Utahns Make Big Money Renting Motorhomes During Pandemic

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Tech apps and startups have gotten us used to sharing our cars, homes, and even swimming pools in our backyard. And during the pandemic, a growing number of potential entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the American cabin fever and loaning out their motorhomes, caravans and motorhomes.

The demand has been there for some time. There’s the social media scroller who wants to soak up #vanlife without depositing a big wad of cash. Or the retiree who wants to escape for a weekend in the mountains, without waking up with a backache or a lack of plumbing. Or parents who want to go on a family road trip, but don’t have the space to store an RV. In recent years, platforms like Outdoorsy, RVnGO, and RVShare have put these customers in touch with RV owners looking to earn money to cover their loan and insurance payments.

But when the pandemic brought flights to a halt and made staying in a hotel with a group of strangers risky, even more travelers turned to motorhomes.

“Like many businesses, we saw decline and cancellations early on,” said Evan Hopkins, vice president of global sales and customer operations for Outdoorsy. “But once people saw how they could still travel, and that was one of the best and safest ways, we saw tremendous growth.”

From March to July of last year, reservations on the platform increased by more than 4,500%, the company reported. In June 2020, compared to June 2019, bookings had increased by 400%. Since the launch of Outdoorsy in 2015, nearly three out of four bookings have been made in 2020 and 2021. And Salt Lake City, with its proximity to national parks and other outdoor attractions, is among the top 10 most popular destinations. of the platform.

“There are people who never thought about taking an RV trip before” the pandemic, Hopkins said. “It opened their eyes to something different. “

Rental platforms typically provide travel insurance, and RV owners clean and disinfect vehicles between guests. Most owners also provide basic items like linens, cooking utensils, and bug spray.

Hopkins said when he rented a trailer for his family, he usually liked to have it delivered to the campsite.

“We introduce ourselves and it’s like a hotel by the lake or in the mountains,” he said. “The other advantage of delivery is that the owners like it. They have more confidence in themselves [pulling it], park it and set it up.

Utahns carry cash for motorhomes

Salt Lake City resident Mylee Brown works as an accountant but wanted to earn some extra money. Investing in a van and turning it into an adventure mobile for rent seemed like an obvious choice.

“I’ve wanted an RV all my life,” Brown said. “I’m a total hippie from Utah, a girl who loves the mountains.”

Brown and her husband found and bought their perfect van, a Ford Transit, in January 2020. When the pandemic hit a few months later, it was scary at first, Brown said. But being forced to work from home gave them more flexibility to turn the vehicle into an Instagram-worthy commute, just in time for the busy summer travel season.

(Photo courtesy of Mylee Brown) Mylee and Chris Brown rent their modernized campervan on apps like Outdoorsy and have had great success during the pandemic.

The van has always been booked until November, Brown said. They charge $ 160 a night and require a three night minimum.

“We only have to hire one or two vouchers to cover our costs each month,” Brown said. “We hadn’t anticipated how busy it would be which is a good problem to have.”

In 2020, Brown said, the majority of his clientele were residents of Utah. But as travel restrictions eased and people got vaccinated this spring, about half of its renters now come from out of state and book longer trips.

The company is so successful that the couple are looking to invest in a second Ford Transit which they will modernize over the winter.

“I am pregnant,” Brown said. “So we’re going to create a baby-friendly van for 2022.”

Garrett Allred in Ogden also got involved in RV sharing because he wanted an RV for his family.

“I discovered these [rental platforms] halfway through my decision, and I thought maybe that might help with the cost, ”said Allred, whose day job is selling at a car dealership.

In the worst case, according to Allred, an occasional rental could help cover the payments for the van. “At the best of times, we can rent it out and make some money,” he said.

After Allred leased its 2021 cherry red Winnebago Solis last summer, however, it had three bookings in 48 hours. He said he’s usually booked around 80% of the days during the warmer months.

“I bet we’re making six or seven times the minimum amount of payments,” Allred said.

The pickup was so popular that Allred recently traveled to Wyoming to purchase a SunRay 109 off-road trailer which he also rents online. But whether he would recommend RV sharing to someone else is a mixed bag.

“The return on your investment is far greater than what you would find in a regular job,” Allred said, “but most of my days off are spent cleaning and prepping the trailer and pickup truck. We have fun doing it, but it cuts down on your free time.

(Photo courtesy of Garrett Allred) Garrett Allred and his daughter Olivia smile in front of an RV that Allred rents on online platforms.

Mariela Montiel, who recently moved from Salt Lake City to St. George, said she’s in a great place to rent her camping trailer to adventure-seeking tourists.

“It feels like living in a national park,” she says.

Montiel will deliver his 2021 Keystone Springdale, which can accommodate up to eight people, up to 80 km. She met people from all over the country while renting the trailer, including people who couldn’t find a hotel during Southwest Utah’s peak tourist season.

She admitted, however, that she sometimes got strange looks when talking to acquaintances about her side business.

“Some people make comments, like ‘I wouldn’t let someone else sleep in my bed.’ And I’m like, ‘When you go to the hotel, do you take your own mattress?’ “Said Montiel.” I don’t mind. … It’s money.

(Image courtesy of Mariela Montiel) Mariela Montiel has purchased a new camping trailer partly for her own enjoyment and partly as a business investment.

Sharing issues

Simeon Miller in Bluffdale started an RV rental business in 2018, before the pandemic, but has grown its RV fleet from two to four in the past two years.

“My inspiration came from an interest in vacation rentals, like the Airbnb model,” Miller said. With house prices skyrocketing, however, especially in destinations like Park City, he’s opted to take the RV route instead.

But with a few years of RV rental under his belt, Miller admits it’s not a hassle-free way to make money.

“One of the most important things that I started to realize is these RVs, they are more designed so that people can take them a few weeks out of the year,” he said. “So when you rent them out every week there’s always a little one here or there that needs to be tweaked, adjusted, or maintained. “

He also had a few horror stories. A customer who had no experience driving a recreational vehicle scratched the roof of a tree and caused $ 10,000 in damage. Another blew the fuse on the water heater after setting up camp in Glacier National Park.

“He expected service you would get in a hotel,” and immediate repair, Miller said. “Well I can’t do that if you’re in the middle of [Montana]. “

Some of Miller’s biggest frustrations are the rental platforms themselves – sites like Outdoorsy and RVShare are slashing sales by 20-30%, he said, and he suspects algorithms favor newcomers. on the site. It prefers to rent its units through its own website, called Salt Lake RV Rentals, or through RVnGO, which only charges credit card processing fees and serves more as a peer-to-peer network.

All of the RV owners interviewed said they got into the business because they wanted a camper to be able to enjoy the outdoors. But almost all admitted that they don’t go out as often as they like because their RVs are constantly booked and they don’t want to lose any income.

“It starts to make your vacation more expensive because you’re basically renting your own RV,” Miller said. “Sometimes it’s fun to hear what my tenants are doing and where they’re going, but I’m like ‘Man, I would like to do that.'”

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