My RV Rental Experience With El Monte RV Rentals
My family and I have been thinking about buying an RV. I have been watching Craigslist and have been surprised by how expensive a nice RV can be. As a result, we decided to rent an RV to help us determine if an RV was a good fit for our family. My wife started by calling around. At first we were shocked by how expensive it was to rent an RV. In essence, we could stay in a 5-star hotel for the price of an RV. Nonetheless, we were committed to giving this a try and $1,600 for five days was still cheap relative to the cost of laying down $60k to $80k to have our own.
We ended up reserving a 30 foot RV from El Monte RV rental near Denver Colorado. Our first surprise was that we could not pick up the RV until 2:30 in the afternoon. After completing all the paperwork, watching an instructional video, and receiving a tour of the RV it was already 3:45 pm, which did not give us much time to load up and get us to our destination. During the paperwork I was also surprised that it would cost $4 per day to simply unlock the receiver hitch so that we could install our own bike rack. I asked if I could save the $4 dollars and unlock it myself - the representative did not laugh. I was also surprised to learn that on the 5th day we needed to have the RV returned and cleaned by 11:00 am. This meant we really needed to return from our trip on the 4th day to clean the RV and get it returned on time. El Monte RV charges $50 for every hour you are late. So in summary we were really paying $1,400 (not counting gas) to rent the RV for three days since the first and last days were not full days and they were mostly absorbed by learning and cleaning. By the way, do not plan to leave your car at EL Monte as they will charge you for that, too.
As soon as I left El Monte I quickly realized that there was a terrible shimmer in the steering. At that point I had two choices - go back or keep going. For the sake of time I decided it would be something I would have to learn to live with. The RV was only 3 years old with 40k miles; however, you would never know as it was in pretty rough shape.
Once we got home we quickly loaded and then realized that EL Monte forgot to unlock the receiver hitch for our bike rack. As a result, we called them immediately only to find out that our choice was to go back to pick up the key, which was a 60 minute round trip. I asked if they could bring it to me and they said, "No". We then proceeded to call their help center in California where a kid told us the same thing. After protesting and sharing our frustrations he suggested that we take it to an authorized dealer to have it cut off, which would be a 60 mile round trip. For the sake of time we decided to leave the bikes home.
As soon as we pulled out of the driveway the engine check light appeared. This was frustrating as we were already behind schedule. Per the contract, we proceeded to call the 800 number and nobody answered. The RV seemed to be running ok so we opted to ignore the light. The light never went off the remainder of the trip, which was unnerving. The last thing we wanted to do was burn precious vacation time sitting at a garage.
We arrived at our campsite at around mid-night. It was fairly cold so we turned on the heat. The RV was warming up nicely until all the power unexpectedly shut down. Throughout the next three days the power would continually shut down at the most inopportune times. The most annoying malfunction occurred at 3:00 am when the natural gas alarm sounded. It seemed to be triggered when we were running the heat at night. Not knowing if we were being poisoned we decided to turn off the heat and open some windows. Unfortunately, we all froze, which brought back memories of our tent days.
I was hopeful that the luxury of an RV would help convince my wife that camping was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, after three days she was done so we headed home. Once home we cleaned the RV and took it back to El Monte RV. Upon returning the RV the representative asked if we had any problems. I started by telling him the alignment problem and that it seemed to shake less if you went 75 miles per hour. His immediate response was, "You should have gone 80". He then explained that vehicles with heavy ply tires are impossible to align and it is possible that all the weight caused the rims to bend over time. He must have thought that I had "stupid" written on my forehead. I was so appalled by his response that I decided it would be useless to share all the other problems.
In summary, we found that El Monte has poor service and their RVs are not maintained well. I think the demand for RV rentals is very high during the summer and El Monte is not concerned about creating repeat customers. I have been told by others to rent from RV America next time. I must say, it will take some time for us to forget this experience. Plus, laying down $1,600 for three days of camping and two days of wasted rental time is a hard pill to swallow.