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How To Rent an RV in Europe: Common Mistakes + 7 tips

In RV living by Christopher SchopfLeave a Comment

As an American, I’ve always dreamed of traveling Europe in an RV.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to bring my RV but figured I could rent one once I arrived there.

I began to wonder, would renting an RV in Europe be different than renting an RV in the States?  After some research, I found that renting an RV in Europe is indeed very different.

In this post, I’ll tell you how.

How to rent an RV in Europe:

  • Learn the different systems.
  • Consider learning to drive a manual transmission.
  • Consider starting in a country that drives on the right.
  • Plan your trip.
  • Find an RV that meets your needs and that has a built-in bathroom.
  • Rent in advance.
  • Get a GPS.

Typical European RVs

European RV Camper Van

RVs in Europe tend to be a little different than the ones you’d find over in the U.S.

Most motorhomes and campers will have cassette toilets built into them, so you won’t be able to just dump your waste out using a hose.  You won’t have a black water tank at all and your gray water and fresh water tanks may be smaller than what you’re used to.

Additionally, most European RVs will not have microwaves and large ovens built into them.  They will usually have a stove, however, so you’ll still be able to cook in the RV.

They are smaller!

European RVs are typically A LOT smaller than most of the RVs you’d find in the United States.

You may not have as much space in an RV you rent in Europe but you will have everything you need.

The advantage of all of this is that you’ll get great gas mileage.

European RVs are usually lightweight and fuel-efficient.  These RVs take diesel fuel and you won’t ever have trouble finding a gas station that sells diesel.

Additionally, cassette toilets are easy to empty and you can often dump them out for free at gas stations and rest areas.  You won’t have to manage a black water tank either.

One other aspect to keep in mind when renting an RV in Europe is that it will most likely have a manual transmission.  If you don’t know how to drive a stick shift, you’ll want to learn before you head out on your journey.  Learning how to operate a manual transmission while driving in a foreign country is not a good idea.

If you’ve never been to Europe, you may not be aware of this but different European countries drive on different sides of the road.  As a U.S. citizen, I always thought that all of Europe drove on the left side of the road.

However, most European countries actually drive on the same side of the road that we do.  Some notable exceptions are Great Britain and former British colonies.

Start your journey off in a country that drives on the same side of the road as your home country and the steering wheel will be on the side that you’re used to.

Planning Your European RV Trip

Before you decide to rent an RV to explore Europe, you’ll want to have a good sense of where you’ll be taking the RV.

This will allow you to plan out how many days you’ll need the RV and how many miles you’ll be driving in it. Most rental companies will charge by the day and some will charge you an additional fee based off of how many miles you drive in it.

The wonderful aspect of exploring Europe is that you can see many different countries without having to drive very far. 

The amount of miles you’d have to drive to explore all of Europe is less than what it might take an Easterner to visit the West Coast.

RV Recommendations

The first recommendation I can give you is to make sure you choose an RV that has a toilet inside of it.

Remember, you’ll be in a foreign country and you may not always be able to easily communicate with the locals.  Finding a restroom in this type of situation can often be challenging and you’ll be glad you have one of your own to use while on your trip.

Another recommendation is to choose the smallest RV you can.

Many of Europe’s roads are smaller than what you’d find in the U.S.  The larger your RV is, the harder it will be for you to navigate these roads. 

Getting stuck on a road you’re familiar with is bad, but getting stuck on a road in a foreign country is even worse.  Rent a small motorhome and you’re less likely to get stuck.

One other thought to keep in mind is that European RV rentals rarely come standard with linens and toiletries.  You can rent these items at a premium or you can buy them before you head out.  In most cases, you’ll find that it is actually more economical to simply buy your own toiletries and linens and throw them out or donate them at the end of your trip.  This will be especially true on longer trips where daily linen rentals can really add up.

Once, you’ve found an RV that meets your needs, you’ll want to rent it out in advance.

It would be a sad trip if you arrived at your destination only to find that they did not have an RV for you to rent.  Reserve your RV rental in advance and you won’t have to worry about being disappointed when you get there.

While you’re renting your RV, you’ll want to make sure you rent a GPS as well.  Alternatively, you can buy additional maps for your current GPS system or you can buy one in Europe.  In fact, buying your own GPS to bring with you may be a more economical choice.

How Much Does It Cost to Rent an RV in Europe?

The cost of renting an RV in Europe will vary depending on the place you rent it from, the size of the RV, and the amount of time you’ll need it for.  Here are a few examples for you to get a feel of what renting an RV in Europe might cost.

  • Example 1 – The Urban Plus Cliff 540
    This motorhome is a Class B motorhome and it is 17 feet long.  It seats four people and has two beds.  During peak season you can rent this in Berlin for 127 Euros.  At today’s exchange rate, this works out to about $145.00 a day.
  • Example 2 – The Family Standard – T 67
    This motorhome is a Class B motorhome and is 24 feet long.  It seats four and has four beds.  You could rent this in Iceland during peak season for 406 Euros which works out to about $463.00 a day.
  • Example 3 – The Family Plus – Trend A
    This motorhome is a Class C motorhome and it is 21 feet long.  It seats six people and has six beds.  You can pick this up in London, England for 123 GBP during peak season.  This works out to about $155.00 a day.

As you can see, the prices can range dramatically based off where you pick your RV up and what size RV you pick up.

Luckily, people traveling through multiple countries can choose which location to rent their RV from.  Rent from a less expensive country and you could end up saving hundreds of dollars a day.

Returning Your RV

There are a few companies that will pick up your RV no matter where your trip has ended.

However, many companies will need you to drop your RV off at the same location you’ve picked it up.  Make arrangements in advance so that you’ll be back at the rental company long before your RV is due back.

My recommendation is to plan to explore the city you pick up the RV in at the end of your trip.  This way, if it takes you longer to get back than you imagined, you’ll still have some extra time built in.

Additional Tips about RVing in Europe:

  1. RVs are called motorhomes or campers in Europe.  They may also be called caravans but you probably won’t hear anyone refer to them as RVs.
  2. Make sure you’re legally allowed to drive in each country you’ll be visiting.  Some countries will accept international driver’s permits and others will want you to get a license once you’re there.
  3. You can stay in campgrounds for free in much of Germany and France.  Do a little research and you could save thousands of dollars in campground fees.
  4. ATM machines are not as readily available in some European countries and toll roads can be very expensive.  Make sure you have enough cash on you to cover any toll roads you plan on navigating.
  5. Don’t try to see everything in one short trip.  Unless you really enjoy driving, you’re better off keeping your drive short and staying longer at each location.
  6. 24-hour convenience stores and fast food restaurants are not normal for every country.  Be aware of this and plan your meals accordingly.
  7. Get out and meet other RVers.  You’ll learn new things and you’ll make new friends.

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