As the peak summer travel season approaches and with flights, hotels, and restaurant prices on the rise, more people are opting to rent recreational vehicles (RVs) instead.
According to a report by PYMNTS, Jennifer Young, Co-founder and chief marketing officer of online RV marketplace Outdoorsy, said the economics of RV rentals are quite favorable. This year, the platform has seen a surge in first-time renters.
“When we look at summer 2023 against 2022, which was a record summer for us, we’re currently outpacing it … The growth is fueled by our first-time bookings, as 76% of all Outdoorsy bookings are now first-time bookers, which is the highest of all time,” said Young.
A combination of factors, including the high cost of traditional airfare and hotel vacations and the strong supply of late-model RVs, is driving down rental costs and contributing to the spike in bookings.
Young noted that RV rentals are increasingly popular among younger consumers. RV rentals offer other economic advantages as well, such as lower overall costs associated with preparing meals in RV kitchens and campfires and the ability to use a national park pass multiple times.
Outdoorsy has also partnered with PayPal to expand payment choices and terms, including installments.
“Now, anybody that rents from Outdoorsy, whether it’s an RV rental or an outdoor stay or a stay in one of the campgrounds, is now able to choose what payment terms best suit their financial circumstances,” she said.
The company has launched interest-free payment plans, as well as a product that allows guests to make four payments over two weeks. Flexibility and diverse pricing options are key components of Outdoorsy’s growth strategy.
The rising popularity of side hustles is evident on the Outdoorsy platform. Young said they’ll probably see a lot more side hustles forming and individuals that bought perhaps an RV camper van during the pandemic years, or even had one over the last 10 or 15 years, that might “consider leaning into that as a form of secondary income because it’s such a great side hustle.”
This trend aligns with Outdoorsy’s reputation as an innovator; the company created Roamly RV insurance, which simplifies coverage and allows RV owners to transform their passion into a small business.
Roamly has evolved from providing episodic legal insurance to offering a full suite of road and travel protections. Young said, “It’s realized over 240% year-on-year growth.”
Outdoorsy has also developed Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools to help RV owners run rental businesses, providing hosts with insights into local demand, optimal rental pricing, and flexible pricing through PayPal. According to Young, these tools have resulted in fewer cancellations and increased host satisfaction.
In the future, Outdoorsy plans to provide discounts for electric vehicles in the RV category and potentially expand into campground insurance. Young noted that the supply of bookable RV rentals has grown by over 50% since 2020, and the number of newer vehicles (less than 3 years old) has also increased by over 50%.
Outdoorsy’s Destination Network, which includes alternate lodgings such as cabins, yurts, and treehouses, focuses on unique outdoor experiences rather than competing directly with platforms like Airbnb.
The RV marketplace targets core customer demographics of 35- to 55-year-old individuals and families who enjoy light hiking and national park excursions, typically within 50 to 200 miles of their homes.
Young also pointed out that Outdoorsy is seeing an increase in “bleisure” travel, where people blend business and leisure trips. The platform offers a “get it delivered” feature, where owners deliver rented RVs to campgrounds or other destinations, further adding to the appeal of RV rentals.
The rise in demand for RV rentals also has implications for RV dealers. As more people turn to RVs for vacationing, dealers may experience increased sales and a growing customer base.
Additionally, the popularity of RV sharing platforms like Outdoorsy can lead to greater interest in RV ownership as a potential source of supplementary income. To capitalize on this trend, RV dealers may consider offering flexible financing options, collaborating with rental platforms, or providing additional services to cater to the changing needs of RV enthusiasts.