But car tents are increasingly popular campervan-like rigs that can command solid nightly rates for a fraction of the investment compared to most RVs.
How do I know this? Because I’ve been successfully renting out car tent-equipped SUVs outside Glacier National Park for the past two years.
And I’m here to tell you that car tents from brands like Roofnest can be the ticket to launching or expanding your RV rental business in a new way.
In this post, I’m going to open up the hood of my business to show you the actual real-life numbers we’ve experienced so you can decide for yourself how car tents might fit into your RV rental business.
—->BONUS: Our pals at Roofnest gave us an exclusive Outdoorsy host-only deal that’ll knock $250 off any normally priced Roofnest for you. Use code ‘GetANest250’ at checkout to get the deal.
Car Tents: Why Roofnest is My Choice for My RV Rental Business
The first thing you’ll notice when you search for car tents is the number of brands out there. From iKamper to Thule to Smittybuilt and much more — there are tons of businesses getting into this game.
We chose Roofnest after a lengthy process of review-reading, video-watching, and virtual strength testing.
Roofnest won us over for a few reasons:
- Their build quality is second to none — All of Roofnests’ car tents are durably built, feature robust hydraulic arms designed to withstand winds, and are stitched with rugged canvas that’ll stand the test of time.
- Uber-comfort is their jam — I regularly camp in my Roofnest Condor XL. Its thick built-in mattress, cavernous space (I’m 6’1 and have over a foot of legroom to spare), and built-in LED lighting create the best camping experience I’ve ever had.
My guests say the same.
- Stargazing windows are the bomb — When we bought our Condor XL car tent, Roofnest was the only brand we could find that featured a built-in stargazing window. This thing is basically a moonroof for your tent and makes stargazing road trips and milky way viewing easy as pie.
Just ask Jason — the professional photog who visited us in Montana all the way from NYC 👇
- Variety of options — Roofnest offers an array of car tent sizes and shapes so you can pick the one that fits your business best.
Pro tip: I’ve found car tents that sleep 3-4 tend to do best as rentals.
- Price — You can certainly find cheaper than Roofnest, but you’ll get what you pay for in most cases. In my assessment, Roofnest provides the most bang for your buck of all the car tent manufacturers.
Types of Roofnest Car Tents
Let’s do a quick rundown of the styles of rooftop tents you can choose from:
–Meadowlark — Compact and affordable, best for 1-2 travelers. It’s also the only soft shell tent in the Roofnest lineup.
–Condor — Offered in both standard and XL sizes, these spacious car tents are packed with amenities that’ll keep your guests comfortably camping.
–Falcon series — This low-profile tent series features a clamshell design making it one of the easiest car tents to operate. These are more compact, sleeping 3 max.
–Sparrow series — This is the classic pop-up car tent that’s stood the test of time. It’ll give your guests 360-degree views of their surroundings and a spacious sleeping/hanging area.
–> And don’t forget to use code ‘GetANest250’ at checkout for the special deal we worked for hosts like you! <–
How to Use Roofnest Car Tents In An RV Rental Business
Roofnest car tents can be used to easily start an RV rental business or expand an existing one.
To start an RV rental business with car tents, you only need a vehicle capable of handling the tent weight on its roof (see your owner’s manual, but most SUVs, pickups, crossovers, and many sedans can easily handle rooftop tents with people in them).
From there, it pays to do some research on Outdoorsy.com to see if car tents are available and renting in your area. Car tent rentals can usually be found by using either the campervan or other filter that Outdoorsy offers under the driveable tab.
If you find a handful of car tents for rent and see those owners getting reviews — that’s a good sign that there’s a market in your area for this.
If — on the other hand — you don’t find any car tents for rent in your area that can either mean they don’t rent well, or a great opportunity for you!
The good news is you can likely pop a car tent on a vehicle you already have, offering you the chance to test the waters without betting the farm.
Growing an existing business with car tents
Expanding an existing RV rental business with car tents can be done either by adding new vehicles or by adding rooftop tents to vehicles you already have in your fleet.
