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RVing message boards => Visitors to the USA => Topic started by: HHgoesUS on July 13, 2017, 07:20:03 PM

Title: Aussies coming to US - Looking for RV advice
Post by: HHgoesUS on July 13, 2017, 07:20:03 PM
Hi all,

I'm 28 and travelling with 3 friends to the States next month and we're currently weighing up whether to get an RV for the majority of our trip (from when we leave Chicago til we arrive in Austin, so travelling through Nashville, Memphis and NOLA) or just to hire a car for the whole time we're there and book cheap accommodation at hostels and maybe Airbnb.

Budget is an important factor, and we can't really afford any nasty surprises or cost blowouts. We're having a hard time working out TOTAL costs for things.

We have been given a quote for an RV from Cruise America by someone who has used them before and they advised there isn't likely to be much of a cost to pay on pick up (beyond the written quote given), which is good. But, we're also worried that driving an RV and finding places to stay in cities like Nashville, Memphis, NOLA etc will be difficult, inconvenient and, in the end, cost us more in having to get taxis or Ubers from the RV park to various attractions. We're really keen to see lots of live music, for example.

The other option of the car the whole time has its advantages. It seems to be cheaper than the RV. Though, the person that got the RV quote said that every time they've rented a car there has been a huge extra cost when they've picked it up - something like DOUBLE what they were quoted. This would make it the SAME COST as the RV and without any accommodation sorted yet, which added on would make it much more expensive than the RV option potentially. However, it would give us the convenience of having a car available, and a smaller vehicle to drive around the cities in, the whole time we're there.

We are really unsure what to do and would appreciate advice from RV experts!

Thank you!
Title: Re: Aussies coming to US - Looking for RV advice
Post by: SeilerBird on July 13, 2017, 07:23:41 PM
I think there are way too many variables for anyone to give you a definite answer as to which is cheaper. Finding space in RV parks would not be a problem. There are millions of RV parks and campgrounds in the US and they are never all full. Both an RV and a rental car have pros and cons.
Title: Re: Aussies coming to US - Looking for RV advice
Post by: HHgoesUS on July 13, 2017, 07:34:30 PM
Thank you so much for your speedy reply!

And yes - I think that's why we're having a hard time deciding.

If you don't mind, I've love to get your thoughts on:

Thanks again - really appreciate your advice and help.
Title: Re: Aussies coming to US - Looking for RV advice
Post by: SeilerBird on July 13, 2017, 08:35:31 PM
Proximity of the parks to other attractions + nightlife - is there a general guide to this in the cities I've mentioned? E.g. a 5 min, 10 min or 20 min cab?
No way to answer that one either. But you can assume most large cities don't have RV parks located close to downtown.
Extra costs on pick up - quotes in Australia are generally all inclusive, and I've had some friends tripped up by thinking it's the same in the States. Do you know what kinds of extra costs these might be and roughly how much, for either a car and/or RV? E.g. is it normal to have to end up paying double the price of what was originally seen online or given in a quote for a car?
No I don't think it is normal to pay double. I haven't ever rented an RV and only rented a car once. With a small RV you would be able to drive it instead of renting a car. I full timed for ten years without a toad and without renting.
Title: Re: Aussies coming to US - Looking for RV advice
Post by: Isaac-1 on July 14, 2017, 01:23:48 AM
If you are looking at it on straight economics, I suspect you would be better off with a rental car and mid level motel in each of the cities.  Of the cities you have named I strongly suspect Chicago will be the one with the highest hotel prices, even then with a little shopping I found a nice small boutique hotel there 2 or 3 years ago inside the downtown loop for about $85 per night in the theater district, although $170+ per night is more common in that area.   Outside the cities typical mid level national branded motels in the US run anywhere from $70 - $120 per night, and name brand budget motels may run around half of that or a little more.  Motel prices in rural parts of the US also tend to vary insanely from town to town for no apparent reason (supply and demand?) with $120 rooms in one town, and 10-15 miles down the road similar motels have rooms at $65.   For RV campgrounds you will not find anything near Chicago, your best bet may be something 50 or so miles out from the city but along one of the commuter rail lines.  The other cities will likely be less of an issue, but still few RV options close to the tourist areas.  In the US RV park rates for sites with at least electrical and water hook ups, often with dump stations on site, but not sewer hookups) generally run anywhere from $20 per night on the low end, although $25 is more common (state parks, and other government operated parks, some cities, particularly in the western part of the country even offer free RV spaces for 1-2 nights in city parks).  Basic commercial RV campgrounds run anywhere from $35-$50 per night in most parts of the country, higher in prime tourist areas.   So while RV campgrounds can be cheaper than motels, you must factor in the MUCH higher rental price for RV's vs a mid size car or small SUV, then of course there is the fuel economy topic with the rental motorhome likely getting around 10 miles/gallon vs 25 for a small SUV.

