6 Camper Van Rentals for the Ultimate California Coast Road Trip

6 Camper Van Rentals for the Ultimate California Coast Road Trip

Renting a camper van and road tripping is an incredible way to explore any place on earth, but especially the famously beautiful California coast. And especially if you surf. There are so many great surf breaks all over California, you could spend months exploring them.

We went on an epic surfing road trip up the California coast, and in our planning phases, we did a whole lot of research on camper van rentals. We’ve already done the work for you, so here’s the lowdown on camper van rentals in California.

 

• CAMPER VAN VERSUS RV •

photo via cruise america

this is a RV / photo via cruise america

First things first, camper vans are not RVs. Recreational vehicles (RVs) are much larger motor vehicles equipped with living space and many amenities that you would find in a home like a kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping area. Some require a special license to drive and can be very cumbersome and difficult to maneuver.

vw classic camper / camper versus rv

this is a snazzy vintage VW camper van / photo via Pembrokeshire Classic Campers

Camper vans are typically vans that have been outfitted to provide both transportation and a sleeping area, and they’re considerably less expensive. The vans don’t require any special driver’s license and they’re relatively small in size compared to RVs. All of the camper van rentals on our list have some form of a small built-in kitchen and a bed, as well as a range of other amenities to consider.

It’s good to note that all camper vans are not created equal. Some campers are smaller, more bare bones rentals, while others come with the whole enchilada. So definitely take that into consideration when looking at pricing.

 

• COST OF CAMPER VAN RENTALS IN CALIFORNIA •

Pricing on camper van rentals ranges widely depending on what time of year you’ll be road tripping. Here are the seasons (roughly) for road tripping on the California coast:

  • High season (summer): June – September
  • Mid season: October, April, and May
  • Low season (winter): November – March

*Note that you will see higher rates during US holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Years, and dates that include 3-day weekends.

Many camper van rental companies don’t publish their rates. As with most travel, the rates on camper van rentals vary depending on what time of year you’re traveling, how long you want to rent for (typically the longer you rent, the cheaper the nightly rate), and how far in advance you book. The rates we have listed below are based on mid-season pricing on a weeklong trip, October 8 – 15 to be exact.

It’s also good to know that some companies (like JUCY) offer relocation rates where, essentially, they need to get a camper from one location to another. The rates are super low (like $1 per day, plus a free tank of fuel), but there are different limitations on time frames. For example, with JUCY you can only take 3 days max to relocate a vehicle.

In our guide to camper van rentals on the California Coast, we’ve broken down some standard info on each camper van rental, including rental locations, number of passengers, one-way fees, mileage, pet policies, and pricing (but remember the pricing will vary widely depending on the season so this is just a gauge to give you an idea of rates on mid-season rentals).

 

Camper Van Rentals in California

 

1 • VINTAGE SURFARI WAGONS

camper van rentals california / vanagon rentals

Get a taste of California’s swinging road trip past with a 1970s era VW camper bus. Vintage Surfari Wagons has a fleet of super sweet retro VW Eurovans from the 70s, as well as a handful of 80s VW Vanagons that are also pretty darn groovy. Each bus and Vanagon rental has its own unique charm and has been revived with fresh trim and groovy beach-inspired accents.

The buses all come standard with essentials such as: stove, sink (with water tank), ice box or refrigerator, dining table, and all the other accessories you’ll need to make it happen.

We had the pleasure of renting a 1979 Deluxe Westfalia Pop-Top Camper named Eddie and had an epic road trip, surfing and camping up the California coast. Read about our VW adventure here.

camper van rental california

 

RENTAL LOCATIONS: COSTA MESA

PASSENGERS: 4-5 people (sleeps 2-4 adults) depending on model

MILEAGE: 120 free miles included per rental day (Additional miles on Vanagon and Eurovan buses are at .39/mile. Bay Window buses are .79/mile per additional mile.)

PETS: Pets are welcome with prior approval. A $100 per pet per rental is required (maximum of 2) and they request that dogs be under 45 pounds.

