If you rent a car, motorhome or a campervan, you only have a few minutes to take a close look at your vehicle and make sure everything looks good. Rental agents sometimes can’t find the time to go over the equipment with their customers. Otherwise, some customers are in a hurry to get going and therefore just trust the rental company. In this article, we give you tips on what to check a rental vehicle for and how to deal with unpleasant surprises.

Why you should be vigilant

The main reason is that if you find out about existing damages during your trip, you’ll have difficulty proving that you aren’t to blame. Keep in mind that you must pay the rental agency a deposit, which they can keep to cover the damage.

It’s always easier to solve a problem when you’re still in their garage instead of turning to them later. Especially in Australia and New Zealand, distances between different rental locations are long. For example, if you have a problem with your fridge, the rental company will ask you to go to the closest rental location to have the problem solved. This would potentially result in a big detour and a waiting time of several days.

Apart from that, it is not fun to stop your road trip because your vehicle doesn’t work properly. So make sure you take your time for an inspection before hitting the road!

Take a few minutes at the parking lot to complete a short inspection.

General condition of the vehicle

As with any car rental company, you inspect the vehicle with the rental agent, who takes notes of any damages on the bodywork, windshield, etc. In general, they act in good faith, but don’t miss anything.

Remember to check the roof and the windshield, which are usually not covered by the rental company’s insurance.

Also look at the condition of the tyres. Especially for motorhomes and campervans, they must be in good condition as they are heavier than a car.

You don’t always get the opportunity to test-drive a vehicle before departure, but there are a few important things you should check anyway, including the headlights and indicators. Maybe the customers before you didn’t drive at night and the rental agent didn’t check the lights, so they wouldn’t be aware. The same applies to indicators, dashboard lights, and rear view camera (very important for maneuvering a large camper in tight spaces). All you have to do is turn on the ignition and spend 2 minutes on checking everything.

General condition of motorhomes or campervans

Inside there are a few elements to check. And again, rental agents tend to go over them quickly. Here are a few things to keep your eyes open for:

  • Condition (and smell) of bed linen, pillows, and towels
  • Dishes
  • Toilet, if there is one
  • If there are benches (bottom or top), make sure they’re not too dusty. Also look out for marks and holes
  • Curtains

Obviously, don’t mind a bit of dust, remember that you are doing a road trip in a motorhome not in a 4-star hotel! However, don’t hesitate to inform the rental agent if things are impaired or the laundry smells bad.

What to check a rental vehicle for

Motorhome & Campervan equipment

General equipment

Benches & beds

In motorhomes, most benches convert into beds. Test them to see if everything works well. If you find out the first night that your bed doesn’t fit properly, you won’t be very happy. If you have a bunk bed when travelling with children, you should also check the safety net.

What to check a rental vehicle for

Kitchen area

The main features to check in the kitchen are:

  • Lights
  • Normally, gas is not a problem, but the ignition can be
  • Test the water pump
  • A board usually covers the sink. Look for cracks or damages. These boards are quite expensive.
  • Check the condition of the dishes (plates, cups, and other kitchen utensils)


In motorhomes, there is a side door allowing you to access the inside of the vehicle without having to go through the cockpit. Remember to check that this door opens and especially that the bar to leave the door open is in good condition. It is quite common that people break this bar. Also test the small step that unfolds at the door. And don’t forget to close it before heading back!


Check the gas bottles. Normally you get one big or two small full bottles before your departure. If this is not the case, let the rental agent know immediately. Otherwise you will have to fill them up at your expense.

Shower & toilet

Look at the general state of the bathroom and check the joints around the toilet. If they are too battered and tight, you can’t use the toilet. Also make sure that the water drain works well because the cabin is small and can quickly overflow.


Check that the cupboard door closes properly. If it doesn’t, you find your groceries on the floor with every turn! A bag of cereals that spreads all over the floor is a pain to clean. And the same for the fridge door.

Electrical equipment

You first have to plug everything in. So you won’t be able to check these features when picking up the vehicle. It’s best to do it on your first night though, because you could still drive back to the rental company if necessary.

  • Fridge: Nothing worse than ending up with a refrigerator that doesn’t work. So make sure that during your first drive, the fridge starts to get cold.
  • Lights: Turn on the lights inside the vehicle. Not everyone travels with a torch, and the battery of your phone is paramount on your road trip!
  • TV / DVD: Some motorhomes are equipped with a TV and a DVD player. So if it is important to you, test these devices as soon as possible.
  • Microwave: The microwave can be an important kitchen equipment on a road trip. It only works when you are connected to main power.
  • CD / USB / MP3 player: If you want to recharge your devices or listen to your favourite playlist, don’t forget to check this.

Optional equipment

Depending on your vehicle and its features, have a close look at:

  • Camping table and chairs
  • GPS
  • Electric or gas heating
  • Children Seats

How to make a complaint

Before leaving

When you are still with the rental agent, you are obviously in a good position. You can show them on the spot what is in bad condition. But keep in mind that they don’t necessarily have to replace or repair it. Rental agents do their best to meet your expectations, but sometimes there are limitations. First, they often don’t have another vehicle available. Second, some things may take too long to repair. In some cases, they suggest you wait for a few days (at their expense) until the repairs are done.

During your stay

If you notice a malfunction during your trip, you must inform the rental company immediately. Never take the initiative to do things yourself or have it repaired somewhere without authorization. By phone, a rental agent can guide you to try to rectify the problem. If this is not possible, they refer you to a mechanic or send you to a store. If it’s about vehicle equipment, they usually ask you to go to the nearest rental depot. So it’s up to you to decide if it’s really worth it.

When returning the vehicle

Obviously, avoid waiting for the return of the vehicle to report a technical problem or defect. For the rental agent it’s hard to know if it is your fault or not. Then again it is quite common to notice wear and tear and dysfunctions that won’t be held against you. So don’t worry if you notice that a seal is leaking or a cupboard doesn’t close properly.

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Updated on the 08/01/2020. Initially published on the 26/11/2018.

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