As to the topic of rental cars in the US, you will likely find that rental car rates also vary considerably depending on where you rent them and if you are going to return them to the same location as you picked up.  One way rentals can be a deal, or cost an arm and a leg depending on if the rental companies need cars moved around in that direction.  The price variation on car rental is high enough that I tend to consider it before buying plane tickets when traveling to a region on vacation.  Depending on where you rent, you may find rates anywhere from $250 - $600 per week for a small SUV, I recently had an small Jeep SUV rental while my car was in the shop for 7 weeks (got hit pulling into my driveway) and the insurance company paid $1,250 for it vs on vacation last year I paid $550 for 9 days for a slightly larger SUV in Colorado.

One advantage an RV does offer though is the ability to cook your own meals and save on the cost of dining
Title: Re: Aussies coming to US - Looking for RV advice
Post by: Gary RV_Wizard on July 14, 2017, 08:12:01 AM
A few thoughts:

RV parks vary in price just like motels. The more amenities they have, and the closer to popular attractions they are, the greater the price.  You can save money on RV sites by staying further away from hot tourist spots like Nashville or New Orleans, but if you have to pay for transport you lose much of that. Maybe all of it.  Sometimes there are low-end commercial campgrounds near in, and maybe also public (state or county or town) parks that have camping and those can be significantly less costly.  Whether any of those are on your path is difficult to estimate with a map and a campground guide.  A campground guide such as Woodalls (Good Sam) can help you find what is available near your planned route and estimate costs.

Making your own meals in an RV is a significant cost savings vs restaurants, but that implies some regular  grocery shopping and somebody willing to plan and prepare meals. Your choice...

I cannot imagine a car rental rate that doubled at pick-up, but there are some possible extras that can easily be overlooked.  Rates vary by car size & type (sometimes dramatically) and choosing a different car at the agency counter can make a huge difference.  If one merely asks "what does a rental cost?", the answer is probably for the cheapest available so not necessarily the one you want.   Further, the daily rates typically do NOT include insurance, which can be a major extra expense if you don't already have it.  As a visitor without any US car insurance of your own, you would probably have to purchase daily insurance at the rental place, so make sure you inquire about that before deciding to rent. Also ask about rate packages that include mileage, vs paying per mile.
Title: Re: Aussies coming to US - Looking for RV advice
Post by: KC1BUD on July 17, 2017, 11:03:42 AM
Once you sort out which RV, you can find many campground guides online  such as this one Also Many Walmarts stores even allow overnight, not full fledged camping, but free for one night always ask before you do. So there are always options.

I hope this helps.

Title: Re: Aussies coming to US - Looking for RV advice
Post by: Bbbriggs on July 23, 2017, 12:08:34 PM
Also if you rent a car or rv be sure to document every little scratch, ding, rock chip on you paperwork. Rental car companies love to bend you over on stuff like that. Also check on all the extra taxes they will add on that aren't in the rate. In Denver for example it adds about 30%. Many times I have rented the cheapest sub compact counting on the fact that they would be out and give you an upgrade at the same daily rate but beware they charge all the taxes out at the full upgrade rate.
Title: Re: Aussies coming to US - Looking for RV advice
Post by: Trivet on July 23, 2017, 02:48:10 PM
There are millions of RV parks and campgrounds in the US and they are never all full.

I disagree with this.  "Millions" is a huge overstatement, and they can definitely be full, especially in popular locations in the summer.

Also, if you're wanting to be near big cities, RV parks can be few and far between.  And they tend to be expensive, especially if you want full hookups or decent showers. 

