Your motorhome rental glossary

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Sarah Glover
7 Jul, 2022
9 minutes to read

The great motorhome glossary for renters

As with any group united by a hobby or lifestyle, motorhome owners sometimes appear to be speaking a language similar to- but quite separate from- English. Grey water and black water are easy concepts to grasp once you have a few road trips under your belt, but how is a humble renter supposed to know about things like axle weight, boondocking and payload? GoSee has put together a glossary of terms for renters which will have you fitting right in with the most seasoned grey nomads (retired baby boomers who roam the countryside in motorhomes). Get studying!

Rental and insurance terms

Additional drivers charge: Usually there will be one designated driver for your motorhome rental. This is the person whose name is on the rental paperwork, and who will be covered by your insurance if anything goes wrong. For a fee, you can add additional people to the list of approved drivers.

All Inclusive/Comprehensive Insurance: Covers all bonds, excesses, and any damage. The individual terms and conditions of each supplier apply.

Base rental rate/Daily rental rate/Vehicle rental rate: This is the baseline of how much you'll be paying per day for your motorhome rental. All these terms are interchangeable and mean the same thing.

Bedding Pack: A set of linen and towels for each bed- these are typically charged per person.

Calendar Days: This means that the day of pick up and drop off are included in the number of days charged.

Camping Set: Outdoor furniture which you can add on to your rental for a fee

CDW (Collision Damage Waiver): Optional damage coverage. Other optional coverages may include windscreen/glass, tyres and undercarriage.

DriveEasy: Independent excess cover which will reimburse any excess paid on an insurance claim.

A couple preparing to cook breakfast using their campers built in kitchen.
A white campervan parked on the side of the road.

Excess: The part of an insurance claim you must pay out of pocket. Can be eliminated with DriveEasy or all inclusive insurance.

Free miles: In a number of countries (especially in North America) motorhome rentals will have a mileage charge in addition to the daily rental rate. Free miles essentially means that you don't have to worry about how far you travel, as this won't be taken into account.

FSH: Full Service History

Fuel Consumption: The rate at which a motorhome guzzles gas- important when deciding on a vehicle to hire.

Handover: The orientation given when you pick up a motorhome rental, during which renters learn how to operate the motorhome.

HT License: A special license for large vehicles which may be required to rent certain motorhomes and big RVs.

Mileage: The distance included in your rental, may be given as an average per day. Sometimes (commonly in North America) you will have to purchase mileage packages. 

One-way fee: Many rental suppliers charge a one-way fee when you're picking up a motorhome rental in one location and dropping off in another. Keep an eye out for "relocation deals" which can offer free or discounted one-way fees.

Preparation fee: This is a standard feature for most US and Canada motorhome rentals. The preparation fee, which is in addition to the daily rental rate, covers the cost for the supplier to ready the vehicle for rental: cleaning, refreshing waste facilities, etc.

Security Bond: An amount paid at the beginning of the rental and returned at the end providing there are no outstanding costs.

Snow Chains: An optional extra for many rentals, these make driving in snowy conditions much safer.

Specified vehicle: Some deals are only applicable for certain vehicles. These will usually be determined by the rental supplier (e.g. Britz, Apollo, etc) and the specified models will be noted in the deal details.

Tracker: Fitted to motorhomes to prevent theft.

Transfer fee: Many motorhome rental suppliers offer a shuttle service which can take you directly from the airport to the depot where you'll be picking up your vehicle. This shuttle trip is included in the rental cost for some suppliers, but others will charge a transfer fee.

A RV parked on the side of the road next to snowy mountains.
Seven motorhomes parked in a carpark.

General terms

Axle Weight/Axle Load: The weight carried by a single axle. Can be useful to know for the few roadways/bridges with an axle weight restriction.

Black Water: Sewage wastewater from the toilet, held in a black water holding tank.

Campervan: An alternative term for motorhome, commonly used in the southern hemisphere for a wide range of vehicles. Elsewhere, it is most often used to refer to a Class B motorhome.

Camper: see campervan above.

Camping Car: Pronounced more like “komping ka,” the French word for motorhome.

Class A Motorhome: A big motorhome built on something like a commercial truck or bus chassis. The most luxurious of homes on wheels. 

Class B Motorhome: These look much like converted vans, and are the smallest category of motorhome. Most have limited bathroom and kitchen facilities- but they are easy to drive and park! 

Class C Motorhome: Whoever designed the motorhome rating system is not too familiar with alphabetical order. Class Cs are generally smaller than a Class A but bigger than a Class B, built on a truck or cutaway van chassis. Recognizable by their over-cab sleeping area, they are common the world over.

Stinky Slinky: Slang for the sewer hose.

Curb Weight/Wet Weight: Actual weight of the vehicle with full water and fuel tanks before taking on people and supplies.

