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The ultimate guide to campervan hire in Europe: the questions you must ask before you make the hiring decision

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Campervan hire in Europe 

Our beginners’ guide to campervan hire in Europe is one of the most important articles in our motorhome library, because as we well know, everyone starts off as a beginner at some stage. Hiring a campervan or a motorhome is one of the best ways to see Europe but it can also make for an anxious and frustrating experience if you aren’t well prepared.

The demand for road trips is huge at the moment given so much of the world has been unable to travel for so long. People are rushing into hiring motorhomes and buying motorhomes without much thought and consideration. The thought of hitting the open roads, wind at your back, with no set timetable is a great magnet.

However, this means that there are a lot of inexperienced people driving around on foreign roads in large vehicles they’ve never driven before. This can and will lead to issues. This is why we’ve spelled out some of the key pressure points for you to consider prior to deciding to hire a campervan or motorhome in Europe.

If following the Tour de France in a motorhome sounds appealing, or exploring one of France’s lesser-known regions, the Lot Valley is more your style, then read on. Doing a road trip in a motorhome is something you will remember forever if you do it correctly.

Take the time to read through our comprehensive article on hiring a motorhome in Europe, as we show you all the steps to ensure that you are set up in the best possible way to have a fantastic motorhome hire experience. All it takes is one bad experience as a first-time motorhome hirer to ruin future opportunities and holidays, and that would be a real shame.

If you are looking to rent an RV in the USA, we recommend RVShare.

Or, if you are no longer a first-time motorhome hirer you can read more here about how to buy a motorhome in France.

drone shot of motorhome near lake in France Europe

Features to consider when hiring a campervan

Every time I update this article, I find more items to add to this list.  It sometimes feels like it might never end.  While it is not meant to be an exhaustive list, it certainly covers the main and most important considerations, prior to making a decision to hire a motorhome.

The most important question at the moment is, does the company still exist? The impact of the global pandemic has meant that many businesses have closed their doors. Be sure to research this widely.

Space and configuration

Check out this article on What’s Inside a Campervan” if you are unsure of how they look inside. Of course, each vehicle can be slightly different to the last and most hiring companies will lease their vehicles, meaning that every few years they will change. The functionality of motorhomes has improved dramatically over the past 20 years. With so many people now choosing to travel by motorhome, the focus is on efficient, easy to use, well laid out internal spaces, with plenty of storage, good cooking facilities and great bathrooms.

Depending on who you are travelling with, you might need to consider if certain areas, like the bedrooms, can be closed off from the living areas. If you have children or even adults who go to bed early, does this mean the whole motorhome has to go to bed, or are there areas where the lights can stay on?

Space becomes even more important in winter. During summer, travellers can sit outside until late, enjoying the extra space and freedom of this form of travelling. Meals can also be cooked and eaten outside. In the deep of a European winter, however, it’s less likely that anyone would want to be outside in the evening. The interior of the motorhome is therefore placed under greater pressure.

Luxury

Luxury isn’t just about the layout or the furnishings. Luxury is also the size of the bathroom, whether the shower is over the toilet or in a separate screened-off shower cubicle and the size and practicality of the living space inside. Luxury comes at a price so the higher specifications you have, the more it will cost to hire the motorhome.

Vehicle size

While you might want the largest vehicle possible for living space, you need to remember that you need to be comfortable driving it around. Large vehicles are harder to find parks for in Europe and harder to park in general if you aren’t used to them. There are many cities in Europe where it is simply not possible to drive a large vehicle into its small streets. Finding a park can therefore be nigh on impossible.

You need to be able to move them around on the highways and the small roads too. These driving tips for motorhomes will help you understand some of the inherent pressures when driving a motorhome in Europe. Campervans are the smallest option for a road trip.

Do not underestimate the impact the size of the vehicle can have on your stress levels and your ability to enjoy your road trip. Don’t overestimate your driving and parking skills either. This is not the time to let your ego outstrip your sensibilities. If you are new to driving a motorhome, that alone will be enough to add pressure to your driving. don’t make it worse by going too big, too soon.

Be mindful of motorhomes that have a bubble over the driver’s cabin. These usually have a bed in them but are notorious for being driven under low-lying bridges.

Pro tip: If you do have a large motorhome, make sure you have hired bicycles as well. On the occasions where you cannot find a park, riding the bikes into a town is usually the only way to go.

Budget

Hiring a motorhome is not a dirt-cheap option. While it is all-inclusive of your accommodation and transport, an average for a motorhome in Europe per day usually sits at €100-150 a day. If you are coming from a country that doesn’t use Euro, the conversion to your native currency can make this feel quite expensive. Mind you, the same would happen if you hired a car and stayed in hotels.

Manual or auto transmission

Most of the motorhomes for hire are manual. Some people only have automatic licences. If you do, you will not be able to drive a manual vehicle. Be sure when you are getting a quote and signing a hiring contract that you know exactly which type of vehicle you have.

Left or right-hand drive

Vehicles in Europe will be left-hand drive. If you hire a vehicle from the United Kingdom and take it across to Europe on the ferry, these will be right-hand drives. While it is completely legal to drive a right-hand drive vehicle in Europe if it’s your first time driving on the other side of the road (or a right-hand vehicle) this can get confusing.

