Tips before you pick up your campervan
These 5 tips for a successful campervan pickup will take the stress out of the process. Whilst they might seem like basic tips, failure to consider them could be the difference between arriving in the right or wrong mood.
Allowing yourself enough time to get through the pick up process without any dramas will see you head off on day 1 of your hire in a great frame of mind and without any undue angst.
Don’t rush to pick up your vehicle
Understand your checkout times and plan your arrival at the depot so that you are in a refreshed, calm state. If you are only having to travel a short distance, this is less of a concern. However, if you are long haul travellers like us, it’s really important that you don’t rush this part of the process.
When we hire out of France for example, we arrive into Paris, spend the night there, and then catch a train to our hiring depot the next day. It makes for an incredibly relaxed pick up process, but it takes pre-planning to ensure we arrive on time. Hiring companies usually have strict check-in and check-out times.
Stay local on first night
I can’t stress this one enough. Many hiring companies have afternoon check out times. By the time you’ve gone through all the necessary processes at the depot, it can be mid to late afternoon. For this reason, I highly recommend not trying to drive too far on your first night. Even if pre-planning your trip isn’t something you would normally do, having a known location to go to on your first night will make such a difference.
If this is your first time in a campervan, it’s even more important to not push the limits.
Be prepared for the holding deposit
This is actually an important aspect to plan for. Deposits or pre-authorisations are always taken by a hiring company, as a way of protecting their assets. The amounts held can be quite sizeable. The campervans we hire usually have a holding deposit of around €2,600 and hiring bikes is €250.
You will require a credit card/debit card for pre-authorisation. The card must remain valid for the entire period of the hire.
Here’s the real trick that many people won’t be aware of. The amounts are not actually charged to the card. They are held as “pending” for the entire period of your hire, and will be cancelled only after you return the vehicle, without damage, and in accordance with the hiring rules.
Pending transactions effectively reduce your limit. So for example, if you have a credit card with a €5,000 limit, and you are paying €2,600 as a deposit, you only have €2,400 of your limit available for your use for the entire time of your hire.
It is also important to watch currency conversion if you are paying with a different currency card. eg €2,600 on my Australian issued card can convert into the vicinity of AUD$4,000. That’s quite a large amount to have “pending”.
If you are relying on that card for your travel spend, it’s important to be aware of this.
Travel debit cards can also be problematic for users if they are unaware of several factors. Some debit travel cards do not allow pre-authorisations to be taken on them. Check with your provider and read all the rules before use.
Users of travel debit cards often place their entire travel funds on them. Using a debit card for the pre-authorisation means that these funds will be held, effectively holding your “real cash”. Like the credit cards, you won’t be able to use this. If you have relied only on this cash, and find yourself not able to access it, your financial situation could become difficult. Then, at the end of your hire, when the funds are released, you will have excess travel cash left over that you weren’t able to spend.
Briefing with hire company
This will involve two stages, the paperwork and the operational briefing. Whilst the paperwork process is relatively straightforward, the operational briefing is critically important. Here you will be taken through all the important aspects of the operation and maintenance requirements for the campervan.
My husband and I always do this together, ensuring that we hear the same message. We use our different strengths to focus in on different parts of the briefing, ensuring we have everything well covered.
Check over the campervan for pre-existing damage
As with the hire of any vehicle, it is in your best interests to check over the campervan thoroughly to ensure there is no pre-existing damage. With campervans, it is also really important to check the roof (often missed but subject to previous damage) and also underneath. Most of the campervan insurances do not cover you at all for damage done to the under-carriage. Once you take the vehicle out of the depot, any damage becomes your responsibility. It’s always a good idea to take some photos for future reference and be sure to have the hiring company mark down any damage.
Hiring companies usually provide some guides and reference documents about your vehicle, including the operating manual. Take some time on your first night to review these and then store them in an easy to find location. I can’t tell you how often we’ve needed to access them on our trips.
Understand how all the internal parts work
When you are being briefed on how the toilet, hot water and heating works, it can be overwhelming. Make sure you pay close attention to all of this. Failing to operate this equipment correctly can be annoying on your trip but might also not be covered by insurance if you break it. Make sure you know what type of gas you are using and where you can find replacements. Many campervans these days have specific gas bottles that work on a swap over process.
Do some maintenance
Even if you are hiring the vehicle, there are things that need to be checked often. Checking tyre pressure, checking the oil, and generally keeping your motorhome clean to avoid damage. Here’s a great list of basic maintenance tips for your motorhome.
Enjoy the trip
Irrespective of the length of hire, the last thing you need is to set out on your great adventure feeling stressed, tired, angry or confused. Taking these tips into account and allowing yourself plenty of time will set up an awesome trip for you and your travelling companions. Enjoy!
Please note: Beer and Croissants provides you with accurate information at the time of writing but makes no representations or provides any warranty or coverage of liability for bookings made with France Motorhome Hire or any other hiring company.
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Kerri now travels regularly with her husband, Stirling, where eating great food, drinking quality beer and wine, and cooking international foods are integral to their adventures.