What is the RV Sharing Economy and How Can I get Involved?
One thing’s for sure: It’s a quickly-changing world out there.
You might not recall exactly when the shift started, but suddenly everyone’s talking about “Ubering” downtown instead of catching a cab, or planning to stay at something called an “Airbnb” on their next non-RV vacation. Meanwhile, your favorite nephew gave up scooping ice cream or working at a coffee shop during his summers off from school in favor of hiring himself out for home improvement or tutoring jobs. All of which are somehow organized, and paid for, through an app on his phone.
It’s called the sharing economy, and it looks like it’s here to stay.
And for a good reason, too. The sharing economy helps all kinds of people find flexible ways to earn money using skills and assets they already have at their disposal. Plus, it helps consumers save a significant amount of the money they might spend on those same goods and services at bigger companies.
And if you’re an RV owner — or just curious about the RVing lifestyle — the sharing economy can work for you, too.
What is the RV Sharing Economy?
First things first: Let’s get clear on what we’re talking about.
The sharing economy is a whole lot bigger than ordering your taxicab or dinner on demand through your phone. Nowadays, you can find everything you can think of, from a tour guide to a pet sitter to a parking spot, through a peer-to-peer app or website-based program. According to this list, you can even use an app to swap leftovers with someone close by!
Better yet, you can take advantage of the other side of the equation and make money by providing those necessities.
In fact, according to a 2016 PEW study, almost a quarter of Americans have earned at least a little bit of money using one or more of these sharing economy platforms, when you include programs that facilitate selling used goods from your home (like OfferUp or even Craigslist). For many of those people, the sharing economy means lining their pockets with a comfy cushion of extra change — but some people make their whole livelihood off it.
And if you’ve ever been curious about trying your own hand in the sharing economy, guess what? Your RV counts!
If you don’t live in your rig full time, you may be familiar with the painful realization that you’re spending money simply storing and maintaining it, even when it’s not in use. But with the RV sharing economy, your camper earns its keep when it might otherwise simply be sitting there collecting dust… and rubbing it in your face that you’re not traveling right now! (I mean, come on — it’s already bad enough that you have to spend time, not on vacation. Do you really have to pay for the reminder that you’re stuck at home?)
How Can I Get Involved in the RV Sharing Economy?
The way it works is simple. RV owners offer up their rigs, when not in use, for rent. Since a private owner like you would still profit, or at least break even, on a lower price than a dedicated RV rental company would, you can offer the rental more cheaply than the big box stores can. That makes your rig more attractive to renters — and it also means you might be helping curious, thrifty or young travelers who otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to take a peek at what you already know is an amazing lifestyle!
(And hey, psst — if that curious, thrifty traveler is you, renting an RV through the sharing economy is a great way to get your feet wet in what may easily become your favorite way to vacation. Heck, you might just fall so deeply in love you find yourself calling an RV home… it happens to the best of us!)
But what about insurance, gas mileage — and just a simple concern about whether or not you’ll get your rig back in one piece?
If you were just to list your RV privately in a classified ad or on a telephone pole, without any mediation, you might be in for a bumpy ride. Who is your renter, exactly? How do you know he or she will respect your property? How will you work out payment, and how much should you charge? But that’s exactly why the sharing economy, and its many apps and programs, has been so successful. It takes the guesswork out of these otherwise-risky situations.
Just like Airbnb allows homeowners to list their spare spaces as vacation rental units for travelers, sharing economy apps and programs help you rent your RV to trustworthy people. You’ll be able to screen would-be renters and approve only those you’re comfortable with, and you can even set up security deposits and find rental insurance through some programs. For instance, RVShare, which is the largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace around, offers a $1 million liability policy. You can even conduct all your rental communication through the website in order to maintain your privacy and safety.
By putting your rig up on the market, you’d also be joining a growing community of passionate RVers, many of whom have been doing this rental thing for years. They’ll be a great help along the way — you might even make a new friend or two.
Best of all, payment will be easy since you’ll have a facilitator. You won’t have to worry about accepting cash from people who are otherwise strangers… or jump through any hoops to get it. Many programs disburse payment directly into your bank account, taking only a small percentage for their services. And as it turns out, renting your RV can be a pretty lucrative business. According to RVShare, the average renter earns $10,000 per year in extra income by listing their RV. Not too shabby!
In short, putting your RV on a peer-to-peer market is something you can feel good about, both from a safety perspective and as a way to offer an affordable vacation to honest people. And the fact that it puts some extra cash in your pocket… well, no complaints.
Would you consider putting your RV up for rental? Do you remember the first time you ever rented an RV — or are you still thinking about it? Would you consider a privately-owned camper? Let us know in the comments!