Answers to All Your Camper Van Rental Questions
Here are answers to our most frequently asked questions. If you don't see your question answered here, ask us!
Where Do I Go and What Should I Do?
The Northwest is full of amazing options for your rental - it's up to you and your desires. You could spend weeks exploring the Pacific Northwest, including the Olympic Peninsula, the North Cascades, the Gorge, the Oregon High Desert, and the Coastal regions, but not all in one trip! There are many resources online to research and plan your route, and we've put together a few of our favorite itineraries for you too. Your van will be happy out on a forest service road, off the grid, or parked in a popular National or State Park campsite. Keep in mind that a lot of popular campgrounds in the Northwest require reservations and those do fill up quickly. Visit the National Parks website or the State of Washington Parks Portal to learn about some of the improved campground options.
With a longer rental (more than 9 nights), places like Vancouver Island, Yellowstone and even the northern parts of California are possible. You will need to clear these longer trips with us. Generally speaking, Glacier National Park is too far, but if that's a must-do, contact our good friends at DragonFly Vans.
The Campgrounds All Look Full! What Do I Do?
Don't panic! There are always options, ranging from 'AirBNB for private land' to a site like HipCamp to private campgrounds near the popular parks to dispersed camping on Forest Service roads and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Ask us, we may have some tips for you! As a last case scenario, you can always look for another VW van in a campground and politely ask if you can share for the night (be prepared to pay their fees and treat them well - of course, do not expect this to be okay with everyone, but VW van owners are a pretty friendly lot). There are also lots of private campgrounds as well that often can squeeze you in.
Can I Take My Rental on the Washington State Ferry?
YES! There is a slightly higher ferry rate for a van, but they fit and require no special accommodations on the Washington State Ferry system. Keep in mind that the ferries fill up in the summer, but two routes now accept reservations (Port Townsend/Coupeville and Anacortes/San Juans). Either way, you will be the envy of the ferry waiting area as you cook, live, and relax in your van while everyone else squirms around in their small cars.
Is renting in the Fall/Winter a good idea?
YES! We generally don't let our vehicles go into know snow areas or ski parking lots, but if you want to take advantage of the mild winter conditions around most our region, renting a VW van is a great way to explore some beautiful areas without the crowds. All our vans have heaters to break the chill and give you warm home upon return from a hike or similar. These heaters are safe and convenient and built into the vans, running off the stock propane systems. We generally don't recommend more than two people in the winter months as it's hard to keep the vans dry and warm in a winter rainstorm when the pop top tent is up. But it can work with more than 2.
Is Renting a VW Camper Van a Good Idea With Kids?
100 percent! Kids love vans...like, a lot. They will most likely fight over sleeping up top and you will create memories that will last a lifetime. Car seats do fit in the vans and while we certainly have seen people fit three kids in back on the bench seat, it's a tight squeeze. We can assist with car seats if you are not traveling with them, just let us know in advance. Please be aware that rear facing (infant) car seats are secured in with only the 3 pt. seat belt. There is no LATCH system under the seat to tether to nor a ceiling anchor.
What Happens if My Rental Breaks Down Mid-trip?
While we rent only the most reliable and thoroughly checked vans, there is always the chance of a mechanical mishap on these vintage vehicles. We have you covered! In the unlikely event you have a mechanical issue, we are reachable at most reasonable hours to help immediately troubleshoot. When you rent, you will also be given contact information for our question hotline. Most problems can easily be troubleshot in real time and fixed with no disruption to you trip. In the event you need to visit a repair shop, we maintain strong relationships with many shops and there is a good chance one of our known and trusted shops will be not far away. Almost any non-catastrophic failure can be handled by any of these shops and you will be back on the road the same day or day after. In the event your van is not repairable, we will either provide a replacement vehicle or refund the remainder of the trip and assist with changes in your itinerary. In most cases, a minor breakdown in a van actually becomes one of the most memorable parts of your journey. This is not something that we hope happens, but we have seen lifelong connections made from strangers offering assistance to fellow VW enthusiasts on the side of a road. It's all part of the magic.
Why Are My Miles Per Day Limited?
The rentals are vintage vehicles that even in their prime years needed a bit more 'care and feeding' than your average car. We find it's best for the vans to not push them too hard, and the most effective way to help with that is to have a daily maximum of miles. As described on the How It Works page, your rental includes an average of 125 miles per day for your trip. Longer days are okay as long as you take a few rests for you and the van, and have some shorter mileage days in between.
Off Roading in a Van Looks Fun. Can I do it?
All of our vehicles are 2-wheel drive. As such, they are not suited to hard core off roading. We request that you stay to paved roads or well-graded and well-cleared forest service roads. We can not be responsible for towing or damage if you do take your van down a washboarded, washed out, or extremely overgrown road. If you do choose to travel on those roads, be very, very mindful that it is very easy to get stuck in a ditch, a muddy pull out or even a soft grass field. Your van travels with 24 hour roadside assistance to help in these situations, but the cost will be yours to bear as will the lost time. If you aren't comfortable taking these risks there's plenty of paved and nearly paved adventures to be had.
How Many People Can Fit in a Van Rental for the Week?