Age of vehicle

If you are hiring from a reputable company the vehicles will be either new or only a few years old as they are rotated regularly via a leasing program. The newer the vehicle the more luxurious it will be and will have more of the mod-cons and technology. It will also have a better mechanical function, improved fuel efficiency and be less likely to break down.

Bedding

How many beds are available beds? What types of beds are included? Beds can vary greatly from motorhome to motorhome. There might be a fixed bed in the bubble over the front cabin, or fixed bunk beds down the back. Some may require the seats and cushions in the dining/lounge area to be assembled at night to form a bed. Double beds may be found in a corner, where one person needs to crawl over the other to get out. Or, some of the more luxurious motorhomes may have island beds, where access is possible from either side.

Many of the newer motorhomes now have large beds suspended in the ceiling, and operated by remote control to bring them down to an accessible height. They sound great, but if someone needs to sleep during the day, it renders the living space unusable. It all depends on who and how many you are travelling with as to which bedding configuration will suit you best.

Usually, the physical location of the beds can’t be changed, so be sure to understand where everyone can sleep at night and whether this suits everyone who will be travelling before locking in a decision.

Check whether bedding is included. No one wants to arrive in a foreign country after travelling hours to get there to find that there are no sheets or blankets. Most hiring companies will either include it in your rate or will have it as an add-on package.

Storage

It’s good to know how much storage you will get with your vehicle as this can dictate how much you pack, and what you plan to have on board with you. Good storage is important within the motorhome itself, for clothing, books, technology and food.

It’s also good to know whether there are bike racks and any garage storage. Many motorhomes have access to the under-storage via the inside as well which can be handy.

Fuel Economy

Most motorhomes from major companies are diesel and manual transmission. Review these costs of running a motorhome.

Shower facilities

If you are wanting to be as self-sufficient as possible it’s important to have good bathroom facilities onboard, especially if you are planning on wild camping. Bathroom facilities aren’t all built the same either. At the lower end of the budget scale, some campervans don’t have any facilities at all.

Sometimes portable camping toilets can be hired as an add-on. With lower-spec motorhomes, the bathroom is often quite small and the shower runs over the top of the toilet meaning every time the shower is used, the toilet, vanity, walls and floor gets completely saturated. Don’t underestimate how annoying this can be if you are not used to it. It can be worked around though. After every shower, you would just need to make sure it is wiped down. There’s nothing worse than going to the toilet in the middle of the night and getting wet feet.

At the upper end of the spectrum, large modern motorhomes have separate showers, usually with plastic or glass screens separating from the rest of the bathroom, vanity units, storage and good toilets. This is definitely the best option.

Additional hire items

Check to see what other options are available to hire. When we hired a campervan in Iceland, they had an enormous range of add-on options. Check that you have the ability to hire additional items like bicycles, tables and chairs and GPS if they aren’t included in your overall hire cost.

Automobile associations

Is there a breakdown service included in your hire? Good hiring companies should have a membership with the relevant automobile association in case of emergencies and other issues experienced on the road. You would not want to hire a motorhome without this coverage.

Insurance

What insurance coverage is there?  This is one of the single most important questions you can ask. Make sure you understand what is and isn’t covered. Motorhome insurance provided by the hiring company often does not include coverage to damage on the roof or damage to the undercarriage for example, regardless of the cause.

Does the insurance cover include windscreens? Does it include coverage of damage caused by animals, weather, vandalism, incidents that are not your fault or incidents that are your fault? Does it cover personal property?

Be sure to understand how the excesses work. Is there an age excess? Is there a standard excess for all accidents? Is there a limit to your excess? For example, Anywhere Campers restrict their excess to only €1000.

Irrespective of what coverage the hiring company provides, we always travel with our own travel insurance too. We have had to use this for motorhome hire issues on several occasions. We always check the excess requirements of the hiring company and add on additional coverage to our personal travel insurance policy.

Memberships

Does hire include membership to any motorhome or camping associations like France Passion or All the Aires? These are wonderful additions to motorhome travel and if a hiring company has these for you, it can save you some money.

Reputation of hiring company

Do your homework as much as possible. There are many forums like Motorhoming in France that can assist you with helping you with the information you need. Do research online and read reviews as much as possible to give you comfort as to who you are hiring a motorhome with. Our articles and reviews are done by experienced motorhomers.

Read our reviews of hiring a campervan in Iceland and hiring a campervan in Portugal.

In France, we have always used France Motorhome Hire (Apollo), but they will now only be operating out of Hamburg, Germany for the time being.

There are many companies that are English speaking as well, so if this is important to you, be sure to ask this question. This becomes more important to first-time hirers at pickup when you are being taken through the contract, the vehicle inspection, insurance coverage etc.

Questions to ask the hiring company before hiring a motorhome

One way hires

Does the company offer one-way motorhome rental? One way hires sound like a great idea until you realise how expensive they can be. While a hirer might think it suits their planning to start in France and end in Belgium for example, hiring companies have to get their vehicles back to their originating depot. This isn’t an inexpensive exercise so a significant premium will be applied. Historically there hasn’t been too many options to hire one way and the cost has definitely been prohibitive.

However, Anywhere Campers are now the leading hiring company when it comes to renting a motorhome one way in Europe. They have a business model that is set up specifically to provide a one-way rental service. We’ve written a review on Anywhere Campers and their one-way motorhome hire.

Is there a minimum or maximum hiring period?

Hiring companies will usually have a minimum of one week for a hire. The cost and time to prepare a vehicle for hire are significant, so they don’t want them to be turned over quickly. They also need staff on hand for all parts of the handover process. The longer the hire, the cheaper the rate.