PRICING:

  • LOW SEASON
    $129 – $169 per day /$830 – $1100 per week
  • MID SEASON
    $149 – $189 per day /$985 – $1220 per week
  • HIGH SEASON
    $1200 – $1500 weekly

ONE-WAY FEE: $550 (and a 14-day minimum rental required)

INSURANCE: $18 – $28 per day

If you are a North American resident and have a full coverage auto policy (liability, comprehensive and collision), then you’re probably insured while driving one of Surfari’s VWs.

GOOD TO KNOW: These vintage VWs are exactly that–vintage! Because these buses were developed in the 1930s and built with all the technical sophistication of the 1970s, you don’t have some of those modern car conveniences you take for granted. Most of the buses have a manual transmission, there’s no air conditioning or power anything, and the company asks that you not exceed 65 mph (105 kph).

Vintage Surfari Wagons website

 

2 • ESCAPE CAMPERVANS

6 Camper Van Rentals for the Ultimate California Coast Road Trip / Escape Campervans

Escape Campervans is one of the largest fleets of camper vans in the US, with five locations across both coasts. Each van has been hand-painted by local artists, so you’ll be driving and living out of a mini piece of art.

Escape’s pricing is really reasonable, and they include a lot of extras, like 100 miles per day, free picnic chairs, and free bedding. The company has a “no hidden costs” policy, which basically means that all of their pricing is upfront, and they’re not going to tack on a laundry list of unexpected extras.

6 Camper Van Rentals for the Ultimate California Coast Road Trip / Escape Campervans

Escape offers two camper van models, the Ford E150 (Mavericks) and Dodge Caravan (Ventura), and all campers are covered in custom artwork from top to bottom. While you can’t select a specific van design, when you book your reservation you can mention which genre or style of van art you prefer (nature, abstract or cartoon).

6 Camper Van Rentals for the Ultimate California Coast Road Trip / Escape Campervans

 

RENTAL LOCATIONS: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami and New York

PASSENGERS: Mavericks seats 5 (sleeps 2-3), Ventura seats 4 (sleeps 2)

MILEAGE:

  •  100 miles per day included for free and averaged over your hire. The cost of additional miles is 25 cents per mile.
  • Purchase an additional 100 miles for $15/Day (giving you a total of 200 miles/day) The cost of additional miles is 25 cents per mile for mileage greater than 200 miles per day averaged over your trip
  • You can purchase unlimited miles at the start of your trip for only $19 per day.

PETS: The pet fee is $150. Pets are allowed in the shoulder and low season ONLY (outside July, August and September).

PRICING: $71 – $82 per day / ~$516.60 per week

ONE-WAY FEE: $150

INSURANCE: $9 – $21.25 per day

If you’re a U.S. or Canadian resident with a valid driver’s license and automobile insurance that provides full coverage for rental vehicles (including minivans), you may have coverage.

GOOD TO KNOW: As you can see, these camper vans are quite the colorful bunch! It’s good to know that the company doesn’t offer any basic-color vans, and you can’t choose the exact artwork for your rental. That being said, in the FAQs on Escape’s website, they sound like they make an effort to help you get a style you’re happy with.

Escape Campervans website

 

3 • BONGO BUGGIES

Bongo Buggies / 6 Camper Van Rentals for the Ultimate California Coast Road Trip

Bongo Buggies is the only camper van rental company on our list that operates out of San Diego. They’re also the only company that has Wifi access in their vans. On your road trip you might just want to get away from technology entirely, but it’s always nice to have internet access when you want it!

Bongo Buggies has two models–the Ford Transit Connect, and the Nissan NV200 (which is only $10 per night more than the Ford model).  Both models comfortably sleep 2 adults and include Wifi access, a kitchenette, camp stove, 2 sleeping bags and linens, towels, lantern, 2 camping chairs and all the power you need to charge your gadgets.

Bongo Buggies / 6 Camper Van Rentals for the Ultimate California Coast Road Trip

 

RENTAL LOCATIONS: San Diego (and limited rentals in San Francisco)

PASSENGERS: Ford Transit Connect seats and sleeps 2, the Nissan NV200 seats 2 and sleeps up to 4

MILEAGE: 100 miles per night included. Additional miles at $0.15 per mile

PETS: Pets are allowed for an extra cleaning fee

PRICING: $89- $99 per night / $553 – $623 per week

ONE-WAY FEE: 20% of your total rental amount.

