How to Make Money Renting Your RV

Written by Megan

RV owners: have you considered renting out your motorhome when it’s not being used? Unless you’re currently using your RV as a long-term residential solution, you’ll almost certainly go through lengths of time with an empty vehicle that is essentially useless until the next trip.

Your decision to rent out your RV can be truly life-changing – it is not simply a matter of efficiency and waste avoidance. The RV itself represents a substantial investment that can be used as a launching pad for future growth opportunities. Renting is a major first step towards building out a business and generating a passive income stream that may help to pay off any outstanding debts and that may contribute significantly to the financial freedom of you and your family.

In the past, renting an RV was rather complicated and administratively burdensome, which may have pushed owners away. If you wanted to rent out your RV just a decade ago, you would have to take out ads or post in the local classifieds and hope for the best. Alternatively, you might be able to partner with a local dealership, who would then give you a small cut of the revenue made from renting out the RV to their customer base.

These days, however, the rise of online peer-to-peer rental marketplaces has made the process quite a bit simpler and more profitable. You’re no longer be forced to pay to be featured in ads or classifieds with a fundamentally local audience, limiting your marketing outreach. With peer-to-peer platforms, you are given the power to post your RV for rent without having to pay any listing fees. Once the listing is posted, it will be seen by thousands of potential renters in a myriad of different locations.

Renting your RV out is worth considering, particularly if you are interested in generating consistent side income that can be used to pay your debts, defray the costs of ownership, and even to grow your own rental business. Despite the possibilities, however, you may still be wondering whether it’s worth the trouble of learning the rental process and executing it to your satisfaction. To better understand why renting out your RV is a smart choice, it’s important to identify the structural inefficiencies that underlie RV ownership and the service solutions provided by major market players.

The Costs of Owning an RV

RV ownership is not cheap.

Though many people are interested in purchasing an RV for themselves, the unfortunate reality is that RVers often underestimate the initial and ongoing costs of RV ownership, which are quite substantial. These costs can quickly become financially burdensome.

In fact, it is not uncommon for RV owners to be well-prepared for the costs of ownership at the outset, but to face unexpected difficulties with their finances later on (loss of employment, debt issues, etc.), thus precipitating concerns about whether ownership is feasible.

The cost of owning an RV varies quite significantly depending on the model, year, condition, and amenities of the RV, the terms of the purchase agreement, and various other qualities of the vehicle – thus, it cannot be said that there is a standardized annual cost associated with RV ownership that is applicable to all owners.

There are numerous additional costs associated with RV ownership that are sometimes not taken into account when the vehicle is first purchased.

Storage

If you do not have enough space on your property, then you will likely have to rent a separate storage space for housing your RV when it is not being used. Adequate storage space for an RV can cost you upwards of $2500 annually.

Maintenance

RVs are complicated machines that require regular maintenance to keep them in good working order. Unless you have the specialized know-how necessary to properly maintain your RV on your own, you will have to pay for professionals to conduct inspections and fix mechanical issues as they arise.

Insurance

Automobile insurance can vary significantly depending on the value of the RV, your driving record and financial history, and the insurer’s policy towards RVs generally. At the low end, you will likely have to pay between $2000 and $3000 annually for basic RV insurance, but higher value RVs (and a poorer financial/driving background) can drive costs up quite a bit.

Utilities

If your RV sees a reasonable amount of use throughout the year, then your utility costs (for water, electricity, heating, etc.) are likely to be significant for those active-use periods.

Why Rent Out Your RV?

If RVs represent a significant financial burden for some owners, why not sell? Why bother attempting to rent the RV out?

Unfortunately, selling is not a great option for many RV owners. The market value of a typical RV tends to depreciate by an enormous percentage every year, and though depreciation does depend on the model of the RV and how well it has been maintained, industry commentators estimate an average depreciation of between 35% and 40% by the fifth year of ownership, with a nearly 22% drop off after the first year alone.

As selling is not a strategically justifiable option for many owners, renting is the best alternative. In fact, with proper execution on a peer-to-peer rental platform, you can transform your financially burdensome RV into a highly profitable asset!

Renting out your RV gives you the best of both worlds. Because you’re only renting out your RV and not selling it, you do not have to give up ownership of the vehicle – correspondingly, you do not have to give up the RV lifestyle that attracted you to a purchase in the first place. Whenever you desire, you can pull your rental listings and plan a trip with your RV. Renting out your RV, therefore, enables you to defray the costs of ownership (and potentially bring in a profit!) without having to lose out on the “fun” of owning an RV.

Ready to take the plunge and rent out your RV? First, you’ll have to decide where to rent your RV out from.

Where to Rent Out Your RV

The RV rental industry has changed significantly in the past several years. Online platforms have taken over much of the online rental market and are putting pressure on traditional RV rental dealerships to adapt. These new platforms provide RV owners with opportunities for renting out their vehicles that never existed before.

So, what options do you have as an owner in today’s market?

The Traditional Route

Traditionally, owners had two main options for renting out their RV: a) classifieds and other ads, and b) partnering with an existing dealership. Each had their own significant downsides.

Taking out an ad in the newspaper or running a classified ad for renting out your RV is almost certainly economically and administratively inefficient. The main problem with taking out such ads is that the reach is limited to a local audience, and thus the larger potential audience is not fully captured.