Pro tip: If you are planning on taking an extended road trip, it might be more advantageous to buy a motorhome. Read our comprehensive article on legally buying a motorhome in France for solid tips and advice.

Finances

This is also a major factor in any decision to hire a motorhome and it’s important to understand how the various parts of the payment process work. It may vary from company to company. Depending on where you live (and are paying from), it could also influence the method of payment as well. These days you should seek out companies who have secure, online payment gateways that offer a variety of payment methods.

Pro tip: Many hiring companies now do not accept cash payments of any kind.

Daily hire rates

Do your homework on this one and compare the rates with other similar companies, ensuring you are comparing like for like vehicles, inclusions and pickup and dropoff points. Always negotiate. While it may be more difficult in peak times, our current world situation can have an impact on demand and therefore pricing.

Note: The supply and demand cycle is currently working against many hirers. Covid-19 has impacted the supply chain in the first instance. Halts in production, along with increased personal demand for new purchases has caused delays in delivery and there are long backorders still in many places. Many depots closed and vehicles were relocated, further reducing stock. Some companies weren’t able to get enough of their forward orders fulfilled. With consumer demand far outstripping supply, the daily rates for motorhome hire have also increased.

Deposits and final balances

It’s important to understand when the payments for your hire fall due. Usually, the first deposit is due upon confirmation of the booking and the acceptance of the hiring contract. It is required to secure your vehicle for the time period you have requested. Depending on your timing, large sums of money can be tied up in deposits a long time ahead of your actual trip. Please ensure you take this into account.

This is another reason to only book with reputable companies. Be sure to also understand the conditions around the deposit and what will happen with it in the event of a cancellation. Cancellation and refund policies have also changed dramatically in recent years and it is important to know what the terms are in case you need to cancel.

Many payments tend to be 30-40% deposit and the balance 30-45 days prior to pick up. If you are making a last-minute decision to hire under 30-45 days, expect to pay the entire amount at the time of signing the contract.

Check how the deposits are to be made in order to minimise your costs. Some international transactions can be expensive. Once you pay your deposit, it’s also a good time to make sure you have travel insurance as coverage for any issues that might occur in the future that can impact your deposit or final travel arrangements.

Security deposit/security bond

The security deposit (security bond) or holding deposit will usually be taken at the time of hiring and is applied to cover significant damage that a hirer might cause. It also serves to provide some peace of mind to the hiring company that the hirer will respect and look after the vehicle whilst it is in their possession, in order not to lose the bond.

Bonds can be hefty. If the hiring party causes damage, the bond can be retained in full or part thereof by the hiring company. Ask in advance (ie when confirming your booking) how the bond will be taken. Most companies these days won’t take cash, but it’s still best to check.

Bonds and holding deposits are usually placed on a card these days and are held in a pre-authorisation state for the period of your hire. If you travel with a pre-loaded travel debit card, the amount of the deposit can use up your available funds, leaving you with no access to them for the rest of your trip, even though you technically haven’t spent the money.

The same applies to credit cards. If you have a small credit limit e.g. $5,000 and the bond is $3,000, then you will only have $2,000 remaining to use on your trip.

Pro tip: Always be aware that an inability to pay the security bond at the time of pickup will almost always mean that you won’t be allowed to drive the vehicle away. So, be very sure what payment methods can be used and ensure you have liquidity to cover it.

Logistics

If you are booking online and not used to the country be sure to know where the actual pickup location is. Failing to understand this can make the start of your trip really stressful, can add time to the trip, may impact your ability to pick up the vehicle and add considerable cost.

Hiring a motorhome or campervan is not like hiring a car. As a general rule in Europe, you can’t pick them up from an airport. Because of the space required to have large numbers of big vehicles on hand, the depots are usually well out of town, in areas where space is easy to come by and rent is cheap.

This means that you will often need to travel a reasonable distance to get there, and catching a taxi or an Uber might not be an option. Or it might be incredibly expensive. Some hiring companies don’t have pickups every day of the week, with some only doing weekly hires where the only day you can pick up or drop off is one particular day of the week. If you miss this, you can miss a week of your paid hire, and have to pay to stay somewhere else in the meantime.

Many of the European hiring companies also only allow dropoffs in the morning and pickups in the afternoon. During peak hiring periods, there can also be a delay in being serviced due to the volume of people. Know whether you have to be there at a specific time.

Refund policy

Knowing the terms and conditions for your hire has always been important, in the event of something unforeseen occurring to upset your travel plans. In today’s world, this has become a crucial element to any travel planning. Read the terms and conditions well and understand what they say, and what the impacts are if you cancel, if the hiring company cancels, or if government rules and direction spontaneously interrupt your plans.

Can I take my pet?

The majority of motorhome hire companies do not allow pets, although there seems to be more and more flexibility occurring nowadays. If you are wanting to travel with your pet, make sure this is possible before booking. Also, make sure you understand all the quarantine related rules if you are travelling from one country to another. There will quite often be an additional pet cleaning fee as well so be sure to find out. Also identify if there are any restrictions of type, size or number of pets.

Is mileage unlimited?

These days having unlimited mileage is common, necessary and a usual inclusion. But it is important to check. You wouldn’t want to be handing a motorhome back after doing a huge trip, like our 42 days around western Europe, only to find some 3,500 kilometres later, that you don’t have unlimited mileage.

