Planning a motorhome rental in the UK or Europe? Feeling a little overwhelmed by all the camper hire options? Don't panic- this guide will share the tips and tricks you need to plan your perfect motorhome holiday- even if you've never rented one before!
Why hire a motorhome?
There are many reasons why hiring a motorhome is a good idea. If you don't currently own a camper, there are a LOT of advantages to hiring one before you buy- it's a great way to try out if it's for you.
Also, if you're trying to stay away from crowds and hotels (you know, due to a pandemic or something…), a motorhome is a fantastic option for staying isolated- especially if you hire one with its own toilet and shower.
In a rush? Get your free, no-obligation quote here and see if you can get a month free!
Motorhome Rental in the UK and Europe- things to decide first
There are a LOT of things you need to consider and decide before you even start looking at motorhome hire companies or quotes, so let's start there.
How many people will be travelling in the Motorhome?
This is vitally important and affects most of the next decisions you make. You will need a seat belt per person, including any baby in a car seat.
You also need to make sure there are an appropriate number of sleeping berths- some motorhomes may have 4 seatbelts but only sleep 2 or 3.
This is an almost never-ending rabbit hole, especially if you've never rented or owned a motorhome before. There are hundreds of different layouts, styles and accessories- many of which are totally down to personal preference!
However, some things to consider are:
- Is a fixed bed an essential, or are you happy to make up a bed every night? For our first 2 vans, I insisted on a fixed bed. On our third, we make up the bed every night. It takes less than 5 minutes and the extra room we have is definitely worth it!
- Do you want an eating area you can all gather around inside the van, or do you plan to eat outside?
- If you have children, where will they sleep and do you still have somewhere for the adults to sit after they've gone to bed?
Also, be aware that many European campers and motorhomes don't come with an oven as standard- they have a hob and occasionally a microwave (not useful if you're planning to wild camp or use aires in Europe!)
Another thing to think about is what bathroom requirements do you have on the motorhome? Luckily most motorhomes, unlike campervans, have a fitted bathroom with a shower.
If you have young children, it can be useful to get a layout with a larger bathroom (often an end-bathroom)- which means you can get in the bathroom while they're in the shower and you don't need to get wet!
The other option is a wet room. We tend to prefer these as it means there is more living space elsewhere- but it does mean the bathroom is smaller and will get wet when you have a shower. So it's totally personal preference. But something to look for when assessing motorhome hire options.
Motorhome Hire in UK
I hate to break it to you, but bigger isn't always better. Especially if you've never hired or driven a large motorhome before. Lots of space may seem lovely, but you need to learn to park it- which isn't always easy!
Also, in the UK there are some TINY roads- especially in Cornwall (grab our Cornwall road trip itinerary here)– and a big motorhome on small roads is not fun.
Again, it depends on what your plans for your motorhome hire are- we'll get to that shortly.
Motorhome rental in Europe
Europe has many more tolls than the UK- and the size of your camper can really affect the price of these tolls! Over 3.1m high is classed as a Cat4 (basically a truck), so any motorhome with an above cab bed could be expensive.
Also, larger campers tend to be less fuel-efficient and also they tend to cost more to hire in the first place! So really think about what you need when you're researching a motorhome hire vehicle.
Motorhome Rental- Can you drive a motorhome on a UK car licence?
This is important in many ways. For example, many motorhome hire companies won't hire to anyone under 21 or who has held their driving licence for less than a year.
Also, if you are hiring a motorhome or motorhome over 3.5 tonnes, you'll need to make sure your driving licence covers it. You can find out more about that here.
Motorhome Hire Insurance
Most motorhome hire quotes include motorhome insurance, but many won't include your personal possessions, only damage to the camper itself. You'll need a travel insurance policy which will cover your things in the event of an accident. Getting cover which includes loss or damage is also a good idea.
Whilst we're on the subject, make sure you are covered for motorhome breakdown. What will happen in the event of an accident or a malfunction? Make sure you're aware of who to call and what to do.
Also, if there are additional motorhome door locks or other devices fitted, make sure you remember to get all the keys!
This is an important one! Many motorhome hire companies do NOT include mileage- and this can add a HUGE amount to the price if you're planning to do a lot of driving.
So either plan a holiday which doesn't include much travelling or find a company which includes unlimited mileage in the price.
Older vans may be cheaper to hire- but they often don't have facilities you might take for granted. Such as heating. Insulation. Air conditioning in the cab. All things to take into account, depending on when and where you're travelling.
Also, newer motorhomes are much more economic- important if you're planning to go for a tour around Europe in a motorhome.
Other things to consider with Motorhome Hire
Most motorhomes only have manual gearboxes. There are a few automatic motorhomes for hire on the market, but they come at a premium price.
How much does it cost to rent a motorhome?
Motorhome rental can seem expensive- but remember it's like paying for a car AND a hotel all at once. Plus the fact that you don't need to eat out every meal… and the prices start to make a lot more sense.
