One Year of Rentals

Nearly one year has passed since Peter Nguyen, owner of Turbo, started renting out his rig with GoCamp. Peter and Turbo are located in Happy Valley, Oregon. This fall, we sat down with Peter to reflect on his experience as a GoCamp van owner with almost one year of experience under his belt.

Renting Out a Van with GoCamp

GoCamp: How long have you been renting out a van on GoCamp?

Peter: I started in mid-October of last year (2021).

GoCamp: Why did you initially decide to list with GoCamp?

Peter: When I was looking at all the different platforms, I saw two options, Outdoorsy or GoCamp. After looking through GoCamp’s Lite and Pro offerings, I realized I could rent out my van on both GoCamp and Outdoorsy at the same time by going with GoCamp’s Pro program. The way I looked at it, it was like a two for one program. So, I decided to go rent out my van through GoCamp. 

Honestly, what solidified my decision, was the customer interaction I had. When I called GoCamp, I felt like I was talking to family. It felt like GoCamp cared about my success. And it felt like a human interaction going through the process. I really liked the hands on approach from the team. So, all of those things combined is why I decided to list with GoCamp.

GoCamp: What has been the best part about renting out your van so far?

Peter: Honestly, our renters. I love meeting all of our renters. We have rented out to a handful of people who are going on anniversary trips, mother daughter trips, father son trips, couples retreats, you name it. No one renter’s experience is the same as the other. And I look at Turbo as an experience generator. 

GoCamp: What’s the biggest challenge about renting out your vans?

Peter: I think I’m still learning that. I’m learning something new about myself through this process. 

I think the biggest challenge – and it sounds really weird saying this too – is the ambiguity of not knowing when your next reservation is going to come. Then when you have your renter, I’m learning what level of service is needed to curate a customer experience and when do I stop. That’s been a big learning opportunity for me. (1) Trusting that the rentals will come and (2) understanding there is a boundary of giving too much to your renters.

I don’t know if I answered your question, but the honest answer is I’m still learning. 

Finding Success Renting Out a Van

GoCamp: Our owner success team, our founder, and our leadership team speak highly of you as a GoCamp owner. What fuels your drive to be a successful owner with GoCamp?

Peter: When I discovered the adventure life, it opened my eyes to a lot of things, as cliche as that sounds, right? I truly believe that.

Back in 2017, I had my first major life event. I was going through a divorce at the time. During which, I didn’t know anything about hiking. I didn’t know anything about adventuring. I didn’t know anything about the outdoors. So, when that happened and I was also laid off from my job, I thought okay cool, I’ve got a couple of options. At that time, I started to discover what it meant to live a little more freely. Shortly after, I started rock climbing. 

Later, I was talking to a friend and I was actually embarrassed to talk about how I lived in a high rise apartment and owned a sports car. She was a pharmacy manager and could have all the things in the world as well. But when I talked to her, I was inspired by how she lived her life and how free she was. 

I started questioning a lot of things looking at my own life. So, I took the opportunity to reset. I sold everything in my condo. I got rid of my condo. I sold my sports car. I went to Suburu and bought a Forester, brought it home, built a platform bed, and left for 8-9 months. I lived out of the Forester as a dirtbag climber, snowboarder, and adventurer. That honestly transformed my life. 

I didn’t know anything else up until that point when I discovered living slowly. I learned there’s a lot to gain from your backyard.

Fast forward – when I met my current fiance, we sold the Forester, bought a van, and it was the same deal. We didn’t build it out. We went back to our dirtbag nature. 

We both worked in tech at the time, and the fastest way to get out on the road was dirtbagging. We put a queen size mattress in the van on top of a queen size bed frame. We had a Weboost and we lived in the van for almost a year – traveling and working our full time jobs. 

Vanlife provided us such a unique perspective on life. I feel like giving that back to people and enabling those experiences is far more important as I step into this role. 

When I look at the persona’s of people wanting to rent the van, they’re probably one or two rentals out from buying their own van. They say things like, “I’ve always wanted to try this out,” and “We’re about to retire and want to try out vanlife.”

Taking It a Step Further

GoCamp: You have some unique strategies to your success like listing your van for rent in Portland and Seattle. Can you tell me more about how you make that work?

Peter: Right now, we offer listings in Portland and Seattle. I recognize there is a pool of renters up in Seattle with high interest. When we get a booking in Seattle, we take it as an opportunity to go see family and we stay with them for however long the rentals are. We also have many friends who are still working in tech up in Seattle as well. So, we see them too.

GoCamp: It seems like you’re passionate about offering a memorable customer experience. What kinds of things do you do to make sure your renters have a great time?

Peter: It ranges. When I first get notified that I have a renter, I send an email introducing myself. I try to make the email as personal as possible.

Then I ask if they’re willing to get on a Zoom call with me. And when we get on, I ask:

  • Who are you?
  • Why do you want to rent a camper van?
  • What kind of experience are you looking for?

I also try to establish a personal connection on the call by saying things like, “I see you’re flying in with your partner and you’re going on a one year anniversary trip. How did you guys meet?”

I also ask things like…

  • Is this your first time in the PNW?
  • What do you like to do?
  • What do you want to see?
  • Do you need help planning?

As we go through the conversation, it’s really about connecting and relating to my renters. And I take time to talk to them about “vanlife.” I might say:

“Hey, I know you guys are planning to hit seven spots on a five day trip. Just know that’s going to be a lot of driving! Don’t be afraid to slow down and stay as long as you want at one spot. That’s the essence of vanlife.”

If my renters are going on an anniversary trip, and they don’t have any dietary restrictions, I will create a mini charcuterie board with a wine pairing. 

GoCamp: I’m sure they feel so cared for when you do that!

Peter: I hope so!

Advice For Future Van Owners Thinking About Renting Out a Van with GoCamp

GoCamp: What advice would you to other people who are thinking about renting out their vans?

Peter: Any emotions you are feeling at the time are probably valid emotions. And you should give voice to those feelings. The more you voice it, the easier it is to work through. 

Having an open mind is my biggest takeaway from the past year. There are a lot of perceptions of renting a van out. And there are a lot of perceptions of what might happen to the van. I would say to do your own due diligence to understand the process and that might help you get through the first few barriers.

GoCamp: Has anything surprised you (either in a positive or negative way) about renting out your van?

Peter: I would say the level of care that some of my renters give Turbo. Prior to the rental, I do a van orientation with my renters.

We’re gonna go through the van a little bit slower,” I tell them. It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on their level of questions. I show them things that I really care about and they mirror that care on their trips.

In most cases, my van has come back extremely clean. I’m surprised. Some renters go so far as to wash the sheets before they return it. 

GoCamp: Anything else you’d like to add about yourself, your van, or your experience with GoCamp?

Peter: If you’re on the fence about being a van owner with GoCamp, just know the experience is there if you’re looking to be a great host. I see this as such a creative space, and there’s a lot to gain out of it. 

We’ve done everything in the realm of guerrilla marketing. I’ll take it out to cafes and I wait for someone to look at my logo. Then I’ll go outside and use the opportunity to talk to people. 

I’ve worked with food cart owners and we’ve done popup shops. We landed a partnership with Parachute where we go out once a quarter and have a popup shop of glamper van and camper vans. Cotopaxi and some other Portland-based brands are also involved in that as well. 

If you’re looking to flex your creative side and explore partnering with local businesses, you might be surprised. A lot of these brands are eager to partner in a way that is meaningful to the local community. 

Earn as much as $50,000+

Use your van when you want to; make good money renting it out when you aren’t using it.

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  • Side by side analysis of GoCamp, Outdoorsy, RVshare, and other RV sharing sites.
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