What kind of drivers licence do I need?

Generally speaking, you will be fine with your usual driver’s licence as long as the vehicle is no more than 3.5 tonne. Once it goes over this, some countries restrict your driving, whilst others require a special licence.

As mentioned above, also make sure that the hiring company doesn’t have any age restrictions and that your licence covers the type of transmission you will be using (eg manual or auto)

When it comes to knowing whether you need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to drive a motorhome in Europe, you should really look at the current rules for this, check with your motorhome hire company and do what makes you personally comfortable.

Personally, we haven’t purchased an International Driver’ Permit for over 20 years and are unlikely to do so ever again. Our motorhome hire companies have never required one, our travel insurance company doesn’t require it, and we believe the rules of the countries we have driven in don’t require it either.

Do I need special training to drive a motorhome?

No, you don’t but you do need to be a good driver, in my opinion, and be prepared for all the differences that come with being in a large and unknown vehicle, different country and different roads and rules.

We recommend that you read our article on driving a motorhome in France for some great tips and advice to keep you and your motorhome safe. Apart from changes to road rules, this guide can be used for driving a motorhome anywhere in Europe.

Being able to remain calm and not get frustrated is a good personality trait to have. Even the best drivers will be put to the test driving big vehicles in Europe.

Can I drive my motorhome anywhere?

This is another important question to ask before you make a booking decision. There are some motorhome hiring companies that have countries on an exclusion list. Some companies also just like to have a general idea of where you might be heading in case of an emergency or issue. If you are hiring a campervan in Iceland for example, there are certain areas and roads that you are expressly prohibited from driving on in certain vehicles.

Do I have to stay in motorhome campgrounds?

Once again this depends on the country you are in, and whether there are any explicit instructions or exemptions that your potential hiring company might have. Be sure to ask them about this, if staying in areas other than campgrounds is what you want to do.

When we were in Iceland we found some really great locations to stay in overnight that were, at the time, ok for us to stay in. Rules have changed now in Iceland, making this more difficult and adding extra expense to a road trip around the Ring Road, in an already expensive country.

Most of the motorhome hiring companies in western Europe, in particular, encourage and support the use of Aires and also wild camping using the France Passion network.

Also remember, depending on the time of year, you may need to book ahead if you are planning on staying in campgrounds. In peak summertime, this will be very important. Also, if you are planning on staying in places like the Cinque Terre or near Lake Como for example, you definitely need to book. If you are planning on following the Tour de France in a motorhome, which we highly recommend, you will need to book well in advance.

Do I need insurance to hire a motorhome?

Yes. This one should be non-negotiable in our opinion and you should make sure your budget allows for this. Too much can go wrong when you are driving someone else’s vehicle and so much of it will be out of your control. Motorhome hire companies will usually have their own additional insurance that you can purchase. We always use our own travel insurance and ensure it has coverage for motorhome excess. See our more detailed explanation of insurance here.

Questions to help you plan a motorhome trip

Time of year to travel

This is important for two main reasons; budget and weather. Travelling through Europe in summer is wonderful. The weather is great, the days and nights are long, and most places are open. It’s when you can really make the most of travelling in a motorhome and enjoying everything the cities have to offer.

It’s also the most expensive time to travel for everything. Flights, accommodation and motorhome hire are definitely going to eat into your budget. It will also mean there is heavy demand for all of the motorhomes and places you are interested in, so booking well in advance will be necessary.

Travelling during late autumn and into winter will allow your budget to spread further, but it’s also much colder. Many places, including campgrounds, may be closed as well, and it gets dark early. In some locations, you may also need snow chains. You’ll spend more time inside the motorhome, especially at night, which could also inform your decision on the size of the vehicle you need.

Shoulder seasons are good times to travel, with less severe weather changes, although the price of your motorhome hire, whilst less, still won’t be rock-bottom.

Travelling distance

This question needs to be answered to determine how long you are going to need to hire your motorhome, and whether you’ve got the time available to do it properly. If you only have a short period of time, don’t lock yourself into huge distances. All you’ll succeed in doing is driving a lot and seeing little. You are better going shorter distances and getting to see the regions properly.

It’s also relevant for budgeting purposes as the further you travel, the more fuel you will need and the more on-costs you may have eg food, campgrounds.

Budget

No one can travel without a budget, that goes without saying. But, it’s easy to get carried away with planning a fantastic motorhome itinerary only to realise it’s going to cost way more than you have available. Knowing your budget, and allowing for unforeseen circumstances should be a major consideration.

Tips for renting a campervan or motorhome in Europe

Imagine waking up in the morning to the sounds of the first bird calls of the day.  You roll over in your comfy bed and slowly pull down the blinds to let the light tumble gently into the inner sanctum of your campervan or motorhome.

It’s at this moment that you remember where you spent the night, parked alongside a small lake, trees leaning over as though they want to touch the water too.  In the background, a fabulous chateau lies in waiting for your visit today.  This isn’t a dream. This is your life, your travels, your own piece of perfection.

It’s memories like these that keep us travelling in motorhomes and campervans in Europe over and over again. They represent freedom and spontaneity, that feeling of being able to do whatever we want, whenever we want.

But, despite being experienced campervan and motorhome travellers, with many kilometres, countries and adventures under our belts, we still always follow a methodical process prior to hiring for a new trip.  This sets us up well and eliminates many of the possible pitfalls.

