Looking to turn your RV ownership into a great RV rental business side hustle? Well, we have the panel for you. This edition of our Mapping the Road Ahead virtual panel series sought to answer all the questions you might have about starting or growing your RV business — management, money-making, maintenance, and all the more in between.
Topics covered include:
- Starting an RV Rental Business
- Growing Your Fleet
- Advice for a Successful Business
We gathered a panel of experts to discuss these topics and their experience in the RV rental business, from their first rental to now.
- Jen Young, Co-founder and CMO at Outdoorsy
- Nika Shneyder, Co-owner and founder of Chill RV
- Nicole Rubio, Co-owner of Rolling Retreats
- Jerry Dufour, Owner of Dufourfun Rentals
Getting Started in the RV Business
We talked to our experts about how they got started in the RV rental business, and they offered advice on:
- First Rental Jitters
- Financial Expectations
- Finding Your Market
Getting Over Rental Jitters
Your RV is like your baby, and it can be hard to see it being driven off by a renter for the first time, second time, or even the tenth time. For Nicole, it wasn’t until about the third rental that her mindset towards her rental business changed. That is when she could “disassociate it as my personal trailer and become an investment.” The first step in this transition? She replaced her personal items in the RV, like her favorite blanket, with good quality, rental status items. For Nika, it was a little different.
Nika and her father bought their first RV with the intention of turning it into a business, so it was equipped with everything they wanted their renters to have. Within two or three weeks, their Mercedes Winnebago was totally booked, so they quickly expanded their fleet to three. To get their renters acquainted with their rig, they now offer training videos. But before, they would take the RV to their clients and do the training there.
For Jerry, training his renters was an essential step in getting over those rental jitters. As he says, “You train them, so they kind of know what they are doing, and you feel more and more comfortable.”
Setting Financial Expectations
For Nicole, her main goal was simple — get the RV payments made. Next thing you know, her business had nine rentable units. Now, Rolling Retreats has moved more into drivables, with six units expected to make $100,000 this year.
For Nika and Chill RV, they started out small, planning to break even and then start to profit. The father-daughter duo initially rented their Winnebago for $200 a night and soon realized they could make upwards of $300 a night. This profit allowed them to expand to a fleet of 13, which is expected to earn them $500,000 this year and grow their team.
Jerry had a similar thought as Nika and Nicole starting. He wanted to offset costs and break even. Also, like these two, he saw the demand and expanded his fleet. Over the past three months, he has gone from a fleet of 6 to a fleet of 9 RVs. He expects anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000 in revenue per month and 50-60% profit.
Researching Your Market
It’s all about supply and demand. Demand fluctuates, and right now, the demand for RVs has skyrocketed. As Jen mentions, “The RV Industry is having its time in the sun.” In May this year, the web traffic on Outdoorsy.com was 90% new users. That said, demand differs from market to market, which is why researching what type of RVs are in demand in your market is so important.
Two things to research:
- What’s already in your area?
- How often are certain RV types being booked?
Google and the Outdoorsy site are great, simple resources to use. In Nicole’s case, she wanted a teardrop, but the market research didn’t support that decision. When she looked at campervans, there were very view on the market, and those in the area were fully booked.
Building the Business
Once you’ve started your business, it’s time to grow it. Here’s how they did it.
Establishing Your Business
The RV rental business is a legitimate business. Though in some places, as is Nicole’s case, you don’t have to get a business license to be considered an official business, you still have taxes for it. If a business license isn’t required, all that’s left to do then is get the word out and just keep building your business.
Expanding Your Fleet
Jen raised the question, “Are you looking to buy new RVs for your second, third, or fourth vehicle, or are you looking immediately into a second-hand market or good used RVs?”
For Jerry, he’s in the market for good used RVs. RVs depreciate pretty quickly, so he stays on the lookout for rigs as new as he can get them while being slightly used. On the other hand, Nika isn’t looking to buy any more RVs, new or used. Instead, they’ve turned to expand the Chill RV fleet through consignment.
