Growing The Market Through RV Rentals And Delivery Services

Apr 19, 2022

Uber Eats, Grub Hub, Amazon – today’s consumers have become used to having much in their lives delivered to them. So, while counter intuitive, (isn’t RVing about hitting the open road?), it’s not surprising that RVers, particularly Millennials and Gen Zers, are now having RVs delivered to their travel destinations.

This is what RVshare has seen over the past year as their revenue for deliveries and set-ups at music festivals, college football weekends, state fairs, horse shows, beach visits, and other events has grown from 20% to 40% of their business.

Maddi Bourgerie“We think of it as providing a hotel anywhere,” said Maddi Bourgerie, Director of Communications and PR at RVshare. “This is a huge way for people to enter the RV space. It breaks down barriers and makes them more comfortable with renting. Our bookings for these have continued to increase. There’s been no plateau, yet.”

RVshare initially began offering deliveries and set-ups in late 2018, but like most others in the RV industry, business came to a screeching halt in March of 2020. Bookings dropped drastically according to Bourgerie, so the company partnered with a Facebook group called “RVs for MDs” during the early months of the pandemic. This provided thousands of RVs for front line workers who wanted to quarantine away from their families.

Things began to look up in May and by the end of the summer, RVshare had tripled their bookings from the previous year.

“Awareness of RV travel had really begun to grow, especially among the younger demographic,” said Bourgerie. “Gen X families were our target prior to COVID, but this has shifted to individuals, couples, and families who are ten years younger.”

Bourgerie, 30, watched this trend evolve, first as a consultant to RVshare in 2019, advising it on public relation strategies, top-of-the-funnel marketing, and brand awareness. Then, in 2020, she was brought in-house as director of PR to establish the company’s public persona, i.e., how it wanted to be portrayed to its customers. Today, Bourgerie runs internal and external PR, working with an eight-person communications team on social media, content and brand marketing, and community engagement with Facebook groups and owner brand ambassadors.

YellowstoneAs a result of her creative and aggressive publicity efforts, RVshare has been featured in virtually every major publication and media outlet. The company has continued to increase its marketing budget, allowing her team to advertise on broadcast and streaming TV, radio, podcasts, and even billboards.

“There are a handful of peer-to-peer rental players in the industry, but we don’t consider them as direct competitors,” Bourgerie says, “There’s so much market share; what they’re doing and what we’re doing benefit each other. Our focus is to grow the RV rental category.”

RVshare’s strategy of describing different use cases and putting them into their social media marketing has helped to increase awareness of the many non-traditional uses of RVs, such as for lodging at music festivals. The company now partners with top festival organizers, like Bonnaroo and Stagecoach, to offer RV rental packages that include VIP passes to the concerts.

RVshare, which has an office in Austin, Texas and Akron, Ohio, but whose almost 100 employees largely work remotely around the country, has a corporate festival team that handles rentals for event attendees and for event staff.

Ginny Springs, FLWhile RV rentals tend to be seasonal, shoulder seasons are becoming more popular, according to Bourgerie. “Owners are keeping their vehicles online longer for things like football weekends and fall festivals. Tailgating from RVs is particularly popular at Penn State!”

RVshare’s revenue model is a 18%-25% commission from owners and a 5% travelers fee that includes an insurance offering, customer service, and booking. The company assists its customers by providing owners with instructions for handoffs, walk-throughs and test-drives, and customizable handbooks to introduce renters to their RV’s features and systems.

About 80% of the 100,000 vehicles that RVshare currently offers belong to owners of 1-3 RVs. The others belong to fleet managers, usually from year-round interest areas like Las Vegas, Texas, and Florida. Some list their vehicles on Outdoorsy, too, and more and more dealerships are getting into the rental business, as well.

Capitalizing on the growing popularity of deliver and set-up rentals, RVshare recently announced a Campground Partnership Program. The program allows campground and RV park operators to earn revenue from RV rental bookings. Operators can list RVshare units on their website to earn commission as well as list stationery, on-property units for free.

Grand Teton“Our goal is to make renting an RV as easy as a booking a hotel room,” said Bourgerie, noting that the Florida and Alabama RV Park & Campground Association, which represents more than 400 parks, was among the first to join the program.

While business at RVshare has been booming, it has not come without challenges. Bourgerie, who previously worked at Vrbo renting homes, claims that while the peer-to-peer marketing is similar, the RV inventory fluctuates much more. Repairs may be needed after a rental which delays the next person’s trip, so the booking team has to search for a replacement unit. RVs also age and, while fleet owners have the capital to update their models every 3-4 years, that’s less likely among the majority of owners who list their units on RVshare.

Still, RVshare is onboarding more vehicles every month and they are particularly interested in highlighting vehicles that are more fuel efficient and sustainable.

“We’re paying attention to gas prices, and while we noted 9% fewer miles per trip in February, there has been no change in bookings, yet. April is in line with seasonal expectations,” said Bourgerie. “But this could lead to more renters opting to having RVs delivered to campgrounds where they can enjoy local travel to state parks or just the amenities offered at the luxury campgrounds.”

The key will be continuing to educate consumers about the availability of rental RVs. Bourgerie credits the RV Industry Association and Go RVing for their great strides in building awareness about RVs and the RVing lifestyle, in general.

“The RV Industry Association is a great advocate for all of us in the RV industry,” she said. “We’re always learning from them about data, trends, what’s emerging in the market, innovations like EVs, and shipments and sales. These are all indicators of the health of our industry.”

Lake TahoeToday, Bourgerie is steeped in the minutiae of the RV and travel industries and fully devoted to “providing easy access to RV rentals for making unique memories.” But as an avid tent camper growing up in Indianapolis, she was entirely unaware that the state was America’s RV manufacturing capital. She’s making up for lost RV-time now by utilizing RVshare’s $1,000 annual employee rental credit to test a variety of units. Over the past two years, she’s taken eight trips including to Big Bend, Jackson Hole, and Yellowstone. Bourgerie also drove an RV to a wedding in Bozeman, Montana and had one delivered to a family reunion in Cicero, Indiana, where she and her sisters were able to sleep peacefully away from a house teeming with small children. (The other adults were envious.)

There are still plenty of destinations on Bourgerie’s bucket list, like the Badlands, Glacier National Park, and tailgating at an Auburn University football game, her alma mater. She and her boyfriend – the more mechanical of the two – are looking forward to many future RV adventures ranging from driving and boondocking to having a unit delivered and set up for them.