Renting an Overland capable 4x4 is as cheap as renting a camper van. Read below for the details.
The notion of 'cheap' or budget camper van rentals is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, the daily rate is often very low, but if you want something as simple as a camping chair ... well, expect to pay extra for it. In contrast, the slightly higher daily rate for a 4x4 Overland vehicle works out cheaper by the time you hit the checkout.
We have put together a simple price comparison for 3 different types of rental:
1. A minivan converted into a camper, complete with Roof Top Tent
2. A van converted into a camper complete with Roof Top Tent
3. An Overland equipped 4x4 Jeep complete with Roof Top Tent
“Ok, so it costs slightly less to rent a 4x4 Jeep for your next trip. It certainly looks cooler than a minivan or converted passenger van ... so what's the catch? The Jeeps often don't come with a sink, that's about it”
The criteria for comparison are:
A. Booking for a 3 day trip
B. Taking out basic insurance
C. Having the bare minimum of items added for the trip (cooking utensils, camp chairs etc).
The outcome of the comparison was quite surprising, as pretty much everyone expected the 4x4 Jeep (with it's ability to go off-road) to be a lot more expensive ... but it ends up being cheaper! Yes, cheaper than a converted minivan. Take a look at the table below:
As you can see, the initial daily rates of the minivan and camper van are low, however they include only the van in that price, little to no basic camping equipment. Everything from chairs, to cooking utensils have to be paid for separately. The big gotcha is they do not include any miles in the rental - you either pay for the exact amount you use, or add in pre-paid miles in chunks of 100 miles per day. In contrast, the 4x4 Jeep 'camper' includes 125 miles per day as part of the rental.
It's not just the cost, it's the value:
Ok, so it costs slightly less to rent a 4x4 Jeep for your next trip. It certainly looks cooler than a minivan or converted passenger van, so what's the catch? The Jeeps often don't come with a sink ..... and that's just about it. However the 4x4s do come with a solar shower and folding sink, so you can still easily prepare your food and clean the dishes.
The big cost saver that's often forgotton....
Jeeps and 4x4 vehicles can pretty much take you anywhere, no need to stick to the blacktop. this opens up infinitely more camping possibilities. In the sate of California, approximately half of the state is desert. A considerable amount of wilderness in the form of mountains, lakes and even coastline is available to anyone who can access it.
Why is this relevant? If you can reach the dispersed or primitive campsites, i.e. those located at the top of unpaved forest roads, hidden in desert canyons or secluded at the end of rutted racks, you find the most unspoiled locations. These are places you don't have to share with anyone else (others will be stuck in their minivan, in a campsite next to a giant RV with generators humming). Another benefit, dispersed campsites are free!
Let's do some additional quick mental arithmetic here: A 3 day trip consists of 2 nights, so at approx $30 per night for a very basic campsite, you are saving another $60 over the campervan cost (not evening taking account of the ever-present booking fees on top of the actual rate).
Finally, the new Overland companies all appear to be small, upscale, local and family owned. The campervan rental companies with fleets of hundreds of units are corporations. Where would you expect to find the better service and attention to detail....?
Almost forgot, when posting to Instagram, is it better to show you went on an adventure in a minivan (from RV park to RV park), or you went off road in a 4x4 to discover the wilderness?