INSURANCE: $12.95 – $20 per day

If you’re a U.S. or Canadian resident with a valid driver’s license and automobile insurance that provides full coverage for rental vehicles (including minivans), you may have coverage for the van. Or you might be able to add it through your insurance company.

GOOD TO KNOW: Bongo Buggies offers additional rental options like a bike rack, beach cruisers, additional coolers, and even surfboards. The company does offer one-way trips, but be sure to inquire about specifics because they have limited options for one-way rentals.

Bongo Buggies website

 

4 • LOST CAMPERS

Lost Campers / 6 Camper Van Rentals for the Ultimate California Coast Road Trip

If you’re on a tight budget and want to travel incognito, then Lost Campers is the rental for you. For those that aren’t keen on brightly-colored vans, Lost Campers has budget camper van rentals with absolutely no signs, advertising, or flashy colors.

The company offers four models to choose from, starting at their smallest van, Wanderer Class, which seats and sleeps two people, to the Redwood Class, which has a kitchen unit, lockable storage, roof tent for additional sleeping space, and large RV awning. Bedding, a kitchen/dish kit are included in all rentals, and a 3-inch mattress is included the roof tents.

Lost Campers / 6 Camper Van Rentals for the Ultimate California Coast Road Trip

 

RENTAL LOCATIONS: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City

PASSENGERS: 

  • Wanderer Class seats 2 (sleeps 2)
  • Sierra Class seats 5 (sleeps 2)
  • Hotel Sierra Class seats 5 (sleeps 4-5)
  • Redwood Class seats 6 (sleeps 5-6)

MILEAGE: 100 free miles per day are included. Extra miles will be charged at 25c per mile, or there are two packages you can purchase:

  • An extra 100 miles a day can be purchased for $19 a day
  • An extra 200 miles a day can be purchased for $25 a day.

PETS: $50 pet fee

PRICING: $47 – 80 per day / $480 – $610 per week

ONE-WAY FEE: $150

INSURANCE: $12 – $22 per day

Minimal liability insurance is included in the rates. If you’re a U.S. or Canadian resident with a valid driver’s license and automobile insurance that provides full coverage for rental vehicles (including minivans), you may have coverage for the van.

GOOD TO KNOW: The largest vans, The Redwood Class, can only be picked up and dropped off at the San Francisco location.

Lost Campers website

 

5 • CALIFORNIA CAMPERS

DSC_0102

California Campers offers Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia campers for rent out of the San Francisco area. This is a smaller company, so you don’t have an option for one-way trips, but the groovy-ness of road tripping in a classic VW van is well worth it.

The Volkswagen Westfalia Camper has two full-sized double beds, kitchenette with a 2-burner gas stove, sink with water pump and 10.5 gallon water tank, and a 3-way refrigerator. The vans also have a pop-up roof with a skylight, an easy-sliding side door, large windows for great sightseeing, and plenty of cabinet space. Rotating front seats, a dining table, electric and water hook-ups, propane tank, privacy curtains, and a fire extinguisher are included.

 

RENTAL LOCATION: San Francisco

PASSENGERS: seats and sleeps 4 (some campers can have an additional seat installed for a fifth person upon request)

MILEAGE: 120 free miles per day and all applicable taxes. Extra miles are 39 cents per mile.

PRICING: $125 per day / $850 per week

ONE-WAY FEE: One-way trips are not an option

INSURANCE: $15 per day

If you’re a U.S. or Canadian resident with a valid driver’s license and automobile insurance that provides full coverage for rental vehicles (including minivans), you may have coverage for the van.

GOOD TO KNOW: Unlike most of the camper van rentals, taxes are already included in the price. Travel to Death Valley from June to October is not permitted due to extremely high temperatures which can cause system failures.