This may not be a comprehensive list, but it’s our list, and we’ve never gone wrong following it. If you are new to the wonderful world of campervanning, then this beginners guide to campervan hire in Europe will assist you with your planning.

We talk about more of all of this in more detail below.

Not sure about what the inside of a motorhome looks like? Read our guide here.

How to plan your motorhome itinerary

The planning for this can vary greatly, but use the following as a starting point to guide the type of campervan you will need.

Pro tip:  If you’ve never travelled in a campervan before, I would highly recommend that you don’t try to see the world in a short period of time. 

Motorhomes are best suited to slow travel, allowing you to take the time to meander through countryside and towns long enough to absorb it.  On a map, towns can seem relatively easy to get to.  Remember that the terrain in Europe can be difficult, and any passage through the mountains will take much longer than anticipated.  A trip that looks like it can take 30 minutes can take hours.

These are some examples of the trips we’ve done.  One takes 42 days and crosses six countries, the other is 20 days and we remained in a small pocket of France.  Anything can be done, it just depends on how much time you have and how fast you want to go.

Where are you going?

Maybe you like planning every little detail and every stop, or perhaps you’re a bit more adventurous and like to take it as it comes.  Whatever your style, you will need to decide on a start and finish point.  

This will assist in making a decision on which hiring company to use. ie if you are starting and finishing in Paris, there is not much use looking at a hiring company where the only pickup location is Frankfurt in Germany.

There are many mapping tools now available online to assist with your planning.

Via Michelin and Google Maps are the two we most commonly use.  You can enter in criteria such as tolls/no tolls, motorway travel etc.  And, they can all be saved and also printed out.  We only use this for general planning and use the GPS for the more specific details when driving/navigating.

This article gives a list of the top smartphone apps.

Google maps for campervan planning for beginnners

Basic trip planning such as this is useful for overall planning and getting an understanding of whether you are trying to travel too far a distance.

Return trip or one way?

Linked to the “where are you going?” question, is whether you require a one-way hire.  While these are possible, it’s not something I would recommend unless it makes enormous sense to your other plans.  One way hires are usually only possible with companies that have multi-country locations. This then almost binds you to choose that company and its conditions.  Requesting a one-way hire will also bump up the price considerably, and could over-run any savings you might have made by travelling this way.

Note: There are companies who specifically hire on a “relocating” basis, providing incredibly cheap deals to reposition campervans to other locations.  However, these are offered on last-minute arrangements, meaning that for most planned trips, they are not suitable.

When are you planning your road trip?

The million-dollar question!  The high season in the Northern Hemisphere is a great time for travelling.  The weather is usually fantastic, everything is open, and there’s also plenty of people hiring cars, motorhomes and campervans.

In reverse, the low season has wilder weather, many attractions are closed, and there might be snow and ice on the roads bringing another set of issues.

Shoulder seasons offer a great compromise, with the weather generally behaving, plenty of places are still open and it’s far easier to drive.  Hiring costs are also slightly lower.

High season, of course, adds dollars to the hire as demand usually outstrips the availability of vehicles, whilst the shoulder and low seasons see prices come down.

Sometimes the reason for the trip is determined by an event, like the Tour de France.  High season and high demand make this a more expensive time to travel and it also means you need to plan well in advance, as vehicles usually book up 12 months or more in advance.

How long is your road trip?

Boring facts like budget or the amount of time you can get off work normally drive this decision.

The great thing with motorhomes is that they can be hired for shorter periods of time (even a week would be great) or for periods that extend for months.  The longer the hire period, the cheaper the per day rate is.

If you’ve not been travelling in a motorhome or campervan before, it might also be a worthwhile consideration to test the waters with a shorter trip, prior to hitting the road for months at a time.

Note – this article is focused specifically on hiring campervans and motorhomes.  If you are planning on travelling in one for extended periods of time, the option of buying a vehicle comes into play.  Buying a campervan overseas has a separate set of planning requirements that are not dealt with here.

Read our comprehensive article on how to buy a motorhome in France if you are a non-EU member

checking the size of your campervan before hiring beginners guide to campervan hire

What’s your budget?

For most people, this will be the ultimate factor that shapes decisions on all of the above – where, how long, time of year and type of campervan.  It’s important to have an idea of this in your mind before you start looking at hiring campervans so that you don’t waste too much time looking at vehicles that will never fit your budget.

NOTE: If you are planning on travelling in peak periods and you have decided to only camp at official campgrounds, you will also need to consider pre-booking your spots.  Some campgrounds book up many months in advance.  If you have a little more adventure in you, then booking at every location may become less important.  Everything in peak periods takes longer, costs more, and requires more pre-planning.

Are you travelling with others?

This is important as it will dictate the size, type or even number of campervans to hire.  If you are travelling with others be sure to ask the following questions of yourselves and the others before you book anything!

  • Have you travelled with these people before?
  • Have you/they travelled in a campervan before?
  • Do they have similar characteristics to you?
  • Do you all agree on the itinerary?
  • How will you split costs?
  • Are you all going to have insurance?
  • What time of year do you want to go?

Thinking seriously about these types of questions could be the difference between having a great time and/or impacting on an otherwise great relationship.   Those smelly socks left draped over your bed, having to cook three different meals at night to satisfy special diets, a snorer, an early riser, a late night movie watcher…..

