Add recreational vehicles to the so-called sharing economy. Outdoorsy is a startup that provides an online marketplace for motor home and trailer owners to rent out their vehicles when they’re not using them. It’s set to tap into a market of young and upwardly mobile 20-somethings in search of new experiences.
Renting a motor home isn’t anything new. Google “RV rental” and you’ll pull up Cruise America and a dozen of other outfits waiting to let you take their camper vans for a spin. But these are mostly corporate, with charmless vehicles generously plastered in their logos.
“Airbnb is the perfect solution for apartments and homes and chalets and castles, but when you get into the world of recreational vehicles the users they use a different language,” Cavins told TechCrunch. He used location as an example. “Those renting from others in New York can give them the download on New York, but those renting RVs will want to know the difference between Yosemite versus Yellowstone,” he said.
Outdoorsy co-founder and the startups lead front-end developer, Ryan Quinn, lives the RV lifestyle out of a vintage ’91 Ford he refers to as his “vansion.” He rents out his home on wheels for $100 a night when he’s not in it himself.
Quinn falls into that age group that Outdoorsy could be perfect for – millennials (those age 18-34). RVs are mostly thought of as something retired folks or vacationing families motor around in. There are entire residential parks scattered throughout the U.S. and Canada devoted to RVing senior citizens – My parents stay in one every year when they go to Phoenix. There are cooking classes and fitness instructors and a sewing room. A sewing room! They tell me I’m not allowed to live there because I’m not 55 or older.
However, millennials, recession-battered and reluctant to own anything that seems too permanent, seek experiences over material possessions. Outdoorsy offers unique cross-country vehicles just waiting for experiences to be had in them for a short amount of time.
Summer RV travel is a very American past time (though I’ve been told it’s similar to caravanning in Europe) and millennials are the fastest growing segment of traveler in this section of the world. Outdoorsy provides the adventure of the road, the great outdoors and a nomadic lifestyle that might sound quite romantic to this age group – without adding that dreaded permanence of ownership.
The startup offers RV owners a way to make some cash on their campers with an economic model in the same vein as other peer-to-peer platforms. Owners list their vehicle on the site, with pictures, a description and the price of rental per night, just like homeowners do on Airbnb.
Outdoorsy takes a 10 percent cut from the renter and a 15 percent cut from the owner on each rental. Like Airbnb, Outdoorsy also provides a $1 million insurance policy in case a bad apple destroys your RV.
We aren’t just looking to create the next big thing in the sharing economy, we want to create a community of passionate outdoor enthusiasts who are looking to connect and share their experiences with others. Jen Young, Outdoorsy co-founder
According to RV enthusiast and Google Ventures partner Rick Klau – who took a deep dive into RVs on his blog a little while back – it was $100 per day plus $.30-.40 per additional mile for a 1,500-mile family trip.
There’s a huge opportunity for investment in a new type of RV market. About 11 million Americans own an RV and manufacturing has steadily increased since 2007. The rental market within that industry is a $350 million annual business and continues to grow, according to figures from the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.
We’ve heard that Outdoorsy hopes to capitalize on that and do some growing of its own. Rumor is the startup is in the middle of seeking funding from various VC firms in Silicon Valley.
Outdoorsy calculates that RV owners also stand to make up to $86,000 a year on each vehicle. Some enterprising individuals have already started creating a fleet of multiples on the platform and could potentially make even more.
Money is a good motivator for any platform. But it’s clear that at the heart of this startup is a community with a passion for outdoor experiences.
“Over the last few years there has been a resurgence of people looking to reconnect with nature and detach from the constant connectedness of everyday life,” said Jen Young, the third Outdoorsy co-founder. “We aren’t just looking to create the next big thing in the sharing economy, we want to create a community of passionate outdoor enthusiasts who are looking to connect and share their experiences with others.”
Correction: This post has been updated to delete the claim that Tesla is working on an all-electric RV. Because it’s not.