If you’ve searched online for an RV rental lately, there’s little doubt you’ve come across a number of RV “sharing” websites offering owner-direct RV rentals. The concept is similar to AirBnB in that owners make their RVs available for public rental through a third-party platform which handles listings, reservations, payment and insurance — billing itself as an RV rental marketplace. Although it sounds nice and easy, these platforms pose tremendous risk for RV renters and owners alike.
Not What They Appear to Be
Consumers are drawn to these platforms because they appear to offer a seemingly inexpensive way to enjoy an RV vacation. At first glance, their advertised daily rates appear to be a bit lower than that of traditional RV providers, but this doesn’t include unlisted fees for cleaning, delivery, outfitting and more. Tack these on to the daily rate, and RV sharing sites are no less expensive than reputable RV rental providers. One of the most common complaints with RV sharing sites is about unscrupulous RV owners jacking up the rate once the rental customer arrives to pick up their vehicle.
It’s important for travelers to remember that RV sharing platforms are not in the RV business at all. Instead, they’re basically run-of-the-mill tech companies that simply host databases. Besides taking their 25% commission, all they do is connect renters with RV owners and process payments. Ensuring that renters have a positive experience falls somewhere else down the line.
Putting Vacations in Jeopardy
Unlike professional RV rental companies who operate and maintain their fleets of vehicles, RV sharing sites do not maintain any standard of quality, safety, maintenance or cleanliness. Since they don’t have any control over the vehicles listed on their sites, critical details like proper maintenance, safety inspections, pre-rental walkthroughs and sufficient insurance are left entirely up to the owner. Travelers are left to roll the dice, putting their vacations in the hands of random strangers who may, or may not, be trustworthy. That’s not to say there aren’t some well-intentioned owners out there, but without any safety and maintenance oversight, it really is a crapshoot.
In fact, we get more than a dozen calls each week from renters who booked their trips through an RV sharing site, only to have their vacations ruined by unscrupulous owners who posted grossly inaccurate listings, renting them run-down and unsafe motorhomes that don’t work properly.
In the worst-case scenarios, owners wouldn’t provide pick-up locations for their RVs, even after their rental fee had already been paid, forcing renters to reschedule their vacation plans at the last minute. Instead of the excitement of getting out on the road, these renters had to source another RV to save their trip and then try to recoup their lost money through the sharing site’s nearly impossible-to-reach customer service.
Unfortunately, because these companies have no process to verify the accuracy of their listings or for vetting an RV’s condition, ownership, location or existence, RV sharing sites have become a haven for fraud and criminal activity. Fortunately, we’ve been able to provide happy endings for many of these travelers’ RV rental horror stories. But not everyone is so lucky.
Brokedown and Stranded
Even when rental customers stumble upon a nice RV to rent from a good owner, they’re still at the mercy of the owner’s maintenance schedule. Although recreational vehicles are very user-friendly, they’re complex pieces of machinery containing dozens of high-tech systems which have to integrate and work together in order to provide all the conveniences of home — at 65 miles-per-hour. That doesn’t just happen on its own, and certainly not if vehicles have been neglected.
To keep these systems running optimally, professional RV rental companies adhere to a strict preventative service schedule with regular inspections before and after every use. These systems will breakdown if an owner cuts corners — leaving unsuspecting renters stranded on the side of the road.
Some RV “sharing” companies brag about providing 24/7 roadside assistance which would certainly come in handy if you have a flat tire or have locked your keys inside the rig. But what happens if there is an actual breakdown, when the generator or hydraulic systems fail? These problems are much less common to strictly maintained fleets, but become relatively common otherwise and can only be repaired by specially-trained or certified RV technicians.
A Nightmare Scenario
So, imagine you’ve rented a stranger’s RV for a family vacation and two days into your trip it breaks down. Your family is now stranded on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck to arrive. If the problem can’t be fixed on the spot, then your rental RV has to be towed back to civilization for repair. That alone can take anywhere from several hours to overnight. If you booked through an RV sharing site, there’s a good chance you’ll have to cover that cost — at least upfront. When the RV finally arrives at the shop, it certainly won’t be fixed right away. In fact, just getting the issue diagnosed and then sourcing certain replacement parts can cause days to weeks-long delays. So now what? Your family is suddenly left stranded in the middle of Nowhere, USA, without any transportation or a place to sleep.
Who’s going to cover the costs of your family’s lodging or transportation back to the airport? Good luck trying to pry that money from the RV owner, who’s now facing an expensive repair bill of their own. Your next option is to turn to the RV “sharing” site where you might be able to send an email or instant message, but a response (if you get one) could take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Be assured, the RV “sharing” site certainly won’t be giving you any compensation right away — if at all. Remember, with those RV “sharing” sites, good, bad or indifferent, you deal directly with the owner. So you’ll be left covering the entire cost of your ruined vacation, plus any other costs for the stranding. Between hotels, restaurants, alternative transportation and everything else are costs for your to bear. We’re not spinning fiction or exaggerating here folks. These are real RV share stories we hear every day from spurned customers of those RV “sharing” sites.
Who’s Backing Your RV Vacation
To be fair, we aren’t trying to create the illusion that every RV trip is perfect, even when using a credible and professional rental company. RVs can be temperamental beasts and do act up even when a strict maintenance and inspection schedule has been followed. While we can’t speak for other RV rental providers, Allstar Coaches goes the extra mile to ensure our clients are taken care of, no matter what happens out on the road.
During their walk-through and orientation, our renters get the personal cell phone numbers for two of our on-call service technicians. In the event of a breakdown (yes, it can even happen to us), our tech will answer day or night to either walk a customer through an issue, or instantly dispatch mobile service right to the RV. And if the RV requires repairs that force long delays, a replacement RV can be immediately dispatched and swapped out. So at least with us, your vacation continues. An RV “sharing” owner with a single vehicle to rent cannot do that. We’ll even extend your trip to make up for lost time, because it’s the right thing to do.
Our customers’ experiences with RV “sharing” platforms underscore the importance of booking through a reputable RV rental dealer who can offer such support and guarantees because they understand RVs and care about their customers. So when you plan your next RV adventure, do yourself a favor and ignore the lure of the RV “sharing” platforms. Opt for a credible RV rental company you can trust. Your precious vacation time will be in good hands.