Motorhome hire costs vary due to hire location, time of year, size of vehicle and other considerations. Pop your details in below for a free, no-obligation quote and see what it might cost you for your trip.
Motorhome Hire in UK and Europe- Planning your trip
In my opinion, you need to answer these questions before you start looking at motorhome hire companies. HOWEVER, if you are booking last minute, you may want to just book whatever is available and then plan your trip around that location!
- Decide where you want to go
- How long for?
- Plan your itinerary
- Round trip or one way?
Decide where you want to go during your camper hire
This is an obvious place to start, but actually can be quite tricky, especially for motorhome hire in UK and Europe. There are just so many places to explore!
Short or long term motorhome rental?
Are you hiring the motorhome for a weekend? Week? More? All of this will affect how far you can travel during your trip.
TOP TIP- if you're travelling Europe or the UK for longer than a month, you might want to consider buying your own van. It might be cheaper in the long run!
When is the best time to book a motorhome or camper holiday in the UK or Europe?
Honest truth? There's a reason us Brits and Europeans talk about the weather a LOT, especially in the north. It rains… a lot. And this can be a real pain in a motorhome- especially a small one.
Obviously, no weather can be guaranteed, but here's a rough guide:
Best time to Motorhome hire in UK
April- October. Ish. In 2018 March and April were AMAZING in terms of weather. In 2019 it barely stopped raining and it was sooo cold. In 2020… well, there was a world pandemic in March and April so the weather was kinda irrelevant!
Personally, I prefer the September/ October period; the kids are back in school (we hope!), campsites and roads are quieter, but the weather is still normally warm enough and light enough to sit outside in the evenings.
Try and avoid driving anywhere on a Bank Holiday in the UK (Google them to be sure). The roads are notoriously bad for traffic on a Bank Holiday and you could easily be gridlocked for several hours.
The big summer holidays in the UK are mid-July to beginning of September. Avoid those times if you possibly can; motorhome hire and campsites cost more and everywhere is busier .
Best time to rent a motorhome in Europe
Motorhome hire in Europe has a little more flexibility in terms of season and weather than the UK. Many people from Britain flee down to Italy or Spain for the winter (November-March). It's regularly nice weather all through the winter there, with only a few rainy days if you're lucky. Autumn in Europe is wonderful- so many incredible places to visit.
If you're trying to get some sunshine, here are some of the warmest places in Europe in February
Further north, expect snow. Many places from mid-Europe and north has mountains, and these are all busy ski destinations. Of course, this means snow… and motorhome hire in the snow is not for the faint-hearted or the unprepared! It can be done, but I would suggest not for your first trip.
Having said that, finding somewhere to see the Northern Lights in Europe from your motorhome would be pretty cool. Also, a motorhome is a great way to visit some of the best and biggest Christmas markets in Europe!
Plan your itinerary
Once you know where to go, plan a rough itinerary. Always leave enough room to detour to fun places you find along the way. Here are some wonderful road trip itinerary ideas for Europe.
Round trip or one way?
There is a premium for one-way motorhome hire, but it can save you a lot of time if you're not planning to circle back. If this is something you'd like to consider, look for a hire company who offers one way camper trips.
How to find Motorhome Rental companies
Hiring a motorhome is a lot like hiring a car. On the surface, every company appears to do the same thing. But it's beneath where the differences lie.
There are a LOT of motorhome rental companies. And yes, it can be overwhelming. Make sure any company you deal with has a proper phone number and registered address.
Also, before you contact them, do a Google search for reviews. Don't worry about the odd bad review, but if there's a recurring theme or a lot of negativity, it's time to move on.
There are two companies we highly recommend, both for the UK and Europe.
Motorhome Republic is the world's No1 motorhome rental site. They have bases for motorhome, campervan and car rental in 29 countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Norway and other countries around Europe- as well as the USA, Canada, New Zealand and more.
What we really like about them, apart from their excellent record, is that they work with many smaller brands and motorhome hire companies to find you the best deals and prices- meaning you can just search one place instead of having to search them all!
Spaceship Rentals- luxury motorhomes in the UK
Spaceship Rentals offer a range of custom-campervans and high-end motorhomes in the UK. They can offer vehicles which sleep from 2 to 7. They offer unlimited mileage and will hire to anyone over the age of 21.
They also offer one-way hires, airport collections and accessories for hire- perfect if you're flying in for your holiday. Check out their latest deals and discounts here
Things to check your motorhome rental company provide
Make sure the company provides at least the basic motorhome essentials, like the following, or be prepared to bring your own!
- Bed linen
- Pots, pans, plates, utensils
- Outdoor seats/ BBQ/ Bike rack/ awning
- Toilet chemicals (not essential- they're easily purchasable in UK and Europe)
- Ability to cross borders with the camper
- Insurance (personal possessions aren't normally covered- you'll need your own policy)
- Breakdown assistance (and what it covers!)