While the internet is rife with pictures of large families and even fraternities sharing a van, we find the vans work with best with a maximum of 2 adults and 2 children. We have seen 2 adults and 3 children work - but this either requires very cozy sleeping arrangements of a tent. There is room for 2 people to sleep up in the pop-top and 2 people (or 3 kids) to sleep downstairs. If you're traveling with 4-5 adults, you might consider renting a Vanagon Weekender model, which has more space.
Do You Offer One-way Rentals?
Yes! But very limited and only to/from Santa Cruz, CA and San Luis Obispo, CA. Read more here. In our off season, we can talk about one ways to other places (e.g. Tucson, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, etc.). These would require a minimum of 2-3 weeks and an additional one way drop off fee. We've had people take a van for a month and drop off in the Southwest.
What Kind of Mechanical Work is Done Before I Pick Up?
Every van we rent starts it's life in nothing but the best shape. Our mechanical shop is known nationwide as one of the best shops for these vehicles, and we treat our rental fleet as though they were our own personal vehicles. Before you drive away in your van, it has had a 50-point inspection by one of our specialized technicians and any issues have been addressed.
Your Prices Seem a Bit High Compared to Other Similar Companies?
Honestly, with these vehicles the last thing you want is something cheap. A cheap VW van is a great project, but a terrible vacation. Each of our vans has had a minimum of $20,000 of maintenance and upgrades to get them ready for our rental fleet - some of had close to $25,000 or more invested. These are all vans that we would be proud and comfortable taking our own families on road trips in. Each van, while aged in their own way, also has their own unique set of upgrades and touches that set them apart from the rest of the VW rental market. Also, your van is backed by one of the largest and most experienced shops in the country giving you extra peace of mind. Do your research and then make an informed decision. Learn more about why we think we are the best rental option out there!
If our prices are a bit too high and you're only two people traveling, you might want to check out our good friends at Cascade Campers. They outfit small Ford Transits for two people. Check them out.
You charge a lot of tax - what gives?
Yes, unfortunately, as a Seattle based business we have to collect two separate taxes - 9.6% Washington state sales tax and a 7.7% City of Seattle rental car tax. The second tax mus be collected by any rental company in the Seattle area and surrounding counties. We believe in taxes, and while this is a lot of extra money, we believe it's important to pay our taxes and report them properly. We regret it makes our rentals more expensive to your bottom line, but we believe it's important we do this.
Are all those vans at your location for rent?
Oh god...no! That would be a lot of rentals. Peace Vans is the largest shop of it's kind in the Northwest (and possibly the entire US) - working on only VW vans and older "buses". In the summer we can have anywhere between 70-90 vehicles in the shop at various stages of repair, restoration or just waiting for parts, etc. Our rental fleet is a small fraction of all those vans you see when you come to the shop. If you want a tour of the shop before or after your rental, let us know and we are happy to make the time and show you around. It's a pretty fascinating set up we have and one we are very proud of.
This whole VW Rental thing looks cool and easy and I own a van - can you help me start my own rental business?
Seriously, we get this question - or a variation of it once a month so we decided to write this up. Yes, this is a bit tongue in cheek :)
The recent innovation in insurance products and the emergence of the "sharing economy" and platforms to support that, have lowered the barriers to entry in significant ways. However, vintage car rental (and, really - car rental in general) is radically different from other sharing models. Specifically, these vintage VWs require a massive amount of care and feeding both initially and throughout a rental season. Honestly speaking, we have the largest repair shop in the country for these things at our immediate disposal (our sister company - Peace Vans) and we can barely keep up during the rental season. We are constantly pulling shop resources to make sure the rentals are 100% perfect for our customers, we simply don't see how you can keep a high quality bar without similar resources at your disposal. Not to scare our renters away, but these things break - little things, big things, old things, even new things. And it's super expensive to fix them. When they break for us, we can fix them immediately - we have 6 figures+ of parts on the shelf, 15 highly qualified employees, access to hard to find parts, the financial wherewithal to stock expensive parts, and more.
We have a ridiculously low issue rate but that's because we are almost always tweaking, fine tuning, major repairing, and keeping up with the things that do break. We say this not to keep out the competition (the competition doesn't bother us because we know we are awesome and we know you are going to have a much better experience with us) but to offer honest advice. We simply don't see how you could do it and maintain what would be a) your sanity and b) a long term satisfied customer base.
Economically, we simply don't see how a small model works (again, with a vintage platform) with these vans. The money you will spend maintaining your fleet will far outstrip your revenues. And working on the vans yourself - unless you're a master mechanic, it's going to be tough. And if you are a master mechanic, those are precious hours you should be spending making sure the rest of the business is running perfectly.
Finally, keep in mind that "vacation vehicle rental" is a 100% customer focused/hospitality business. Even if your vans are running perfectly, if you can't take that call at 10PM to help a customer, or you don't have the bandwidth to deal with the fine details of making a family's vacation perfect, it's probably not a good fit. We have a dedicated team of 4 people (minimum) monitoring the phone, email. Instagram and Facebook and we respond to every renter question within 5 minutes regardless of the time of day. We generally have an issued resolved within 60 minutes. If you are not operating at scale, there is simply no way you could handle multiple customer issues simultaneously.
Your heart is in the right place - you love these vehicles, you probably love helping people. We make it look easy. How hard can it be? Remember, it's people's vacations and precious time off and hard earned money. Make sure you can meet your commitments to them before you just rush into it.