Ideas and Validation October 27, 2020

How Do I Validate My Campervan Rental Company In A Smaller Market?

Talan Torriero @ttorriero

I need some help!

I recently moved to the midwest and took a road trip to visit my dad in Pennsylvania.

I had rented out a modern camper van when I lived in Los Angeles and wanted to do the same for our long drive...

BUT I couldn't find 1 modern camper vans for rent in my city (750k-1m population) as they have in LA, Seattle, Denver, and Salt Lake. I found some old VW vans but they just didn't appeal to me the way - see NativeCamperVans.com for example.

I've thought about buying a campervan to rent out in my market but I need to validate that I'm not the only one who would want one.

Should I setup a landing page and PPC ads?

Any advice is greatly appreciated!

  1. 1

    I can speak about this as a customer who just rented an RV for a week coming up and asked the guy I rented from about his family-owned rental biz, cuz I'm curious.

    Far and above, he gets more leads from RV sharing sites (think AirBnB but for RVs) like rvshare.com and outdoorsy.com. This is where casual renters look first, and often trust more, since they have rating systems and escrow payment systems and even built-in insurance.

    They also take a larger cut, so he treats this as his ad spend and plays "lifetime value" and word of mouth as the long term move for getting people to rent directly from him the next time they take a trip or recommend to a friend.

    They also focus on having easy-to-request upgrade amenties like camping gear and other things that renters might not own, or feel like buying new just for one trip.

    1. 1

      Thanks so much for the detailed response! Couple of questions if you don't mind...

      How many miles / days did you travel?
      How many did your campervan sleep?
      Did you have a sink, toilet, stovetop, or shower? If not, did you miss those modern amenities?
      How much did it cost per night? I assume there were some fees?

      Thanks so much, I really appreciate the value of the IndieHackers community ;)

      Side note to @scottrogowski idea. I posted an ad on craigslist and got a response in the first 25 minutes!

      1. 1

        I'm not personally into vanlife, I rented a bigger RV but got curious about the business when I found out that the guy ran a small fleet biz. Hearing how he built a consistent pipeline of renters and expanded CLTV was the interesting part!

  2. 1

    Are you trying to start a campervan company or just rent out a single campervan?

    If it's the latter, I wouldn't overthink it. Try putting an ad for rent on craigslist and see how many responses you get. It's a bit deceptive but if you get even a single reply, you know you have a market.

    1. 1

      What a great idea! Will definitely try this.

      My goal is to start with one and then hopefully have 5-10 vans.

      1. 1

        Awesome!

        For what it's worth, I would consider myself to be a potential camper van rental customer but whenever I've looked in the past, the price has been way too high for me.

        Feel free to reach out if you want to validate some ideas.

        1. 1

          Thanks! What would you consider too expensive?

          Sleeps 2: $149
          Sleeps 4: $199

          1. 1

            Or is it the hidden fees?

            1. 1

              It's the by-day price. I would expect it to cost the same or less than a cheap hotel or a bit more than a rental car but it costs way more than both. I don't mind paying for gas and maybe even a reasonable mileage fee but I tend to associate vanlife with thrift and would prefer to pay accordingly.

              It's possible that I'm just too cheap to be in your market but if you can lower it to a price that people like me would pay, I think a floodgate would open. If it were less than a hotel, I would rent several weekends a year.

              Happy to answer more questions but let's schedule a talk if so.

  3. 1

    Is this a different segment that RV's and Campers (Pop-ups, pull-behinds, etc.)?

    1. 1

      Ford Transit Campervans cater to a younger demographic as they are easier to drive (not as large), have most amenities (small sink, fridge, burner top, bed) but not all (toilet, shower) as they don't want to have to dump their water and sewage, and wifi. Perfect for a 3-5 day trip. ReconCampers.com/Envy is one I am considering buying since it has a poptop with an extra bed and headroom.

      One company that is hitting this market hard is Cabana.life. You can read more about them here: https://www.businessinsider.com/cabana-rents-converted-2019-ford-transits-camper-vans-through-app-2020-6

  4. 1

    Landing page and PPC ads is probably the quickest way to get a feel for it.

    You could also try finding local groups to post to, and send them to the landing page.

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