For example, most campervans can handle a Roofnest on top. This’ll add a bunch of extra sleeping space for your guests which translates into a higher nightly rate for you.
Or, if you want to add new vehicles to your existing fleet, car tents have a much lower barrier to entry price-wise than do Class As or other rigs.
Real Numbers from My Roofnest Car Tent Business
My wife and I rent out two Roofnest-equipped rigs outside Glacier National Park. We have a short and busy travel season that runs from around June 15 to September 30.
For this breakdown, I’m going to unpack the numbers on my 2005 Honda Pilot (named Moe – as in Moe-Mountain, Moe-Fun, Moe-Outdoors, etc. 🙂 because he’s been on the market the longest.
Moe (the Honda Pilot) is equipped with the Roofnest Condor XL allowing him to sleep four comfortably.
Here’s the camping gear I provide my guests:
–Bear spray (a must around here)
–NOCO Boost Jump Pack, for easy jump starting and extra device charging.
-You could also provide a folding outdoor kitchen
And here’s my all-in cost to turn Moe into a camp-tastic rig
- Purchase price (2021) for a 2005 Honda Pilot — $6,500
- Maintenance costs to date: $3,000 (mostly routine stuff)
- Roofnest Condor XL — $3,695.00 (but you can save $250 off that by using code ‘GetANest250’ at checkout)
- Gear (e.g. sleeping bags, cooler, etc.) — $1,000
- ALL-IN = $14,195
What about my revenue?
Before I break into this, I need to issue a standard disclaimer: Your mileage may vary.
My numbers are specific to my area, my rig, and our seasons up here.
That said, if you find yourself in a spot near a major attraction like a national park, with reasonably good weather, and a bunch of people traveling to you — there’s a good chance that a Roofnest will take good care of your rental business.
Here’s how we fared by Glacier NP:
- 2021 — Moe generated $6,523.34 in revenue with an average nightly rate of $178/night. The only add-on we offered was airport pickup and drop off for $140 roundtrip.
Everyone takes advantage of airport pickup in our area due to the lack of rideshare options.
- 2022 — Moe generated $7,109.52 in revenue with an average nightly rate of $178/night.
Same story as above RE: pickup/drop off being our only add-on and everyone taking advantage of it.
We also added a $60 prep fee in 2022 that nobody complained about.
- Total revenue to date: $13,632.86
As you can see, the returns with car tents can be pretty spectacular because of the low cost of entry and relatively high nightly rates you can charge.
I also opted for a used Honda SUV that I paid cash for, meaning I wasn’t racking up interest charges trying to run my business.
As an added bonus, my wife and I use Moe as both an off-season daily driver and an on-season RV for personal use (when he’s not otherwise rented). That all adds up to a lot of value that we’re getting out of our Roofnest rig.
Pros and Cons of Renting Out Car Tents
Car tents offer a fun opportunity to get into the camper rental biz with a lower cost of entry, but they bring a few drawbacks too.
Pros of renting out rooftop tents:
- Relatively low cost of entry
- Usually command a relatively high nightly rate
- Very comfortable
- Easy to show people how to use
- Can double as a personal daily driver
Cons of renting out rooftop tents:
- Might not be as competitive in all geographic areas
- Nightly rates aren’t as high as campervans generally
- Risk of your personal vehicle going down
- Potentially fewer add-on fee options compared to larger RVs
Car tents — and Roofnests in particular — have helped my wife and I grow a nice little side business outside Glacier. I can easily see how this sort of operation could grow an existing business or lead to a full-on rental fleet in and of itself. I hope that my transparent sharing helps you find easy ways to launch or expand an RV rental business with rooftop tents.
And when you’re ready to roll, you can list your rig right here.
P.S. Don’t forget that Roofnest hooked us up with a sweet deal to save $250 off any regularly priced roof tent. Use code ‘GetANest250’ at checkout to get in on the deal