Editor’s Note: The following article by Editor Mary Ann Shreve appearing in the April issue of the National RV Dealers Association’s RV Executive Today highlights the growth in RV rentals nationwide.

There seems to be no end in sight to the demand for rental RVs. Dealers with rental operations report continued growth in their 2016 reservations, and many plan to add units to their fleet.

Ziegler’s RV in Allentown, Pa., added three RVs to its 27-unit rental operation this year and may move to a larger location. “If we do, we’ll consider increasing the fleet size even more,” says manager Brandon Ziegler, adding that he occasionally has to turn away business because all of his units are booked.

Most of his customers are local families spending a week or a long weekend at parks and camps within the region. And half of them eventually buy RVs from him.

February’s reservations were up 23% from a year ago, and the average rental contract is for 6 1/2 days, says Bert Alanko, who directs the MBA Rental School. Attendance at the school’s last session was up 50%, and attendees ran the gamut from individuals who want to start rental operations to a dealer with a 60-unit fleet.

“We even had a few dealers returning from the year before because, after a year’s additional experience in the business, they said, ‘Ah, now I see what they were talking about – I want to go back and ask more questions.’”

Alanko says that with dedication, it’s possible to build a successful rental operation starting with just a handful of units.”We’ve had dealers start with one unit, two units, and they’re still in business six years later. One of our clients started his rental business with four units in the driveway of his house, grew it to 50 units, and just sold the business to Lazydays for a pretty penny.”

The RV rental business is seemingly immune to downturns in the economy. As Alanko says, “It’s good in good times, and it’s great in bad times, because people want to take a vacation but don’t want to fly to Europe, and they want to take the kids and they want to take the pets.” 

RV rental operations are bound to benefit this year by the centennial anniversary of the country’s national park system, which is being publicized extensively.

“I can tell you first hand, the centennial is a big highlight in this year’s business,” says Michael Smalley, COO of Cruise America. “The National Park Service is making it a big point to visit the parks, and Brand USA, a public-private partnership based in Washington, has been overseas promoting the parks.” 

Brand USA also helped produce a new IMAX film, “National Parks Adventure,” narrated by Robert Redford.

“We feel the best way to see the national parks is through a motorhome, especially a Cruise America motorhome,” says Smalley. “The numbers look like there are a lot of people heading to those areas this year. We’re delighted that we’re a big part of that and that our customers are going there to see our country’s rich history.”