You can take a cross-country RV trip for $1 a day — so long as you're flexible

1 year ago 286
  • Traveling in RVs and camper vans is trendier than ever, but it's not cheap.
  • There's a cheaper way to road trip for those with more flexibility about their start and end points. 
  • One-way relocation deals let customers transport RVs for as little as $1 per day.

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RVs are all the rage right now thanks to a pandemic and work-from-anywhere revolution that supercharged the already flourishing #vanlife movement.

But renting a home on wheels can cost hundreds of dollars per day. Buying one or taking on a do-it-yourself project can run you tens of thousands. But there's a little-known way to take an extended RV road trip for much less. 

They're called relocation deals, and they're pretty much exactly what they sound like. Sometimes, RV manufacturers and rental companies need vehicles transported from place to place — to deliver a new one or accommodate the next renter. To accomplish that, they offer one-way rentals for pennies on the dollar.

On Imoova, a broker that connects travelers to RVs in need of relocation in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, rentals regularly go for as little as $1 per day (plus a booking fee). A regular rental could cost anywhere from $150 to $500 per night, depending on the vehicle, for the same trips. 

"We get called every day a hundred times, from different customers around the world, saying 'is this a joke?' because it's a dollar a day," William Brice, the company's founder, told Insider. 

An RV rented through Imoova.

An RV rented through Imoova. Randy Naraine

On Imoova's website, customers can find deals on vehicles ranging from converted Chrysler minivans to full-sized RVs that can sleep a family. Each relocation stipulates when a vehicle needs to be picked up and returned, and how many miles customers are allowed to rack up. Renters can pay extra for bedding or if they'd like to add extra travel days or mileage beyond what's allotted.

In a normal year, the company facilitates around 400 relocations per month in the US during the April-to-October travel season, Brice said. During the pandemic, however, relocations have slowed due to supply-chain disruptions slamming vehicle production.

People who want a longer trip should book early in the season, Brice said, when Imoova gives customers 14 or 21 days to transport new RVs from factories in the Midwest to destinations around the country. Later in the season, renters typically move RVs between rental hubs with shorter turnaround times. They may see opportunities to drive from Illinois to New York in five days, or from Dallas to Los Angeles in eight, to give two recent examples.

Randy Naraine, who works for an airline in New York, got hooked on RV relocations after his first trip from Indiana to Las Vegas in 2018. Since then, he's booked six more trips through Imoova and visited around 20 National Parks in different styles of RVs, he told Insider. All his trips cost $1 per day, plus gas and some other fees. 

An RV rented through Imoova.

An RV rented through Imoova. Randy Naraine

Since he can fly for free through work, Naraine can easily book rentals in far-flung locations. He's determined to keep relocating RVs but is holding tight until gas gets cheaper. On his latest trip, he drove a van-sized camper, which he liked better and found more fuel efficient than the huge RVs he'd rented in the past. But he warns that you don't know exactly what vehicle you'll get until you show up at the pick-up location. 

Another tip for first-time RVers from Naraine: You can prepay for the RV company to dump your sewage on arrival. He learned the hard way that this is well worth the extra cost. 

"If you don't know what you're doing, you can end up with a face full of piss. You have to be careful with that," he said.

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