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How to Start an RV Rental Business

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start an RV Rental Business

Fast Facts

Investment range

$24,050 - $39,100

Revenue potential

$70,000 - $175,000 p.a.

Time to build

1 – 3 months

Profit potential

$42,000 - $105,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Flexible

What better way to see the country than in an RV? But a new one can be terribly expensive, which is why the RV rental market has expanded  nearly 60% in the last decade, led by industry leaders Cruise America and El Monte. With a bit of an investment, you could start your own RV rental business and help people see the country while making a good living.

But before you hit the road to success, you’ll need some business knowledge. Luckily, this step-by-step guide has all the insights you need to launch a lucrative RV rental business.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Starting an RV rental business has pros and cons to consider before deciding if it’s right for you. 

Pros

  • Share Fun – Help people have great vacations
  • Low Labor – Once the RVs hit the road, there’s not much work to do
  • Good Money – Make up to $200 per daily rental

Cons

  • High Startup Costs – RVs don’t come cheap
  • Insurance – RV insurance can be costly

RV rental industry trends

Industry size and growth

rv rental industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

Trends in the RV rental industry include:

  • RV rentals are becoming more and more popular among millennials, who represent the fastest growing segment of the market.
  • Consumers want to rent newer RVs, and the most popular are Winnebagos, particular the Vista and Minnie Winnie models. 

Challenges in the RV rental industry include:

  • Peer-to-peer rental platforms like Outdoorsy, which enable RV owners to rent out their vehicles, are gaining market share. 
  • Insurance costs for RVs, particularly those used as rentals, are rising, cutting into profit margins for RV rental businesses.
RV rental Trends and Challenges

Consumer spending

rv rental industry consumer spending

How much does it cost to start an RV rental business?

Startup costs for an RV rental business range from $24,000 to $40,000 if you start with two RVs. Costs include the down payments on the RVs, a storage space, and a website.

Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Website setup$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Down payment on two RVs$20,000 - $30,000$25,000
Storage space lease$2,500 - $5,000$3,750
Total$24,050 - $39,100$31,575

How much can you earn from an RV rental business?

Prices for RV rental range from $100 to $275 per night depending on the class of the RV. These calculations will assume an average rate of $175. Your profit margin after costs of insurance, maintenance, and storage space rent should be about 60%. 

In your first year or two, you may have two RVs that are each rented 200 days of the year, bringing in $70,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $42,000 in profit, assuming that 60% margin. At this point, you might add two more RVs and rent them 250 days a year. With annual revenue of $175,000, you’d make a fantastic profit of $105,000.

RV rental business earnings forecast

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for an RV rental business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • The startup costs of the RVs
  • Competing with RV sharing and RV rental businesses

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Step 2: Refine Your RV Rental Business Concept

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting an RV rental business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research RV rental businesses in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a campervan rental company or an RV rental business that provides an RV park guide.

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as class C motorhomes or luxury class A motorhomes.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine your RV rental services

Your RV rental offerings should cater to a range of customer needs. Consider:

  • RV Types: Start with a diverse fleet that includes various RV classes (A, B, C) and specialized models like campervans or luxury motorhomes.
  • Additional Services: Offer value-added services such as RV delivery and pick-up, travel planning assistance, or pre-stocked amenities.

How much should you charge for RV rental?

Prices will depend on the types of RVs you rent and could be up to $275 per night. Even class B and C RVs can go up to $200 per night. After costs of maintenance and insurance, you should aim for a profit margin of about 60%. 

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

To identify your target market for an RV rental business, focus on:

  1. Demographics: Key groups include families, retirees, and young couples or groups of friends seeking adventure.
  2. Travel Preferences: Target adventure enthusiasts, event attendees, and seasonal travelers.
  3. Geography: Concentrate on areas with high tourism or near popular destinations like national parks.
  4. Income Levels: Offer a range of RVs to cater to various budgets, from basic to luxury models.
  5. Psychographics: Consider values and lifestyles, such as eco-conscious travelers.
  6. Competitor Analysis: Identify any underserved markets by examining who competitors are targeting.

Where? Choose a location for your RV rental business

Choosing a location for your RV rental business involves considering factors that ensure accessibility, visibility, and convenience for your target market:

