivans. Renters arrange their own rentals (they do have a recommended rental service that they work with but can fit their kits on vehicles from other companies). Once the kit is installed, these vans have similar setups to those from the campervan companies but at a much-reduced cost. The online reviews are excellent.
RV Rental Networks
RV rental networks are the RV equivalent of AirBnB. Owners put their vehicles up for rent on the platforms. I don't know anyone who has rented using one of these networks but I am including them as an option. As always, read reviews carefully and make sure you have all the insurance and support needed. The two most popular platforms recommended by the members of discussion groups I belong to are Outdoorsy and RVezy
With this guide in hand, I hope you are feeling ready to begin your campervan or RV road trip adventure in beautiful British Columbia. Whether you're exploring the coastal rainforests, majestic mountains, or charming towns, your road trip will be filled with unforgettable moments and breathtaking views. Don't forget to check out my road trip itineraries and explorations around BC.
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