- Gas bottle (check you don't need to bring a full one back- not always easy to do!)
- Motorhome essentials: Electric cable, levelling blocks, water filler hose
- Do they provide sat-nav?
- Free parking at the depot for your car if necessary
If you are at all unsure, pick up the phone and speak to someone. If they're not helpful before you've even booked, they're REALLY not going to be helpful after you've paid your money, even if you have a problem. So pick a company you feel happy speaking with and asking all the questions you need to.
BEFORE you confirm your motorhome hire
Read the paperwork carefully. Then read it again. Make sure you understand exactly what is covered, what's not and what extras you need to pay for.
Get EVERYTHING in writing, including an exact cost for mileage if it's not unlimited. Make sure you know what state fuel, water, waste and gas tanks must be returned in.
Pick up/ drop off locations
Confirm pick-up and drop-off locations, especially if they're in different locations. Remember that, unlike cars, it's unusual for motorhome depots to be near major airports, due to the size of the campers. Some companies will offer to arrange airport transfers for you; others will assume you'll make your own way to/ from the location. Make sure that's clear in advance.
Also, confirm the nearest airport. Many major cities in Europe have several airports at totally different locations (like Heathrow and Gatwick for London.) Finding the nearest airport to the depot may influence which flight you book.
Think about where the depot is. If it's in the middle of a big city (possible), then you need to be confident moving the vehicle around city streets as soon as you leave. If you're not, pick a depot and company in a more remote area- but accept that will be harder to get to!
Motorhome Rental Tips- what paperwork do you need?
Most companies will require:
- Driving licence (plastic part only)- check it's in date!
- Possibly an International Driving Permit.
- Maybe a code from the DVLA. Ask them in advance if this is needed.
- Credit card
- Possibly proof of your travel insurance (again, ask beforehand what they'll need on collection)
Fly-Drive RV Holidays
If you are flying in from somewhere outside Europe, make sure you are allowed to drive a motorhome in Europe. Also, make sure everything is provided as you expect (you really don't want to be bringing sleeping bags or saucepans in your luggage!)
Having said that, remember that the UK and Europe are full of people actually living their lives, and it's easy to pick up essentials fairly cheaply if needed.
Motorhome hire advice- collecting the motorhome
Make sure you get a full and thorough handover and don't worry about how long it takes. The person doing the handover will have done the spiel a million times before, and it's easy for them to forget or assume you know something.
Do NOT be afraid to ask questions or ask them to explain something further. If in doubt, ask them if you can take photos or film something to remind yourself later.
Make sure you know the following as a bare minimum:
- How to fill fuel (and is it petrol or diesel?)
- How to fill water
- How to connect electric
- Where's the fuse box?
- How to turn gas on/ off
- How to replace/ refill a gas bottle
- Is there a crash hose on the gas bottle? If not, don't drive with it switched on.
- How to light fridge (and if it's a manual switch over or automatic)
- Where the leisure battery is?
- How to empty waste water
- How to empty toilet
- Position of fire blanket/ extinguisher, smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. Check they work.
- How to put on heating/ hot water on electric panel and how to adjust controls. This bit could take some time to sink in.
- How to lock cab and hab area, and how to deadlock steering/ set alarm if possible.
- HEIGHT, WIDTH, LENGTH and WEIGHT of camper. Write these down and keep them handy.
Motorhome Travel in Europe- additional things to consider
- Is there a toll pass? (Unlikely- you'll probably have to pay for your own tolls)
- Is there a vignette (if needed- such as in Switzerland)
- Do you need a crit-air sticker (France and a few other cities in Europe)
- Is there the essential kit as required by European law?
- Do you have all paperwork needed to drive (you must carry this at all times)
Before you drive anywhere, check the vehicle carefully for any damage, no matter how small. Take photos of EVERYTHING and make sure all damage is noted down. It may be hard to check the roof- it's your call if you want to ask them to inspect it or not.
Hiring a motorhome in Europe or UK- first night tips
Don't plan too much for your first day and ideally book up a campsite to give yourself time to settle in and get everything sorted out. Having said that, we took our camper wild camping on the first night… and I soaked all my clothes with the shower by accident. So expect the unexpected!! 🙂
Returning the motorhome
Awwww- it's all over. I hope you've had an amazing trip.
When you return to the motorhome/ camper depot, make sure you have abided by their rules in terms of water/ waste tanks (normally need to be empty to avoid a fine.)
Also, make sure you are on time to avoid a large fine- these companies don't have long to turn their vans around between bookings.
Motorhome rental in UK and Europe- summary
I hope these tips have been helpful if you're planning on hiring a motorhome in Europe or UK. It's absolutely our favourite way to explore a country and we've been lucky enough to enjoy some spectacular places in our camper.
Good luck with your trip! Feel free to tag me on Instagram and let me know where you end up!