Differences that don’t seem like a big deal at home can manifest in the confines of a motorhome.  If you decide you can’t cohabitate, then perhaps you can hire a vehicle each and simply travel together, leaving the living part of the trip separate.  This is the best of both worlds.

A few years back, my brother and his wife, joined us for part of a trip around France.  Aside from the fact that we had slightly different overall itineraries, we hired a motorhome each and drove together for seven days, prior to splitting off in opposite directions.

All of our travel experiences during this time were shared, including some meals and definitely evening drinks, but we had our own space at night.

In contrast, we have taken my parents on two campervan trips through Europe now, where we’ve hired a six berth beast, and all hung out under the one roof.  It just depends on the people and the situation.  There is no right or wrong answer but it does need consideration and discussion.  Don’t just gloss over it and think that because you are overseas it will all be ok.  

Two campervans travelling together beginners guide to campervan hire

Driving in a different country

Most of the anxiety associated with driving in another country comes from a lack of experience, lack of knowledge of the road rules and the personality traits of the travellers. Often times, the single factor that causes most of the stress is having to drive on a different side of the road to what you are used to.

Our best advice is to research where you are going to find out road rules that are specific to that country and any peculiarities. Get to know whether there are toll roads, how easy parking is, can you move a big vehicle around, where will you stay etc.

Know what paperwork and equipment you need

If you are hiring, most of the paperwork like vehicle registation and insurance is provided to you. Similarly all the equipment required to be carried by law should also be provided.

But, it’s good to know what the rules are to ensure you have everything you need.

Find the best company to hire a motorhome from

Once you’ve got a reasonably clear idea of what it is you want, then it’s much easier to start searching online for a company to hire from.  There’s no shortage of companies or booking engines, but how do you know you can trust them?

As a first-timer, I’d highly recommend using brand names that you are familiar with, or companies that come recommended by experienced travellers.  Also, conduct your own reviews online and above all, make sure they are reputable.  Your trip and your financial arrangements depend on it.

There are many companies out there, but these are ones I have used before or portals specialising in campervan and motorhome hire.

Get quotes from hiring companies

This is where all of your “must-haves” come face to face with your budget.  When getting a quote, I can’t stress enough that you must ensure you are always comparing apples with apples.

Some companies will quote a rate, but the inclusions aren’t always clear.  Others will use a base price and charge extra for additional items like bedding.  Sometimes it’s not very clear at all just what is being included.

This means that quotes from different companies, for the same vehicle and time period,  could look very different.  Before you jump straight in and go for the cheapest, be sure to get a full breakdown of all inclusions, costs and add-ons.

Here are some of the basics that you should have in your final package.  Be sure to look for how they are costed in your quotes.  Some will be charged in addition to the basic hire.

  • Unlimited Mileage
  • Fully Comprehensive Insurance
  • 24 Hour Roadside Assistance
  • Bedding, Bed Linen & Towels
  • Outdoor Table & Chairs
  • Cooking Equipment, Tableware & Cutlery
  • Guides and maps
  • Full Bottle Of Gas
  • Vehicle implements like levelling blocks, water hoses and electrical cables
  • Bike Rack and bikes
  • Toilet chemicals – starter pack

Additional items that usually carry an extra cost include additional drivers, GPS and Insurance Excess Cover (CDV).  Some companies offer transfers to their depot, which could also incur an additional charge if you want to utilise this service. 

It also pays to check the costs involved with cleaning.  Exterior cleans are usually included in the hire, provided you haven’t driven it somewhere you shouldn’t have.  Most companies won’t charge you for a final interior clean, unless you have trashed it, or leave certain things like the toilet un-emptied at the end of the hire.  It’s still good to understand where the extra costs might come from at the end if you haven’t done the right thing by the hiring company.

Note: It’s also important to have an understanding of where you want to drive the motorhome.  Some companies won’t allow their vehicles to be driven in certain countries (ever) or at certain times of the year (eg winter). 

When you have made your assessment of all these factors, always remember to ask the hiring company for their best price, or if they have any special deals available.  Demand, local conditions, and even the current state of the economy can all have an impact on business, so it’s worth asking the question.

TIP: Remember that your motorhome is both your transport and your accommodation.  Often, it’s also your restaurant.  When you are breaking down your total into a day rate, it should be fully costed against what it would cost you to travel under different methods (accommodation, transport, food)

Below is a quick cost comparison of two companies hiring a similarly sized campervan out of France.

Have a look at this list and see for yourself the difference in total cost, once they have been compared on a like for like basis.  Note that this is once again not meant to be a complete list.  There are many different options that a hirer can add as part of their overall hire.  Some of the add-ons will also be determined by the season (eg snow chains). 

The list below shows the basic non-negotiable additions to any hire and whether they are included in the hire cost, or additional.  You will also notice the difference in charges for several items.

