How to get a free RV (by renting it to others)

How to get a free RV (using a rental program)

Have you ever wanted to enjoy the RV or travel trailer life, but didn’t want to have to pay the monthly payments, storage, or insurance fees? We are sharing a way for you to have your travel trailer paid for with minimal usage while renting on Outdoorsy or RV Share for a loan term of 5 years.

For our first travel trailer experience, we rented an travel trailer off of RV Share. We arrived at the owners house, hitched it up, and drove off to our campground. We rented the unit for 4 days when our daughter was about a month old as we had booked a camping trip a year in advance and wanted to go. Usually we would have tent camped, but as our daughter was so young, we rented a unit.

Another reason we rented, is we wanted to see if the travel trailer life was right for us. We found through the rental period, that we loved it and continued to look for and purchase a travel trailer of our own.

Lets get started on how you can get a free RV.

RV Initial Cost

For our case study of buying an RV and having it paid for by rental users, we use a cost of $20,000. $20,000, you can buy a very nice travel trailer. For the purpose of having your RV paid for, this example uses 0 down on your initial RV purchase and financing the whole thing. If you bought a $25,000 travel trailer and put $5,000 down, these numbers would essentially be the same. When you buy your RV you may need some additional accessories, but for this example we do not include the costs of those. The accessories you need should be less than $500.

Many brands can be had for around $20,000, but you can get a very nice 18-23 foot travel trailer that will serve your family very well for $20k. We are not talking about buying an Airstream, but for a nice quality RV, this price is very doable.

If you are interested in purchasing a travel trailer, our buyers guide article has lots of useful information before you make your decision.

The Travel Trailer Loan

We are assuming that a RV loan can be had at 3%. At the time of this writing, some local banks are offering 1.99% on new travel trailer purchases, so it could even be better in your case. Over a 5 year loan at this interest rate, you will only pay about $1,500 in interest to the bank. This may seem like a lot, but it is a small cost to pay if you don’t have $20,000 sitting in your bank account.

At 3% interest, the monthly payment will be $360 per month for a 5 year term. If you go shorter, you can expect a higher payment, and longer a lower payment and have the ability to pocket some extra cash. We choose 5 years as it is a popular term to get your vehicle paid off by.

Ongoing Monthly Expenses

Along with your $360 per month payment on your travel trailer, you will have other monthly expenses such as storage, insurance, and registration. For this example, we use $35 per month for storage which is a fair number in our area, $34 per month for full coverage insurance, as well as $10 per month for annual registration and plates. These numbers can vary based on if you need off site storage, or have cheaper or more expensive insurance or registration.

Total other costs are $79 per month. We do not factor in expenses for maintenance on the travel trailer, as this is an unknown expense. Maintenance in the first 5 years should be limited on a brand new trailer, but depending on if you need to winterize or not this number could change.

To learn more about the ongoing costs to own a travel trailer, read more from our article on How much does it cost to own a travel trailer.

The RV Rental Process

By using Outdoorsy to rent your travel trailer, they offer the owner about 80% cut of the rental fees. We have found that an average RV that would cost about $20k could rent from $120-$155 per night. We have used $135 per night to be conservative and increased this number by $5 per night per year for inflation. There are other rental fees you could receive such as, generator rental fees, extra mileage, delivery, cleaning fee, as well as a cut of user bought insurance. These items can add up to an additional $100-500 per trip.

We did not include these fees as they are extra, but found that you could rent out a $500 generator for $35 a night. This would quickly pay off a generator in 15 rentals that you could add to your personal arsenal.

How Many Nights Rented

We are using figures if you live in a northern climate. If you live in a warmer climate and can rent year round, this will pay off your travel trailer much more quickly. In our case, we only use rental nights May-October.

We figure varying rental nights per month as it may not be warm enough, or you, the owner may want to go on trips of their own. We use a minimum rental of 3 nights in a row for this example. For May, we figure the unit is rented 2 weekends for 3 nights each. The same goes for September. October gets only one rental for 3 days. Peak summer months of June, July, and August get a 10 day rental each. This covers one renter for Friday, through the week and back on the Sunday 10 days later. This could be split up into smaller trips, but this example leaves the owner with use of their trailer for 3 weeks every month in the peak summer months.

Rental Income

As rental sites take their cut, we use 80% as what the end renter will receive in income from renting their RV.

MonthNights Rented80% Rental Income

Year 1 delivers $5,520 of rental income from renting their travel trailer. Year 1 expenses for payment, storage, registration, and insurance total $5,244 delivering you $276 of actual income from renting your RV. If you rent your RV more nights, you will see more revenue. Also if you have a generator, cleaning fee, or additional insurance, you can make money off these items as well which would be extra frosting on the cake.

As your RV rate increases by $5.00 each year, each year you should make an additional $225 over what you made the previous year. Once you are done with your 5 year rental period, you will have a paid off asset which holds value. Lets say your unit depreciated 50% over the 5 year period, you could sell your travel trailer for $10,000 and buy a new unit with 50% down and do it all over again to get better cash flow.

We have some friends we have met that have purchased 3 used travel trailers and rent them out during the summer. This pays for their trailers as well as fills their vacation fund for the year.

What effort is required to rent your travel trailer?

Ideally, this would be little effort, meeting someone to hand over the keys and help them hitch up. Unfortunately, this may not be the case if you have a 1st timer on your hands. You may have to spend an hour to show them how to use the units water, dump tanks, heat, hitch, etc. If you will be around the house anyways, this is no problem. But if you are waiting for a late RV renter and then they want to spend an hour with you for instruction, this could be an issue.

Luckly both websites as well as many other resources are available online to show the user how to use the unit. Hopefully, the user would have researched how to use these items on their own prior to renting.

Another way to lower your time involved is to screen your renters to users who are familiar with the process of operating a travel trailer. This could be done with contacting the user when they apply to rent and asking if they have experience.

Should I rent my travel trailer?

Long story short, it is possible to pay for your travel trailer costs very easily by renting it out. This choice of renting your travel trailer will need to be made by yourself. The downsides to renting your travel trailer, are it may be unavailable for a last minute trip you want to go on, it may have damage which you will need to go through the process with the rental programs insurance to fix, as well as if the thought of other people using your items freaks you out.

What if someone damages my travel trailer while renting?

Outdoorsy and RVShare have rental insurance options that cover your RV in case of damage by the renter. I personally have not made a claim through one of these programs, but have read that they are very nice for the owner.

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