All three of our experts are dabbling in the world of RV consignment. Many people want to have an RV to use whenever they want but aren’t looking to be RVers full-time. This often leads to an RV sitting in a driveway for months or having to pay for storage. With consignment, these owners can have experts in the RV rental business, like Nika, Nicole, and Jerry, manage their RVs, and, with a 50/50 split, make their payments and even earn a profit without spending the time and energy growing a full-blown business.
This is how Chill RV is growing the fleet. Once you’ve built up an honest reputation, people will trust you to rent out their vehicles for them. All you have to do is ask.
Answers from the Experts
Over a thousand RV owners watching the panel had questions, and our three experts had answers.
Where is the best place to keep the RV for pickups and drop-offs?
For Nicole, hers and her husband’s property is the best place to keep their RVs and keep their costs down. A place not too far out of town with easy access to the freeway is a great location.
How can owners boost their rentals or rental requests?
One tip Nicole gives is to start advertising. She has already started producing ads for the holiday season to get people booking, and don’t be afraid to have fun with it. Jen pointed out the importance of producing content and advertisements on your own social channels, whether Facebook or Instagram or even email. Driving word of mouth and encouraging people to rent outside of the typical summer and camping seasons is a great way to boost your rental requests.
What type of repairs are needed, and what’s the cost of the repairs?
RVs have a lot of systems, and anything from the AC to the water heater to the awning could require repair at any given time. Some cost more and require more work than others.
Jerry recommends having an experienced RV mechanic, and even better, one that can come to you. After every renter, Jerry fills out a post rental checklist and let Don, his repairman, know what isn’t working. Then, he orders the part and fixes it. With a trusted mobile mechanic, you avoid the cost of towing the rig to the dealership or mechanic and the lost time and revenue that comes with that.
Another tip, have similar RVs on your fleet so that if one needs repair one week, you can move your renter into a similar model instead of canceling their trip. And if you have identical vehicles, you can order back up parts when one breaks in case it breaks in the other.
Maintenance is also vital. Jerry has Don doing checkups weekly or monthly to check up on things like the slide outs, awnings, the engine, and whatever else. He also recommends having a trusted place for oil changes and other repairs that know you and your business, so you can get things done well and done quickly.
If something breaks down, but you still have to deliver for a customer, what do you do?
Nika suggests making friends in the community, even your competitors. Doing so, she has been able to ask for advice and even rent their rigs for her customers when something is broken. “Our RVs don’t have big Chill RV logos on them or anything, so we are able to rent their vehicles as if they are our own vehicles.”
Another important tidbit from Nika, be good to people. “If you are good to people, they are willing to be good to you too. And they’ll help out.” Having a community and a team, whether you need emergency repairs or to have a last-minute rental switch, is so important.
Nicole emphasized that point, urging owners to “make friends with your local competitors.” Build and foster that relationship so that you can help each other and learn from each other.
What has been the most valuable part of working with Outdoorsy?
For Jerry, it’s the simple and convenient system, from bookings to built-in insurance to payments. For Nicole, it’s the helpful staff, the Facebook page, and the app. And for Nika, it’s the support from the Outdoorsy team from when they were just starting out to when they’ve run into some tricky situations.
Want more information and insights? You’ve got it. Watch the full panel, Mapping the Road Ahead: The Next Great Side Hustle, and for even more expert advice, check out our other panels:
- Mapping the Road Ahead: A New Generation of RV Travel
- Mapping the Road Ahead: Post-Pandemic RV Travel Destinations
- The Future of RV Travel: Mapping the Road Ahead After COVID-19
For more good stuff, you can join the Outdoorsy RV Owner Community and read our newly launched Owner’s Handbook! Last but not least, head over to our COVID FAQ page and keep an eye out on park openings, both national and state, in your area.
Stay safe, stay tuned, and keep hustling!