CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Renting a spacious, comfortable RV can be awfully expensive.
And most who buy one, end up making payments all year long, even though it sits idle 11 months of the year. But one local company is the first and largest of its kind to connect RV owners with renters, helping families hit the road for less, and RV owners turn a liability into a small business.
Hitching up his travel trailer, hitting the road, and setting up camp is one of Colin Richards favorite things to do.
"My wife's grandfather plays blue grass. We'd go twice a year but we'd always stay in a hotel. It's more fun if you stay in the atmosphere," he said.
But taking out what equated to a second car loan on something they only used twice a year didn't make sense. So he signed up for RVshare.com, a local tech company launched four years ago, which offers peer to peer RV rentals.
"Companies like Airbnb, Home Away and VRBO definitely paved the path for the sharing economy," said RVshare Co-Founder and CEO, Joel Clark.
He says owners can list their RV, drivable or towed, name their price then choose who they can rent to and when.
The Richards now enjoy their own RV, and profit from it.
"I've paid it off in less than two and a half years," said Richards.
He says they make $12,000-$15,000 a year just in the summer months.
Renters like Diane Demuynck saw it an an opportunity for family bonding.
"It was something fun and new and different for a week," she said.
The self-proclaimed "glamper" says she was comfortable in someone else's second home. Demuynck says she shopped around and found RVshare to be very competitive, with lots to choose from.
"I would compare trailers. I'll be honest, Colin's was the best price for the size and the year it was made and all the luxuries in it," she said.
Traditional outlet, General RV in North Canton, has a fleet of brand new coaches that they rent out over the summer, and a whole department dedicated to teaching renters how to operate them.
Units that sleep four to 10 people average $1,500-2$,000 for the minimum weekly rental. That includes 700 miles and generator time, along with insurance for both the renter and the dealership.
Clark says their rates are 10-20 percent less than traditional RV fleets, and offer families more flexibility.
"What often time sadly becomes a money pit in the driveway, all of a sudden becomes a small business in a driveway for a family," said Clark.
The average RV, most of which are financed, goes unused for 50 weeks, OR 96 percent of the year.
Investments of $20,000-$30,000 for travel trailers, and $60,000-$200,000 for driveable RV's are now paying off for their clients, says Clark, through their arrangements. Some are happy renting enough to cover their payment.
"Other RV owners see all the demand and say 'I want to make as much money as I can.' We've seen them make as much as $80,000 in a year, from a single RV. More normal range is $20,000-$30,000 per year," said Clark.
And families, like the Demuynck's, got Richards' spacious travel trailer for $125 a night, which is less than a hotel stay at most vacation destinations.
But renting one of these vehicles isn't like renting an unfamiliar car. They are complicated vehicles to drive and operate once you set up camp.
"A rental pick up will often take two-three hours because the owner is going to spend that much time showing the renter how to use the RV, take them for a test drive on the highway and back roads things like that.
RV share also manages the deposit and payment process, insurance, and 24/7 roadside assistance, which includes any towing or tire replacement required.
"We stop everywhere. I'm the person that stops at the biggest tire or the biggest ball of string," said Demuynck, whose family is already planning their next RV share.
RV Share's Co-founder and CEO says that demand for the 30,000 RV's listed on their site is higher than supply. They average 800,000 hits per month to their site, and their staff has tripled in the last eight months. If you'd like to see how much you could make from your own RV visit this partner site. Or if you'd like to browse the inventory and get an estimate on a rental, click here.