COMPANY ACOMPANY B
Hire 32 days€3,978.00€4,292.20
Camp chairs /table (2)€30.00€80.00
Bike rack€0.00€80.00Included with bikes in Company A
Bedding kit (inc towels) (1)€50.0035.00Note no towels inc in Company B
Toilet chemicals (4)€10.00€0.00Not offered with company B
Additional driver€0.00€0.00
Bikes€8.00€0.00Not offered with Company B
Booking fee€0.00€30.00
Roadside Assistance€0.00€264.00Included Company A
GPS€0.00€100.00Included Company A
Discount for long hire-€397.80€0.00Not offered Company B
Unlimited mileageYesYes
Cooking equipmentYesYes
Tableware and cutleryYesYes
Campsite and servicing area guidesYesYes
France Passion guidesYesNo
Full bottle camping gasYesYes
Levelling blocks, water hose, electricity cableYesYes
Safety kitYesYes
Free car storageYesYes
Free luggage storageYesYes
Basic comprehensive insuranceYesYes
TOTAL€3,678.20€4,881.20
DIFFERENCE€1,203.00

Pay your deposit to lock it in

The amount of the deposit and the timing of the subsequent payments will vary depending on the company you have decided to go with.  Be sure to make yourself familiar with these requirements to ensure your campervan is locked in for your dates.  This is especially important if you are booking for peak periods.

Depending on your personal financial situations and the state of your currency, it might be worthwhile considering paying the bulk of the hire cost up front, especially if you are booking well in advance.

With fluctuating currencies, it is hard to predict what the rate might look like in 12 months time.  This is purely a personal decision and one to be made at your own discretion.

Make sure you understand any policies relating to cancellations or changes, once the booking has been made.


You should read this >> For some detailed information on what to watch out for when paying your deposit, read our article on Campervan Hire in Portugal where we talk about this at length.  It applies to any motorhome hire.


Once you have booked your motorhome

The planning continues once you have made a booking, just to make sure everything runs smoothly when you pick up your vehicle.

Get Travel Insurance

When we are hiring someone else’s vehicle, having travel insurance is an essential requirement for us.  We insure for what we can’t control.  In a campervan or motorhome, that’s a huge amount.  We can’t control other drivers, random stuff flying around on autobahns (like stones hitting windscreens), weather events, carparks and even thieves. 

We also can’t control other possibilities such as needing to cancel the hire, flight delays which impact pickup times or hire companies going bust (yes it can happen).  If you are a first-timer (and even if you aren’t), there are also ways in which you can damage the campervan, despite your very best intentions not to.

Whilst your campervan or motorhome will be covered by the company’s general insurance, the excess on their policies is not.   Depending on the level of damage, sometimes the bill can run into the thousands.  Damage to the undercroft or rooftop of a vehicle is also not usually covered by a hiring company’s insurance.

Having our own travel insurance, with increased coverage for the excess that can be charged by the hiring company is our number one priority. (Note: you can buy additional excess reduction insurance from the hiring company, but we choose to take out total travel insurance coverage which covers all possible travel issues)

Check requirements for drivers licences and permits

Many hiring companies no longer require International Drivers Permits (IDPs) for the hiring process, but some countries still require them, although this seems to be diminishing.  Personally, I haven’t bought an IDP for years now, for travel in Europe, but as always, it’s good to check based on your own itineraries and the level of risk you are prepared to incur.

Some countries require permits/vignettes to drive on their roads.  eg In Switzerland you are required to buy a pass if you want to drive on their motorways. This is also the case in many Eastern European countries.  Whilst you can’t buy these until you are in those countries, it’s good to know to assist with further planning.

Make your plans for campervan pickup

This is a really important step as it can influence the airport you fly into, whether you need accommodation somewhere else first, plans to drive out of the city, first-night stopover, other transportation requirements etc.

Unlike cars, it is unusual to have campervan rentals close to major airports.  Due to the size of the campervans, the depots are usually on the fringes of major cities, or in more regional areas.  You’ll need to do your specific research depending on where you are arriving/place of the depot, but here are some general guidelines.

beginners guide eto campervan pros and cons

Hiring a campervan in Europe – summary

This beginners guide to campervan hire in Europe should set you up, with limited frustration for your motorhome trip.  This in turn means that you can spend more of your time focused on the best parts – the places you are going to travel to.

Whoever you choose, wherever you go, if you do your homework, you’re sure to have an awesome time.

If you are looking for extra tips on what to pack, check out The essential packing list for campervan hire.

Do I need to stay at a campground?

No, you don’t. It depends on how you want to travel. If you love being close to people, have bathroom facilities every day, access to dumping stations, convenience stores and added security, campgrounds are your best friend. If you like to travel a little more independently and don’t need to rely on electricity and facilities as often, you can wild camp, stay at locations like France Passion, or in Aires. This can be country dependent, so be sure to do your homework first. for security reasons, we don’t recommend staying at service stations on highways.

Do I need an international drivers licence?

Always check with your hiring company and the local laws of the country you are planning to drive in. For a small amount of money, having an IDP can offer peace of mind.

Do I need a special licence to drive a large motorhome?

Most motorhomes are under 3.5 tonne but there can be exceptions. Most domestic licences cover driving up to 3.5 tonnes, but you should always check this first before hiring.

I’ve never driven a motorhome before, will I be able to do it?

We all have to start somewhere. The staff at the hiring location will always be on hand to help you out with advice on the best way to manage driving. We also recommend staying closeby the depot on your first day to get a handle on the vehicle and to practise before you set out on your journey.

How user-friendly are the onboard toilets and showers?

Whilst they aren’t a luxury item they are highly functional and more than capable of being used regularly. If you want a longer shower, it might be a good idea to go to a campground.

Is it easy to empty the toilet waste?

Yes, the waste cassettes are made so well these days that it is a simple process to open the door, pull out the cassette and empty it in the appropriate locations. You can have a look at this article and video to show you how easy it is.

What happens if I breakdown?