Chicago, for example.  There are no RV parks close in, and the ones that are there are all about (or at least) 50 miles outside the loop.  That's a trip of about 1-1/2 hours by commuter train, and the schedule is designed for commuters.  The fare will be about $20/person round trip (unless it's a weekend).  That'll be $80 just to get into the city, on a possibly inconvenient schedule.  And you'll have to pay for transportation once you're in the city.

Nashville has a couple of RV parks near Opryland, although I assume you're wanting to go to the places closer to downtown.  But it's not a great distance so Uber or a cab might not be too expensive.

Memphis has no close-in RV parks.  There are a couple near Graceland, but that's not where the live music is.  So, again, transportation will be an issue and you'd be crazy to think you can use, much less depend on, public transportation anywhere in the South.

New Orleans has the French Quarter RV Resort--very conveniently located, but it's $100+/night. 

If you can get into Pecan Grove RV Park in Austin, it's perfect for what you want to do.  But it's almost always full.  The other RV parks are farther out.  Oak Forest is in a very dispiriting neighborhood, but less than 10 miles to downtown.

I've traveled extensively in both an RV and by car in the U.S., and I tend to prefer cities. For that, I think car is the way to go, especially if you're willing to cram the four of you into one hotel room.  You'll also have a lot more flexibility than if you're traveling in an RV.

The only thing I can recall being surprised at when picking up a rental car was the amount of taxes that were added, which of course they never divulge when you're making the reservation.  But I never had to pay for the car rental company's insurance. 

The same thing goes for hotel rooms, too--taxes are a local thing so they vary, and passing the tax burden onto visitors is pretty popular.  RV parks often have tax added to their rates, as well, and sometimes a resort fee.  And sometimes the rate is good for two adults, and there are additional charges for extra people.
Title: Re: Aussies coming to US - Looking for RV advice
Post by: LarsMac on July 23, 2017, 04:36:51 PM
First question I have for you:
Are you planning on returning to Chicago for you return flight?
Renting a vehicle in on city, and returning it in another can be very costly. Make sure that you have all the details for that part of the plan, as well.
And make sure of any mileage charges, too.

You would be better served by going directly to the Cruise America website, yourself, and get all the details on costs straight from them.

I suspect a rental car and cheap hotels will prove to be the better option. But I have been known to be wrong on occasion.

And go with the more reputable car rental outfits, like Enterprise, or Avis, National, Budget.
Some of the "cheap" car rentals are the ones that will tack on extra charges that weren't mentioned in the original rental arrangement. Fox is one of those.

Title: Re: Aussies coming to US - Looking for RV advice
Post by: JoelP on July 23, 2017, 04:57:46 PM
I had a chat with someone who was in a Cruise America rental that was about a 24 ft Class C.  Unlike New Zealand and perhaps Australia there is no special licensing to drive an RV in the US.  One thing that he told me was that he damaged a tire and had it repaired, but he expected he would have to pay the price of a new tire when he returned it since Cruise America has a policy of not renting vehicles that have repaired tires.  He also told me that it was well equipped with things like sewer hose and the various things you need for hooking up that we, as owners, have acquired over time.

If you go to,, or you can get a sense for the cost of hotel rooms.  I think that some like Travelocity give you firm quotes, but others give approximates.  In any case you can always call the motel/motel and get an exact price include the range of taxes and fees that they will apply.  These vary from state to state and city to city.  I even remember in a hotel in Miami Beach paying $15/per person as an extra entertainment fee to use the beach and pool.  You simply need to ask.

With a 24 ft RV you can park in may downtown places, but I would not try to drive any RV in a city like San Francisco that is full of hills or New York City where it is very conjested and outrageously expensive to park, even with a rental car .  If I were to want to come to San Francisco I would park just outside the city and take Lyft or Uber (prefer Lyft here over Uber which you have in Australia).

This decision is about more than economics.  Like Australia, the US is a big place and driving in a RV affords a view from a little higher off the road.  It allows you to hit the restroom without a stop.  You don't have to pack your bag every day. And, you will save on self-prepared food.  It is all about what is important to you.

In either case I wish you the best for an enjoyable trip.