MBA: Opportunities Remain in Changing RV Rentals Market

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LAS VEGAS – The RV rental business continues to be a good one – but rental operators need to adapt to a changing market.

That’s the message MBA Rental School instructors Martin Onken and Barry Raye delivered to a full classroom of students Tuesday morning, kicking off the three-day school.

Onken specifically cited the growing peer-to-peer rental market and an increase in foreign-based companies offering rentals in the U.S. as two big disrupters to the traditional rental market. Partly as a result, after several good years for RV rentals, the market shows some signs of flattening now, he said.

Still, there remain good opportunities for savvy dealers and rental companies to prosper in today’s market, Onken and Raye agreed.

The two instructors said one strategy is to offer products and services that other rental businesses – especially price-focused peer-to-peer rental companies – won’t. Just a few examples mentioned included offering customer airport pick up and drop off; partnering with local businesses, including nearby parks and campgrounds; and offering little extras customers will appreciate, like DVDs and camping chairs. Also, serving niche markets can be profitable, according to Raye, noting as examples a rental business that rents RV ice houses used for winter fishing and another business that exclusively rents RVs that remain parked around a lake.

One area that the two instructors agreed is vital to remaining successful in business is online reputation management, because every positive rating translates to increased business. The reason for that is that customers tend to shop based upon reputation, rather than product or quality, they said.

During a breakout session tailored to newer rental business owners, Onken talked about the importance of having a mentor. He encouraged the attendees to network with each other and to seek input from MBA Rental School sponsors – including Coachmen and Thor Motor Coach – in order to develop best practices in rentals. Onken also encouraged attendees to make use of resources such as the RV Dealers Association/ RV Rental Association and the Go RVing campaign, which provides customer leads.

Onken and Raye emphasized that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to running a rentals business. Onken noted that he runs two rental operations in southern California focusing exclusively on motorhomes, some of which he owns and some of which he rents out on behalf of private owners. In contrast, Raye’s firm, based in New Jersey owns its entire motorized fleet, and fellow instructor Scott Krenek in Michigan rents a roughly 50-50 mix of towables and motorhomes.


Bradley Worrell

Bradley Worrell is the editor of RV PRO Magazine.

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