  1. Proximity to Tourist Attractions: Situate near popular tourist destinations like national parks, beaches, or campgrounds.
  2. Accessibility: Choose a location easily accessible from major highways or roads, facilitating easy pick-up and drop-off.
  3. Visibility: Opt for a spot with good visibility to attract drive-by customers.
  4. Local Demand: Assess the local demand for RV rentals. Areas with a thriving tourism industry are preferable.
  5. Storage and Space: Ensure the location has ample space for storing and maintaining a fleet of RVs.
  6. Zoning and Regulations: Check local zoning laws and regulations to ensure compliance for operating an RV rental business.
  7. Security: Prioritize a secure location to protect your assets.
rv rental business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm an RV Rental Business Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “RVs” or “RV rentals”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Wanderlust RV Rentals” over “Luxury RV Rentals”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Summarize the main points of your business plan, including your goals and the unique value your rental service offers.
  • Business Overview: Introduce your business, outlining the types of RVs you’ll offer and the geographical areas you plan to operate in.
  • Product and Services: Detail the RV rental services you’ll provide, such as the size and types of RVs, rental rates, and any additional services like delivery and setup.
  • Market Analysis: Analyze the demand for RV rentals in your target market, including tourist attractions and camping sites, and identify your potential customer base.
  • Competitive Analysis: Identify competitors in the RV rental industry, evaluate their rental fleets, pricing, and customer reviews, and explain how your business will stand out.
  • Sales and Marketing: Describe your strategies for attracting customers, such as online booking platforms, partnerships with travel agencies, and marketing campaigns.
  • Management Team: Highlight your qualifications and any team members’ experience in the RV rental industry, emphasizing your knowledge of maintenance, customer service, and safety protocols.
  • Operations Plan: Explain how your business will operate day-to-day, covering topics like RV maintenance, cleaning procedures, reservation management, and safety checks.
  • Financial Plan: Provide financial projections, including revenue estimates, operating costs, profit margins, and startup expenses, demonstrating the business’s financial feasibility.
  • Appendix: Include essential documents such as insurance certificates, maintenance records, rental agreements, and any necessary permits or licenses to establish credibility with customers and regulatory authorities.
what to include in a business plan

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to RV rental businesses. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your RV rental business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
types of business structures

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding an RV rental business. 

types of business financing

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting an RV rental business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your RV rental business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
types of business insurance

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. 

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as Guesty, Wheelbase, or Sirvoy, to manage your bookings, rates, communication, and invoicing.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial. 

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.

Marketing

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  1. Social Media Engagement: Leverage platforms like Instagram and Facebook to showcase the adventure and freedom of RV travel; engage with your audience by sharing customer stories and travel tips.
  2. Partnerships with Travel Bloggers: Collaborate with popular travel bloggers or influencers to create content featuring your RVs, reaching a wider audience and building credibility.
  3. Local Event Sponsorship: Sponsor local events such as outdoor festivals, camping expos, or community gatherings to increase brand visibility and attract potential customers.
  4. Referral Programs: Implement a referral program offering discounts or perks to existing customers who refer friends or family, encouraging word-of-mouth marketing.
  5. SEO Optimization for Location-Based Searches: Ensure your online presence is optimized for local search engine queries, helping potential customers find your RV rental business when searching for rentals in your area.
  6. Themed Promotions: Create themed promotions or discounts tied to holidays, seasonal trends, or popular travel destinations to generate interest and boost bookings during specific times.
  7. Exclusive Packages and Add-ons: Differentiate your offerings by providing exclusive packages or add-ons, such as outdoor equipment, discounted campground partnerships, or guided tour options.
  8. Customer Reviews and Testimonials: Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, or specialized RV forums to build trust and credibility among potential renters.
  9. Email Marketing Campaigns: Develop targeted email campaigns to keep previous customers informed about new offerings, promotions, and seasonal discounts, encouraging repeat business.
  10. Fleet Visibility: Utilize high-traffic areas by strategically parking RVs with branded signage to maximize exposure and attract the attention of potential customers passing by.

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your RV rental business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your RV rental business could be:

  • New, luxury RVs for the classiest of road trips
  • Sharp campervan rentals to hit the road for less
  • We have the perfect RV for your vacation budget 
unique selling proposition

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running an RV rental business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in RVs for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in RVs. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for an RV rental business include:

  • RV Maintenance People – repair and maintain RVs
  • General Manager – scheduling, accounting
  • Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Start Making Money!

Running a Business

RV rentals are booming, particularly as the pandemic winds down and people want to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. With 72 million people planning RV vacations in 2022, an RV rental business should have no shortage of customers. You could start your own RV rental business, build up a reputation and soon expand to become a national RV empire!  

After reading this guide you’ve got the gist of the business side, so it’s time to hit the road with your successful RV rental business.

RV Rental Business FAQs

Is an RV rental business profitable?

Yes, an RV business can be very profitable. You just need to make sure that your RVs are well-maintained to avoid issues and to make sure your customers have a great vacation.

How much should I charge for RV rentals?

Prices will depend on the types of RVs you rent and could be up to $275 per night for a class A RV. Even class B and C RVs can go up to $200 per night. Check market prices to make sure you’re competitive.

How can I differentiate my RV rental business from competitors in the market?

To differentiate your RV rental business from competitors, consider offering unique features or services such as specialized RV models, luxury amenities, flexible rental options, exceptional customer service, or value-added extras like camping gear or personalized trip planning assistance. 

How do I handle maintenance and repairs for the rental RVs?

Develop a regular maintenance schedule for routine checks and address any repairs promptly. Establish relationships with reliable mechanics or maintenance facilities experienced in RV repairs. 

What steps should I take to ensure the safety and cleanliness of the rental RVs?

Implement a thorough cleaning process between rentals, including disinfecting high-touch areas, laundering linens, and thoroughly cleaning kitchen and bathroom facilities. Regularly inspect and maintain safety features such as smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, and tires.

Can I offer additional services or packages with the RV rentals?

Consider offering add-ons such as camping equipment rentals, Wi-Fi or entertainment packages, RV delivery and setup services, or customized trip planning assistance. 

Can I start RV rental on the side?

Starting an RV rental business on the side is possible, but it requires careful planning and management. Consider the time commitment required for managing reservations, maintenance, and customer service alongside other commitments.

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How to Start an RV Rental Business