Many potential renters of your RV do not live or work in your locale. Others may be traveling to the region by other means and want an RV reserved ahead of time. As such, the wider net you’re able to cast, the more successful you’re likely to be in consistently finding renters.

Alternatively, you could partner with a local dealership to rent out your RV for you in exchange for a cut of the earnings. Do bear in mind, however, that most dealerships to not engage in these types of rental partnerships – so you may have difficulty finding a local partner to begin with. Even if you are able to find a dealership partner, their cut of the RV rental earnings is likely to be excessive.

Peer-to-Peer Marketplaces

Recent years have seen the rise of popular online peer-to-peer rental platforms. These platforms fundamentally change how prospective renters communicate and engage with owners.

How does it all work?

Owners post their RVs for rent, making sure to include a variety of details such as location, available dates, pricing, RV model and year, included equipment, additional fees and charges, and any other relevant information. Owner listings are hosted on the website’s database. Prospective renters then browse the database for rentals that suit their particular preferences and requirements.

Peer-to-peer rental marketplaces eliminate the middleman and allow owners and prospective renters to engage directly with one another on a large-scale for the first time in the history of the RV rental industry. As owners compete for renters with their listings, they are incentivized to provide discounts during slow months and otherwise raise the perceived value of their RV offering. This draws in prospective renters from around the world who are looking to get a better overall value out of their rental.

Tips for Renting Successfully

Once you’ve decided to rent your RV through a peer-to-peer platform, you’ll want to keep the following tips in mind to ensure that you are able to consistently attract renters to your listings and close deals.

Provide Discounts for Long-Term and Offseason Rentals

Generally speaking, making your rental listing attractive for budget-oriented renters is a surefire way to draw extra attention to it. Many prospective renters filter their search by rate (i.e., at their budgetary limit), lowering your baseline rate can ensure maximum visibility, particularly during offseason periods when budget-oriented renters are more likely to be browsing the platform.

Further, it is worth considering a graduated discount rate for long-term rentals (the longer the rental, the greater the discount). Long-term rentals can improve your overall income stream from renting out your RV, even when the RV is rented out at a discounted rate. Why? There is a high administrative cost to having to frequently rent out your RV. There is no guarantee that you will secure a renter every few days, for example. By allowing for long-term rentals – and even encouraging it with substantial discounts – you reduce the burden of having to frequently find new renters to fill up your rental schedule.

Take the Time to Give a Vehicle Walkthrough

In the long term, it pays to provide friendly, thoughtful customer service. Allowing renters to rate their rental and providing renters with an introductory RV walkthrough is an excellent way to give the renter confidence in operating the RV for the duration of the rental, expose the renter to any quirks that you’d like to alert them to, and help ensure that all parties are on the same page on a number of different issues, such as cleanliness, maintenance, and other concerns.

Though a guided walkthrough may seem somewhat unnecessary to experienced RVers, peer-to-peer rental marketplaces draw in a lot of first-timers. Instead of seeing it as a burden, look at it as an opportunity to give back to the RVing community and help someone new discover the excitement of RVing done right.

Avoid Hidden Fees and Excessive Use Charges

Renters may not be given a positive impression if they are lured into your rental listing by the RV model, location, and baseline rate, only to discover an assortment of hidden fees and charges.

Typical fees and excessive use charges include, but are not limited to fees for remote generator use, any mileage driven in excess of the core mileage allowance, and equipment fees for such basic necessities as included toiletries, dishware, and tools.

Hidden fees and excessive use charges are common in the RV rental world, but if you want to stand out from the crowd and post a more competitive listing, we recommend that you avoid them.

Include Useful Tools and Equipment

Remember, among the audience of users that use online peer-to-peer RV rental marketplaces, there tend to be a lot of relative newcomers to the RV lifestyle. As such, if your listing provides – free of charge – useful tools and equipment (i.e., a maintenance kit, first aid kits, dishware, picnic furniture, and even camping items), then it is likely to be a hit among users who feel overwhelmed by the process of renting an RV for the first time. These renters may recognize the value of an introductory “package” that includes these tools and necessities, as it saves them the hassle of having to purchase these items on their own (which may not be a sound investment if they do not intend to go on RVing trips often).

Renting Out Your RV May Change Your Life

Renting your existing RV out on a peer-to-peer marketplace could fundamentally change your life. What may start off as a means of defraying the significant cost of ownership may transform into a highly profitable business venture. Ultimately, owners see different levels of success depending on how willing they are to invest the time and effort into developing their listings into a full-on business.

One owner, for example, may use their RV extensively but find the prospect of giving back to the RV community and making a bit of side income intriguing. The owner only rents out their RV for about 8-12 weeks every year, as the rest of the time they like to have full access to their RV for weekend camping trips.

Another owner may use their RV rarely, and thus have more of an opportunity to earn through renting. They rent out their RV for the bulk of the year, providing long-term and offseason discounts to help secure renters during low-demand months. The owner realizes that they are turning a substantial annual profit from renting out their RV through the peer-to-peer marketplace. They invest in more RVs and begin to rent out the entire fleet, treating the operation as a fledgling business.

If you are an owner, it is almost certainly worth renting out your RV during those periods of time it would have otherwise sat unused. Thanks to the growth of peer-to-peer platforms, there are many opportunities available to RV owners that never existed before.

The opportunity is there for the taking. So, what are you waiting for?

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