While I may be a nerd, and totally geek out over technology, 80’s action figures, and vintage video games, I still like to get my wilderness on. Some of my greatest memories of hanging with my dad, uncles and cousins were when we’d be camping. I had even done a little backpack camping with my son, and it was fun!
For years I’d “disconnect” a bit when I’d head to the hunting shack every fall, and sit in a tree for hours. I would sit still and motionless listening and soaking up every chirp of a bird, squeak of a field mouse, or chatter of a squirrel. I had also tent camped for years. Either in the backyard when the kids were toddlers, or at camp grounds in the Midwest. I Also camped several times at RockFest in Cadott, WI. I’ve seen some killer shows at this festival, that has been going for over 30 years!
There comes a time, basically over forty years old, that you don’t want sleep on the ground. You don’t want to fight with the every deflating air mattress. When you don’t want you and all your gear to get soaked when it rains…yes. You know it’ll happen. There comes a time for an upgrade. Enter the Rock Box, this is the name I’ve given my 21’ travel trailer.
In this post, we’ll talk through what it means to rent your camper or RV, how much time and effort it can take, and understand how much money you can actually make. Keep in mind, this is just my experience and your mileage may vary.
I’m always looking for another side hustle. Another revenue stream to knock down debt, build wealth, or just fund the many other hobbies I have.
The Camper/Travel Trailer was purchased to be used for my annual summer music festival visits, as well begin to visit some of the national parks, like Yellowstone and The Badlands, that I had never seen. I also had the idea to rent the camper when I’m not using it. I had no idea how it was going to work, or what the process was at the time. Dude! Take the risk! It’s FUN!
The camper I rent is a 2016 Salem CruiseLite 21Ft Trailer. The attraction of this particular model is it’s approximately 3000lbs. It can be towed by many V6 vehicles. I found and purchased this camper on craigslist for just over $9k. I’ve experimented with a couple different sites/platforms, marketing, as well as pricing. I’ve found that keeping my rates lower, equates to more consistent rentals throughout the season.
Listing and renting your camper, travel trailer, or RV is super easy using the platforms out there. The three I experimented with were RVShare, Outdoorsy, and Campanda. While listing the Rental on all the services is FREE, ohhhhh they get you. We’ll discuss the fees. I’ve found RVShare the easiest, and straight forward. All rental contracts and addendums are signed electronically. This makes it super simple. Once the contract is signed, you can print it out, or just display it on your iPad. It’s all signed and ready to rock!
Let’s talk about Fees. Without a doubt, the platforms mentioned take their share of the rental price. RVShare, my preferred platform charges an overall percentage, a commission rate. With renting one RV, as I do my commission rate is 25%. This rate does go down if you have multiple rentals. Think of larger lots, that buy, sell, trade. Many have fleets of campers they rent. And in warmer parts of the country can continue to rent them year-round.
There has been times when I have several inquiries during the same time. For example, the week that the kids and I went to Yellowstone National Park, I had 5 people inquire about the rental during that week. There have been times when I think, should I invest in another camper? In addition to the commission rate, RVShare also now charges a Service Fee with every rental. This was something they added last year. But as you’ll see it does eat into profits. Let’s look at this example of an upcoming reservation I have.
I charge, a conservative, $110 per night. It’s a bit on the lower side for a comparable camper, and in this location. Notice the $88.90 Service Fee. They claim this fee helps to ensure that your renter has a positive outcome if the unexpected occurs while on the road. This does include 24/7 Roadside Assistance and covers lockouts, dead batteries, tire changes, towing, and more. I guess there is a peace of mind that can come with that fee. And then if you consider that 25% will be paid to RVShare for their commission, approximately $410 will be withheld from the payout for this particular rental.
I know what a lot of people are thinking. Can’t I just post the rental on craigslist and handle this myself? I could, but there are a few things that add considerable value by using these services, like RVShare. We’ve already talked about the Roadside Assistance, and how it is one less thing for me to worry about. The payment processing in all taken care of. The platform takes care of collecting the payment, the security deposit, and payout directly to my bank account, and releasing the security deposit once the rental in competed. It’s super slick. Another main advantage of NOT doing this on your own is the insurance. It’s completely facilitated through the service. For instance, RVshare has partnered with two of the nation’s most experienced RV insurance providers, MBA Insurance and National General Insurance Company, that provides both Liability and Comprehensive and Collision coverage to provide RV rental insurance to cover you, your vehicle and the renter for the rental period.
I’m currently renting my camper in it’s 3rd Season. I started renting it in the summer of 2017. With RVShare, alone, you can see we are on our way to over $11k in total earnings. In three seasons paying for the cost of the camper.
Let’s review. We know how much we rent, and earn, but how much time and effort does it take? Quick answer is, not much. Upon every camper rental we take about 30-45 minutes to prepare/train the renter. It’s pretty simple, as we don’t have to drive an RV, deal with slide outs, or other complicated systems. I demonstrate the stabilizing jacks, explain how the hot water/water pump work, explain how to dump the septic tank, and remind then if they don’t want to dump it it’s fine, but I’ll charge them an extra $35 upon return.
Like I said, it’s pretty quick. Every now and then you may get someone that asks A LOT of questions. It’s okay, just smile and nod. They have never rented a camper before and are cautious. We have a Departure form that is initialed and signed stating that they have been trained on things like the septic, and how to crank out the awning as well as to identify any existing damage to the camper. Away they go!
Upon return, we have a short return form. We do a quick walk around the exterior and interior of the camper to ensure there isn’t any new damage, check that the septic is dumped, And we have any of the loose items such as the AC Power Adapter, or the Hitch Lock and Mirror Extensions that I include. I also typically let them borrow my Ball as well, since many don’t have the 2-5/16” required for my trailer.
Once I have the returned camper we need to get it ready for the next renter. I sweep out the camper, wipe down and sanitize all interior surfaces, as well as ensure things like RV Toilet Paper, Dish Soap, Hand Sanitizer and any other supplies are replenished. I don’t supply any linens or anything. Some renters do. I think that’s weird. I mean I’d wanna use my own sleeping bag. I do understand if you have someone flying in to camp in an area, but I choose not to. I grab a bucket and a vehicle brush and scrub the outside of the camper. The front is typically caked with dead bugs. Yeah, It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. Since I have the hose out, I then fill the fresh water tank with clean water, and add the conditioning additive. This entire return and preparation process takes about an hour.
Let’s break down this past weekend rental:
1 Hour for return/prep
30 minutes for instruction and send off
After all fees and commissions $255 was transferred to my bank account.
What do you think? Is this worth it to you? What are your thoughts? We’d like to hear about it in the comments.
Happy Trails, and Let’s go Camping.