With the pandemic still in full swing, an increasing number of vacationers are avoiding airlines and hotels this summer. But RV rentals are red hot. That inspired National Geographic to recently dub 2020 the “Year of the Camper.

“Acknowledging the pent-up desire to leave the house, but to do so safely, an RV rental becomes the best solution to get out quickly and not have to worry about crowds, confinement, or going stir crazy,” says Jen Young, co-founder of RV rental marketplace Outdoorsy.

For people with an unused camper in the driveway — or camp stoves, tents, cots and other seasonal equipment gathering dust in the garage — this sudden demand for camping gear can provide a way to make a few bucks when jobs are scarce.

RV rentals soaring

Three peer-to-peer rental marketplaces specialize in recreational vehicles — Outdoorsy, RVshare and RVnGo. All three allow RV and trailer owners to sign up for free and set their own rental rates. When your vehicle is rented, owners generally pay a commission to the site in exchange for providing the marketing platform and collecting payment from the renter.

Over the past three months, bookings have jumped 4,300% at Outdoorsy, the company says. RVshare reported an 81% hike in Fourth of July reservations.

“Ultimately, travelers are choosing the freedom and inherent safety of social distancing in a fully self-contained rig in pursuit of outdoor adventures,” said David Kosofsky, co-founder of GoRVRentals, a site that helps you find local RVs, pop-ups and trailers.

Market for other camping gear

However, not all campers require an RV. And several sites, including Loanables, RentNotBuy and FriendWithA, will help you rent out simpler camping equipment, such as sleeping bags, tents, lanterns, and camp tables.

Rental rates

How much can you expect to earn from renting out an RV or camping equipment? The answer varies dramatically based on where you are, the age and value of what you have to rent.

Inexpensive gear, ranging from tents to camp stoves, typically rent out for between $3 and $25 per item, per day on peer-to-peer platforms. Since each item rents for such a small amount, professional rental companies, such as OutdoorsGeek, typically create “packages.” A basic one-person package on this site includes a tent, sleeping bag, and lamp for $69 a day, for instance. More complete packages include cooking equipment and air-mattresses, for which the site charges as much as $268 per night.

Packaging camping gear is a smart approach. It helps you by ensuring you can charge enough to make renting out your gear worthwhile. But it also helps newbie campers, who might otherwise forget key equipment — from food storage containers to lanterns.

If you have a camper, van, trailer or pop-up, there’s no need to package to command a decent rental rate. Average daily rates for Class A RV rentals, for instance, range from about $225 to $300, depending on the city. Pop-ups and trailers, meanwhile, rent for between $50 and $120, according to a recent survey by GoRVRentals.

Most sites also allow you to advertise extras — such as your outdoor shower, grills or camp chairs — as add-on features with your rental.

Fees

However, when you use most rental sites, both owners and renters pay fees. The two biggest RV rental platforms — Outdoorsy and RVshare — charge owners 20% to 25% of the total rental amount. Thus, if you rented your RV out for $200 a day, you’d clear just $150.

RVnGo promises fee-free rental listings for owners. However, the site charges significant fees to renters, making the final cost of the rental almost identical to customers. This site is also relatively new and appears to have a fraction of the traffic of the other two sites. So it may be tougher to find a renter here. But there is nothing prohibiting you from listing your rental on all three sites.

Risks

Be aware that there are some risks involved in renting out personal property. And, those risks are not covered by traditional insurance policies. That’s because most homeowners insurance policies and auto/RV policies exclude “commercial use” of your property. Thus, these policies cover you when you lend your property to a friend — or when your motor home is damaged while parked. But they don’t cover you when you rent the same property out to a stranger.

There’s also a concept called “voluntary parting,” which prevents owners from claiming theft losses when they’ve rented out personal property, such as camping equipment.

Protect yourself

There are two ways to protect yourself from suffering significant losses in the event of a theft or accident with your gear. You can require a deposit, or you can buy insurance to cover the risk. With expensive property, such as an RV, it’s smart to do both. 

All three of the RV rental platforms require that renters buy insurance coverage before taking your RV for a spin. However, all of these policies have exclusions for things like “normal wear and tear” and deductibles. The biggest complaints SideHusl.com found about RVshare, for instance, relate to the site’s insurance coverage. Owners complain that the insurer often attempts to impose multiple “deductibles” for each claim, leaving owners with substantial losses even when a claim was covered. 

Theoretically, renters are supposed to make good on uncovered damages. However, it can be hard to collect if you haven’t collected a deposit beforehand. Owners get to set their own deposit demands. The more valuable your property, the more important it is to have a substantial deposit.

If you rent your RV frequently, it may also make sense to buy your own commercial policy or policy “rider. This ensures that your personal insurer will duke it out with the site’s insurer, if there’s ever a dispute over coverage.