Within the last few years, it has become popular for some people to engage in renting their RVs to others as a means of offsetting their income or to keep their payments current without having to pay out-of-pocket as they normally would. In this article, we’ll look at whether this may work for you, some of the pros and cons involved in renting your camper or motorhome to others, and some of the legalities such as liability insurance for your RV and renters that you may encounter should you decide that this is something you may want to do.
Is it legal to rent my RV to others?
Yes, during my research for this article I have found no states that prohibit the renting of your RV to another party or parties for periodic use. However, many states have laws regarding the renting of your RV to an individual or individuals on private lands as a permanent residence and you should consult a lawyer as well as local officials to determine if you are legally allowed do this in your area.
What are some of the pros and cons of renting out my RV to others?
As with any decision involving the use of your RV by others, be it friends or relatives, there are always things to consider when letting others use your home away from home. For some, the pros may outweigh the cons, but for others such as myself, renting out their RV is not an option that they are willing to consider. We will look at both sides of the idea and let you decide if renting your RV is a good fit for you.
First, we’ll look at the pros of renting your RV
If you are a part-time user of your RV then this is always a plus, especially if you are making payments on your RV. Just because you are not using your RV nine months of the year doesn’t mean you won’t still need to make the payments to your bank or finance company and renting out your RV is a good way to keep those payments current.
For many people this is a good way to get that monthly payment and even more. For example, let’s assume that your monthly payment on your RV is $400. Many RVs rent for anywhere from $500 to $800 per week with class A motorhomes renting for much higher than that. This means that during a peak season you may be able to bank 2-3 times your payment and if you’re smart, you’ll use that extra income to payoff your RV early which can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in added interest payments on your rig.
Unless you live in a rural area and have a decent size yard or an area to keep your RV, then you may be forced to pay for storing it when not in use. For example, many people that live in urban areas don’t have yards big enough to store an RV and, in some cases, local ordinance prohibit that sort of thing. This is especially true for those that are unlucky enough to live in gated communities or neighborhoods that are governed by homeowner associations that are often run by people with more time on their hands than what they know to do with it. So, if you are in the position where you are required to keep your RV in storage when not in use, then renting it out may be a good option to save these costs.
Keeping your RV “exercised”
Storing your RV for long periods of time can take a toll on its working parts. Tires can become weather checked, breaks can seize up, and gaskets for things like plumbing can dry out, crack and then fail when not in use. Also, bees, bugs, mice, and other critters can invade your RV when it’s not in use and these are all issues that can usually be solved when the rig is used more often than one or two weekends a year.
If you earn enough money by renting your RV and establish that income as part of a business, then you are in all likelihood going to be able to write-off some expenses as tax deductions that you couldn’t ordinarily take if you were using your rig on a part-time basis. Items such as tires or engine repairs as well as general upkeep that offset the income the RV is generating can all be deducted from your income tax in certain circumstances. I recommend consulting a tax specialist if you are thinking about taking advantage of this option as rules vary depending upon the frequency of use of your RV by renters and the scope of the maintenance and repairs.
The satisfaction of helping others to enjoy and be excited about RVing
While this point may not be a factor for some folks’ decision to rent their RV to others, to me it is a valid consideration. Let’s be honest, many young families may not have the money to purchase an RV and you may be helping to make memories for a generation to come. Maybe the RV you rent today will become a cherished memory of an eight-year-old that later in their life becomes a park ranger or lawmaker that advocates on the behalf of national or local park programs.
I grew up with grandparents that loved traveling in an RV and exploring. I also had parents that shared that joy and were pioneers in the development and understanding of alternative energy sources. Where am I now? I’m traveling the country in my RV, writing, painting, and photographing my journeys and sharing it with others while I take advantage of some of the innovative ideas my parents generation came up with in the 1960s and 70s that were unaffordable to them, but are commonplace today.
Let’s look at the cons of renting out your RV.