California Campers website

 

6 • JUCY RV RENTALS

JUCY RV Rentals USA / 6 Camper Van Rentals for the Ultimate California Coast Road Trip

JUCY is a camper van rental company that started in New Zealand, and has since branched out to Australia and the US. In the US, JUCY offers one model of mini RV which is essentially a souped-up minivan that’s been customized for your camping road trip pleasure. The JUCY Champ includes a fridge, two gas stoves, sink and two comfortable double beds to sleep up to four people. Because it’s essentially a minivan base, the RV is very easy to drive and is relatively economical on gas.

JUCY RV Rentals USA / 6 Camper Van Rentals for the Ultimate California Coast Road Trip

 

RENTAL LOCATIONS: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas

PASSENGERS: 5 people (seats 5, sleeps 4 in two double beds)

MILEAGE: Additional fee. Pre- Paid mileage packs offered:

  • 100 Miles $12.00 (Nightly)
  • Unlimited Miles $25.00 (Nightly)
  • 500 Miles $120.00 (Fixed)
  • Pay per Mile (25c/mile, calculated on return) $0.00 (Fixed)

PETS: Animals (excluding registered guide or assistance dogs) are not permitted in the vehicle at any time.

PRICING: $50 per day / $350 per week

ONE-WAY FEE: $175

INSURANCE: $12 – $22/ day

If you’re a U.S. or Canadian resident with a valid driver’s license and automobile insurance that provides full coverage for rental vehicles (including minivans), you may have coverage for the van.

GOOD TO KNOW: The specs of these vans look great, but the outside of the vans are a bit… let’s just say Barney-esque (re: the purple dinosaur). But Jucy offers a great product for the price, so if you’re on a tighter budget they’re definitely a choice option.

JUCY USA website

 

Now that you have some options for camper van rentals, here’s a great starting point on where to camp… 

The Best Beach Camping in California for Surfing

 
 

And if you’ve ever thought about road tripping around the UK, check out our lowdown on Campervan Hire UK

 

Happy travels!

 

10 Comments

  • William says:

    Loved your article about 6 camper vans
    Very well written

    Please enlighten me , you said about the rv motorhomes , some special drivers license required

    I’ve never heard of a requirement like that for motorhomes in the USA

    Please give details of what you are saying

    I can find no verification of that
    Actually I find the opposite

    Thanks !

    • Tara says:

      Hi William,

      So glad you enjoyed the article! Licensing for driving motor homes varies from state to state, but basically, very large RVs require a special license in some states. For smaller RVs, no special license is required. In California, motor homes over 40′ but not longer than 45′ require non-commercial Class B. Trailers over 10,000 lb GVWR and fifth wheels over 15,000 lb GVWR require non-commercial Class A. Here’s a link to the California DMV for more info: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/dl648/dl648pt2

      Hope this clears up any confusion! Happy travels!

  • Ian says:

    Thanks for this, really helped our last-minute research!

  • Khalid says:

    Hello there
    I am searching for caravan for rent in California starting from 24th of August until 16th of September for eight passengers that we can travel in the coast of California and we all one family and one child with seven adults

    if you have that you can contact me please and how much is the cost and all details about this kind of car thank you very much and have a nice day

    • Tara says:

      Hello Khalid,

      We write about campervans and beach life on Lush Palm, but we don’t actually rent them out ourselves 🙂 !

      In the article, you can find information and pricing for 6 companies that rent out campervans, as well as links to all of their websites for more information and bookings. Hope you have an awesome trip!

      Happy travels!

  • Omar says:

    Great article and good information. On the other side of the country, there is a new local and small campervan business in south Florida.
    Check: ondevancampervan.com based If you are planning to do a road trip in a camper van in Florida.

  • Christian says:

    Agree with the above comments, this was incredibly helpful, thankyou for posting.

    Hoping you could provide some more insight if possible. Was wondering if you had any advice on the most cost effective option for a solo traveller doing a two week trip?

    Thanks again.

    • Eric says:

      Hi Christian, thanks for the feedback and glad you found the article helpful!
      If you’re looking to rent a campervan then Jucy is probably your most cost effective option. But then you have to factor in campsite fees which can add up. You can look for few ‘rest stops’ that allow free overnight stays and plot a few of those into your plans to save some money. Another option would be to just rent a cheap car and tent camp at the more budget friendly campsites. Good luck and we’d love to hear back about what you end up doing! Safe travels.

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