TAMPA, Fla. — The recreational vehicle craze that took the pandemic world by storm in 2020 isn't letting up.
With so many families wanting to spend time outdoors in a more COVID-19 safe environment, they opt to avoid hotels and mass transit. Why fly somewhere when you can load up in an RV and cruise to your final destination?
Well, that love of freedom and life on the road is helping families run full-time rental RV businesses. One way they are getting people behind the wheel is with the software app Outdoorsy.
"Because I mean, as you all know, getting on Google, and the first page of Google is very hard," Kai Luckan said.
Luckan and his family left their homeland in Germany to start their own American Dream. In 2017, they purchased two RVs and launched FloridaBlueSky Adventures.
"So it started really slow. And then one day I searched the internet, and I found these companies," Luckman said. "They made it very easy to sign up, just go on the website and put a few data in and your RV and your name. And, they give you suggestions on what the current rate could be. So we started with them. And like three, four, or five days later, we had the first rental. They make it easy, and you don't have the necessary and necessary to have an office because they do all the paperwork, the office work."
While Luckan lists his RVs on Outdoorsy to run his business, others use the technology as a side hustle.
"We have thousands and thousands of owners that have been able to make really significant disposable income," Jennifer Young, co-founder of Outdoorsy, said. "We've got owners on the platform that are bringing in a steady $5,000 a month just renting out their vehicle when they're not using it, which can go to either pay down the cost of the recreational vehicle themselves, or some of them are using that to pay off their home mortgages,"
Young launched the company in 2015 but said it continues to grow year-over-year. She first got the idea to start Outdoorsy while thinking about all the RVs sitting idle when they aren't out on the road.
"When we realized that there are over 12 million recreational vehicles in the United States that sit unused in driveways, in storage lockers for about 350 days a year, it hit us pretty hard, which is there's a huge market," Young said. "Twelve vehicles, 350 available days a year, over a billion available rental days. And so we set our sights on building Outdoorsy, the most trusted marketplace for people to list and to rent recreational vehicles."
Luckan operates six RV's and plans to purchase more. He lives in Largo and said he has trouble finding storage locations between rentals. Codes in Largo prohibit Luckan from storing any RV's at his home.
The new father of a baby boy, just a few weeks old, is extremely busy. Luckan will often drop off the vehicles at airports for tourists flying in. And he will sometimes set them up at local RV resorts or campgrounds. He said it's a tough job that can be highly challenging.
"We are constantly in one of these repair shops, and you're almost having our own repair shop now because we have six of these, and then everything happens all the time," Luckan said. "Renters come back with damages; they do damages, they have accidents, they rip the roof off, they rip the AC out. They trash the RV from the inside, and things happen. So, I mean, that's part of the business."
Luckan also said Outdoorsy takes a 25% commission per rental. A fee he said is high, but the marketing and exposure to keep customers booking are worth it.
"The older people, they go out west, they go to the Grand Canyon, and they take like three weeks. We have a European couple that rented it for 70 days," Luckan said. "Most of them going to the Space Center, almost everybody goes to the Keys. They go to the Naples area to the state parks; and the Everglades."
Young said the company also offers insurance to protect owners and renters.
"So you're covered up to a million dollars in liability insurance," Young said. "And, we have a 24/7 customer support dedicated on-call support team that's ready to help owners and renters if anything goes wrong. We have an in-house claims department, so we don't leave you in the lurch. We are with you every step of the way from pre-booking to the time the vehicle is returned."