White camper van on the road during an Arizona sunset

Owner Feature: Brian Straub

Renting your van with GoCamp allows you to connect with a community of other van owners. GoCamp owners frequently share strategies and successes with one another, both virtually and at in-person meet-ups.

We interviewed van owner Brian Straub from Phoenix, Arizona. Brian owns a Ford Transit named Sonoran Sunrise and has been with GoCamp since February 2022. In that time Brian and his wife Abbey have rented their van nearly 200 nights, and their renters rave about the van and their exceptional customer service. Read on for our interview with Brian to find out more about what he’s learned over the past year.

A view of sunrise from the bed of a Ford Transit camper van.

Why did you decide to rent your van?

Abbey and I, like most everyone that enjoys travel, have been drawn to camper vans. I’ve always wanted to spend the time and do my own build out, but didn’t have the hours to dedicate to it. Once I realized that you could rent out your camper van on sites like GoCamp I started following other vans to monitor their bookings to see if our monthly revenue would cover the cost of the van. Van purchase to date, the rentals have covered all payments, expenses, insurance and then some for the van.

What was one of your favorite rental experiences?

Honestly, almost every renter has been pretty rad. Our most peculiar renter was a middle-aged woman and her mom who were going to take it north for the weekend to see what van life was like. They ended up being a little overwhelmed having never camped, so they parked the van in their driveway all weekend and just hung out in it with their cat. More power to them, they still had a great weekend!

What are one or two things you think every new owner should know?

Things will break and go wrong when renters have your van. It’s an apartment on wheels that is essentially undergoing a constant earthquake. People are incredibly understanding if you are attentive and do everything you can to remedy their experience. Abbey and I had done only two very short trips in our van prior to the first rental. The first rental was 8 days during a time of the year when it is still 20 degrees up at the Grand Canyon. Turns out, one of the electrical connections wasn’t tight on the house battery bank. In addition, they were messing around in the Victron app. and somehow clicked a button that allowed the house electronics to draw from the starter battery. So not only did they run out of electricity super quickly and in the middle of the night, the battery died on the vehicle. Thankfully, the guy who build the van used a reputable company to do the electrical install and I was able to connect this guy with our renters and they got it squared away after 2-3 days.

First impressions matter a lot. We are always very attentive on our first e-mail and offer to provide extras (drinks and snacks) at their request and no charge. We also give them a quick about us. So when bad things happen, see number one, they know we care about their experience and they will be more understanding.

Adding a bonus here, but ask for 5-star reviews. If you feel they enjoyed their time, be explicit in asking. “It sounds like you had an amazing time. If you have a moment when you get home, we would be incredibly appreciative of a 5-star review. This helps us to continue to rent the van and provide awesome experiences.”

What are some of the “must have” supplies you keep in your van? What are some of the “extras”?

This is a hard one to answer. We stock the van like we would if were going someone for a week, which is included in the GoCamp expectations. People seem to have really appreciated the large outdoor mat to put outside of the passenger door, the camp chairs, individual coffee travelers, different colored wash cloths and towels for each person, and a basket of all kinds of toiletries and chargers in case anyone forgets anything.

Can you describe your rental process from what happens when you receive a booking confirmation, to when the renter returns your van? Has this process changed during your time renting your van through GoCamp?

The first contact is the most important. I don’t have a hard and fast rule on timing of this first e-mail, but I aim for about 2 weeks out. I know if I got an e-mail 3 months before a trip, I wouldn’t even look at it. However, some people do like to be very detailed and have reached out right away, which is awesome as well.

The e-mail is a template I’ve created that I modify for each renter. I make sure I welcome them and make it unique to them. I bring up something they’ve said in their rental request, I’ll look up their area code to see where they are coming from, etc. I’ll quickly discuss pick-up timing, ask about their flight info. Then I’ll transition into an “About Us’ and end with an offer “Is there anything we can do to make your adventure more memorable or comfortable? Any favorite drinks, treats, etc?”

After this I follow-up with some van details. I have created a couple of videos that give a full walkthrough of the van and any step-by-step instructions that would be needed.

Hand-off and drop off are pretty straight forward. The videos have been a massive help in cutting down on time for hand-off. To make drop-off go more smoothly, I create clear expectations on drop-off times. It’s nice to be flexible, and we are, but I don’t want to be waiting around all day.

How have you utilized strategic pricing to affect your success?

I thought we would be able to rent the van for a little bit higher of a price, but have decided to keep it at $199 year-round. It does get expensive when all of the extras are added on. This has worked very well for us. I think we may be able to command more in the summer, but my goal is to keep it rented as much as possible.

What does success with GoCamp mean to you?

Success to us is providing a van experience that people enjoy and remember while being able to make enough money to cover the cost of our van.

Interested in connecting with other owners? You can ask questions, share tips and tricks, and virtually meet other owners on the private GoCamp Owners Group on Facebook. If you’re not currently renting your van with GoCamp, but you’d like to, you can learn more here.