As part of your pre-hire process, you should make sure your hire includes roadside breakdown coverage and then you won’t have to worry about breakdowns, flat batteries or tyres.

Can I do a one-way hire?

There are some companies that will allow for one-way hires. Usually these will be chain companies with depots in multiple locations. Note you will always pay more for a one-way hire. Smaller companies will only a few (or single) depots will not offer one-way hires.

More motorhome reading

campervan in forest

Please note: Beer and Croissants tries to provide 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 any hiring company.

76 thoughts on “The ultimate guide to campervan hire in Europe: the questions you must ask before you make the hiring decision”

  1. HI Niki

    Both France and Italy are fantastic countries to motorhome in. France is particularly welcoming of motorhomes which makes it easy. You should also check out my articles on France Passion and Aires as well as this will give you an indication of other places to stay in France (which can save heaps of money) as opposed to always staying in campgrounds. We use and recommend France Motorhome Hire, who are based out of Veron, about 1.5 hours train ride south of Paris. If you mention us when you get a quote and book with them, you will also save €50 on your hire. In terms of an itinerary, if you head south from here down towards the French Riveria, there are some great areas with beautiful scenery and landscapes, including the Gorges du Verdon which is spectacular and great for water activities and hiking. There’s also Mount Ventoux which is one of the mountains used in the Tour de France. The Burgundy Trail, leading down through Dijon, Beaune, Macon, Lyon down to the French Riveria is lovely. The French Riveria is not an easy place to have a motorhome however. The area of Avignon, Nimes, Montpellier is also beautiful. With only a max of 10 days, you are better off picking up a region and doing it a little more intensively than trying to drive too far. You could also go west of Veron (the depot) and go along the Loire Valley, a stunning area with great cycling paths, canals, chateaux and gorgeous cities and countryside. You could also join our group on FB where we can chat more about French itineraries if you like. https://www.facebook.com/groups/motorhominginfrance/

  2. Hi there,

    I came across your site looking for answers on a possible trip with my partner and our 5 kids ( 12, 11, 9, 8 and 6). I am interested in doing a motorhome trip either in France or Italy and I was wondering if you have recommendations on an itinerary and rental place for max 10 days. We love nature, good food and anything to do with Water activities.

  3. Hi Leo

    All of the France Motorhome Hire vehicles are left hand drive but are manual transmission. McRent are the same. Mostly motorhomes, especially the big ones, are manual as they require a fair bit of grunt in a lot of areas for getting up mountains etc.

  4. What company did you got through? And were there any spots you would recommend? We have 2 eight year olds travelling with us ?

  5. Hi Carol, unfortunately no we haven’t been into Scandanavia in a motorhome yet. These guys might be able to help https://www.vanlife.com.au/vanlife-articles/scandinavia-in-a-campervan. In terms of waste water in Europe, when we’ve been in western Europe there are several ways of doing it. Usually for grey (waste) water, the motorhome is simply parked over a grate in the ground (in a designated dumping area), the tank is opened and the water dispenses straight into the reservoir for the waste. We don’t need or use a hose. We use the hose to fill up the water tanks. For the waste tanks, again we use designated dumping areas and we take the cassette to the area and manually empty. It all seems to work quite easily.

  6. Hi Kerri. Thanks for the great info! Do you have any experience with motorhome in Scandinavia? We are hoping to spend 3 months in Sweden and Norway and some of Denmark, but struggling with the info I am finding online. We have experience with RV in the US and Australia, but this will be the first time in Europe. We heard that the waste water dispensing is manual in Europe, that no hose is used. Is this also your experience? Thanks in advance! Carol

  7. Hi Susan, that will be fantastic. We so love the Dordogne and late September is a perfect time of year to be doing this. As for the shower, it honestly really comes down to how attached you are to your shower 🙂 and also whether you are trying to do things on a bit more of a budget or not. As you say, it can then also help you in deciding to go for a smaller van which is a little easier to drive and saves you money too of course. Personally, we have always gone with a motorhome that has a shower as we like to have it onboard with us so that we have access to it regardless of where we stay the night. For us, it puts less pressure then on where we stay, knowing we can still have a shower. The campsites are indeed pretty good and their facilities are usually the same but of course you are going to be paying much more for them than you would elsewhere. I would never hire a van without a toilet, to be honest. It’s just so convenient to have one on board and again it makes it easier to be more self sufficient when staying at non official campsties when you have a toilet onboard. Have you also heard of the France Passion network? We recommend this so highly and to us it’s the best place to stay in motorhomes in France. I’ve got an article on the website on these but we’ve just returned from using them for a month and I still have so much more to write. Can answer any questions on that too if you like. We definitely needed our shower/toilet for staying here. I’m not sure who you are looking to hire from but France Motorhome Hire, who we always use when we are in France actually have smaller vehicles that still come with a shower and toilet, so the hire is cheaper, you can still camp at aires or at France Passion, but you have your facilities on board. If you are interested in using them or getting a quote, just mention that you spoke to me at Beer and Croissants and they will take 50 euro off your hire price. Let me know if you need anything further. Kerri

  8. This is a great article! We will be hiring a campervan to explore the Dordogne area in late September. Do you have any advice on whether to hire one with or without a shower? Having a shower means we could stay in aires but we’ve also read that the municipal campsites are generally quite nice and cheap meaning we could have a smaller campervan without a toilet/shower. Would love to hear your thoughts. Cheers

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