Grey Water: Waste water from the sinks and shower, held in a grey water holding tank.

Hi-top: A vehicle with a raised roof for more living space.

Payload: Total extra weight you can carry after essentials like driver, water, and fuel have been accounted for.

RV: The North American term for motorhome- it stands for ‘Recreational Vehicle.”

Truck camper: This refers to a dismountable camping attachment which is carried on a pickup truck.

Winnebago: A brand of RVs, sometimes used as a general term for any RV.

Wohnmobil: German word for motorhome.

4WD Camper: A camper with 4 wheel drive capability, for going off-road. Most have quite basic facilities and some are rented as a 4WD vehicle plus a tent. These are popular models when hiring motorhomes in Iceland and South Africa.

A family standing outside their Cheapa Campa campervan.
The interior of a motorhome showing the steering wheel, gear stick and radio.

Parts of the motorhome

A Frame: A framework used to tow a car behind a motorhome. You are unlikely to need one for your rental.

Awning: An extendable canvas roof attached to the side of the vehicle to provide a bit of outdoor living.

Artic Pack: A winter-proofing system which keeps tanks heated and stops them from freezing.

Bike Rack: This one seems self-explanatory. Some rental companies offer bikes and racks for hire with the vehicle.

Captain’s Chairs: The driver’s and passenger’s seat at the front- these may swivel to face the living area.

Cassette Toilet: A toilet with a removable tank which you must empty regularly. These are common on smaller motorhomes.

Converter/Charger: Converts 240 volts AC to 12 volts DC for running low wattage items onboard- i.e strip lights, water pumps. Usually will also charge the 12 volt leisure battery.

Cruise Control: A driving capability which allows you to maintain a constant speed. Does not mean you can leave the wheel to make a cup of tea.

Curb Side/Street Side: The side of the vehicle closer to the curb.

Dinette: Fixed seating around a table- this can often be converted into a double bed.

Double Floor: Under the floor you walk on is a gap, then the main floor. Tanks, pipes etc are found between them.

Galley: The kitchen.

Habitation Area: The living space.

Hula Skirt: Sometimes placed on the back bumper to prevent debris flung up by the wheels from hitting other vehicles.

Inverter: Allows you to run your 240-volt AC “household” items from the 12-volt DC battery.

Leisure Battery/House Battery: Deep-cycle 12-volt DC battery, separate from the chassis battery, which allows camping for longer periods without a hook-up.

Overcab: The area above the driver’s cab, often used as a bed.

Stinky Slinky: Slang for the sewer hose.

Water Pressure Regulator: limits the water pressure to an acceptable level when hooked up to city water supply.

A family sitting outside an Apollo campervan.
Three motorhome parked on the side of the road in a forest.

Camping terms and facilities

Aires de Service: motorhome service points and free camping sites found all over France.

Boondocking: An American term for free camping.

Camping and Caravanning Club: A club for caravanners which operates hundreds of camping sites across the UK.

Campeggio: Italian word for a campsite.

Camping: French word for a campsite. Similar to Spanish “Cámping.”

Campingplatz: German word for a campsite

Campsite: A general term for a place to park for the night. Ranging from free and inexpensive basic sites in National Parks to privately owned holiday resorts. See also: Holiday Park, RV Park, Caravan Park, Camping, Campingplatz, Campeggio.

Caravan Park: Most often used in Australia and the UK to describe a well-equipped camping site set up for motorhomes. May also be called a Holiday Park, Family Park or Holiday Resort. Facilities vary but always include a bathroom. See also: Holiday Park, RV Park.

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Dry Camping: Camping with no water or sewer hookups.

Dump Station/CDP (Chemical Disposal Point): Where you can empty grey and black water tanks. These can be found throughout most developed countries.

FMCA: Family Motor Coach Association, North America based but an international organisation. Motorhome enthusiasts.

Full-timer: Someone who lives in their motorhome. You’ll undoubtedly meet a few.

Full Hook Ups: A campsite offering water, sewer and electrical connections. Can be called a Full Service Pitch in the UK.

Holiday Park: Term used internationally but especially in New Zealand for a privately-owned camping park. Usually has a communal kitchen, bathrooms, play equipment, laundry, sometimes a pool, and cabin options as well as sites for tents and motorhomes. See also: Caravan Park, RV Park.

Hook Up- sewer, water, electrical: Connections with which you can empty your grey and black water tanks (sewer), fill up your water tanks (water), and charge your batteries/run appliances (electrical). 

Pull Through: A site in an RV Park with an entrance and exit so you can drive through with no reversing required.

RV Park: North American term for a campsite for motorhomes. These have a range of facilities which may include hookups, barbecues, dump stations, laundries, restrooms, showers and more. See also: Caravan Park, Holiday Park.

A family enjoying themselves outside a campervan.