Banks and insurance
Many financiers and banks today are not willing to underwrite the loan on your RV if you plan on renting it to others. Furthermore, should you decide to offer your RV to others as a lease or short-term rental agreement, it would be in your best interest to have a complete understanding as to that contract so as to avoid any conflict with the bank or finance company if something catastrophic should occur such as a road accident or even a fire in a campground while others are using your rig.
As a rule, banks couldn’t care less about you and when given an opportunity to stick it to you in the course of a finely worded contract, there’s a good chance you’ll come out a loser unless you are completely aware and understand the contract you entered into with them. Getting the advice and counsel of an attorney or accountant that specializes in these types of contracts is in your best interest.
The same can be said of insurance companies. These folks are not your friends. They may have been very accommodating when the stone from a passing gravel truck cracked your windshield, or the whitetail deer you collided with on I-75 caused two thousand dollars of damage to the skin of your camper while you were on your way to Northern Michigan, they won’t be as accommodating if your RV is being rented out with an uninsured driver at the helm.
In fact, in most cases they will nullify your coverage in these types of accidents, and you will be responsible for damages as well as liability to others unless you purchase a commercial insurance policy. These policies are far more expensive than a standard policy covering a single policy holder and driver, but should you decide to let others operate your RV on a rental basis without this coverage it could be very expensive should a minor accident occur with your rig, and the worst case scenario it could bankrupt you without the proper coverage. Again, this is where I highly recommend contacting your insurance representative and even your lawyer to discuss the legalities and liabilities involved with leasing your RV to others.
While some may find the use of peer-to-peer sites such as Airbnb, Uber, or Lyft to be very beneficial for their travels needs. Others may need the services of Outdoorsy or RVShare to promote their rentals.
These companies are good choices to represent you when trying to rent your RV, but keep in mind that while they will lease or rent your RV with an insurance policy that may release you from most liabilities, they are not working for you. They charge you commissions on rental fees and they charge you for insurance coverage that you may never need. That’s just the nature of their business…nothing is free in this world unless it’s a lost quarter you found outside a subway terminal in Baltimore, Maryland and frankly, that’s not free either.
These companies will contract with you to do all the investigative work regarding the driving records of potential clients, they will also ensure that those that may rent your RV are insured per their contract and they will even collect security deposits on your behalf for any damages incurred during the rental of your rig.
But…is that enough? Not really. Sure, they can guarantee you that they have secured a $1,000 deposit against a renters credit card as a security deposit, but what happens when your RV is returned to you and you discover that your $2,500 generator was run dry of oil or your RV’s black water tank was not used correctly and now needs to be professionally drained and repaired at a cost of $3,000? Do you think they’ll do you right? I don’t.
Cleaning and maintenance
Are you prepared to clean and maintain your RV when it is returned to you after two weeks of use by a novice individual or family? Are you prepared to deal with soiled mattresses, damaged furniture, or urine-soaked carpets in the bathrooms? How do you feel about moldy refrigerators, clogged sinks and backed up toilets? Have you thought about other people sharing bodily fluids on your beds?
Are you ready to hand over the keys to your $53,000 motorhome or camper to someone that you don’t know whether they can or can’t drive your rig? I’m not.
It’s not for me. I don’t want to share my home with others, and I don’t want to clean up after people that I don’t know or care about. I also don’t trust most folks to drive a rig such as mine down the road without problems. It took me quite a while to learn to drive my 5th wheel and I learned how to do that by working myself up the proverbial ladder. I didn’t jump into RVing full-time by going to some dealership and saying, “I’ll take that 37’ rig over there and throw in a Ford F350.” No…I started small and worked my way up into a beautiful home and I’m not letting anyone drive that down the road or stay in it unless they are a guest of mine.
However, I would consider buying a small trailer from the 1970s, restoring it, and adding upgrades such as modern refrigeration, plumbing and electronic upgrades that include internet communications, LED lighting, and solar power and renting that out for a couple hundred dollars a week. That to me is what it’s all about, and that’s the best way to share my love of RVing with others.
Thanks folks. I look forward to meeting you on the road…but I’ll never rent my rig to you 🙂
Safe travels to you all.