In September 2020, Ian Beaty rented his first, and at the time his only, van out on GoCamp. Like many owners, he started with the goal of renting the van occasionally to recoup some costs.
Just a little more than a year later, Ian was renting three vans on GoCamp: Vincent Van Gogh, a 2019 Ram ProMaster, Lt. Van (pictured below) a 2020 Ford Transit built by AVC Rig, and Carmen Van Diego, a 2021 Ram ProMaster built by Grit Overland.
After 78 rentals, Ian reflects on his success, lessons learned, what he’s going to change, and how he’s earned only five-star reviews in the past two+ years.
If you think of your van as your baby, your pride and joy, or a major investment, you might want to think twice about renting it out. If you do decide to rent your van, look at the rental process very objectively. Damages, scratches, broken mirrors, and missing items will occur. In fact, I replaced three mirrors this summer.
You can’t please everyone. Some people are super happy with your van no matter what you do. Some people will complain and be upset with your van no matter what you do. Be nice and try your best.
Most renters will be 10-30 minutes late in picking up and dropping off your van.
If a renter wants to leave their car at your house, plan on 30 to 60 minutes of repacking from their car to your van in the driveway if they brought their stuff along.
I have a Google Sheets tracker for each van. When I get a reservation email, I do two things:
- Add it to my calendar on my phone with a reminder one week out.
- Add the details to my Google Sheet, including name, number, email, trip dates and length, and notes such as “two adults with a dog” or “two adults, one kid aged nine with paddle board, wants to leave car at house.” I also add all expenses and revenue information to this spreadsheet.
I have an Ikea cabinet for all of my sheets, duvets, covers, and pillows so I can wash, dry, fold, and store kits ready to go.
Be In Tune with Your Renters’ Needs
I call all renters three to ten days before their trip. I’ll call sooner if they are flying in from out of town. If they don’t answer, I leave a text: “This is Ian with your upcoming rental with (van name). Give me a call to discuss pick up info and so that I can answer any questions you have.” I answer all questions thoroughly and ask if they need any recommendations for their trip. If they do, I create/send an Apple Maps Guide.
I try to make the pick up process as long or short as renters want. Some want a super quick tutorial and want to hit the road in the matter of minutes. I try to be quick, limit chit chat, and get them in the driver’s seat. Some seem to ask a million questions about the van, other vans, van life, and so on. The longest walk-through I’ve ever done was almost an hour, while the average is 25 minutes.
During the height of COVID, I recorded an eight-minute video walk-through of the van and sent it via text/email prior to the rental to make the pick up about five minutes. I still send that video when people have a lot of questions prior to the pickup.
Be Business Minded
The reason we bought more vans was the tax advantages. We keep track of all costs, including the van and all additional items, down to paper towels. It’s possible to get thousands of dollars back in a tax return for the business loss on a schedule C. Of course, consult with your tax preparer.
Personal insurance is tough. You’ll pay high premiums for little to no driving each month. The folks at Roamly now have a proprietary product where the premium goes down the less you drive your van. It’s one-half the cost of most insurance carriers. I recommend it.
Get Five-Star Reviews
To get reviews I text the link to the van page, asking for a quick review if they have a few minutes. I usually send this text the same day they return or the next day as that is when people are most excited and will remember the most details of their trip.
For those who didn’t seem happy with the van or their trip, I don’t even ask for a review. I figure if it was bad, they will send in a review without asking. So far that has not happened, even with a lady who ripped a mirror off driving in downtown NW Portland and then tried to blame me for the van being too big.
I let renters know to call or text me any time if there are issues, day or night. I’ve got five-star reviews just by being available and trying to troubleshoot issues over the phone, even if the problem could not be resolved.
Be Open to Making Changes
Even highly successful owners continue to learn from their experiences and adjust their systems. Here’s what Ian plans to do to create an even smoother rental experience for himself and his renters.
Schedule a two to three-day weekday blackout date for maintenance, such as oil changes, tire pressure checks, etc.
Most people seem to go to the same places. I am going to create an Apple Maps Guide specific to those routes and share these with each renter. Popular trips in my area are the north coast, central Oregon and Crater Lake, the Redwoods and the Columbia Gorge.
Be more thorough on the check out sheet and check in inspection. I have been in a hurry and rushed the check out paperwork, and probably have not explained things as well as I could, such as the allowed mileage and overage fees, check in procedures like filling the gas tank, etc. During check in, I need to spend two extra minutes looking the van over. I missed a major dent in one van and missing items in another by trusting without verifying.
Regularly check for missing items that need to be stocked: a fork here, a spatula there, paper towels, etc. I am going to create a laminated check in/out list of all major and minor amenities. “Kitchen stuff” is good on a check list, but one small pot, one large pot, four of each cutlery, one tea kettle, etc. is better.
Find Success with these Best Practices for RV Owners
We’ve been helping van owners succeed in renting out their camper vans since 2017. Over the years we’ve facilitated 1,000’s of successful rentals and made it possible for van owners to earn tens of thousands of dollars. For more information about renting out your camper van, check out all the articles written for van owners. And if you are ready to list your camper van with GoCamp, head to the List Your Van page now.
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