April '14

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80 • RV PRo • April 2014 rv-pro.com tionally, rental businesses can typically purchase four trailers for the price of one motorhome, which means rental businesses can potentially field a larger fleet, he noted. Towables also can be a nice way to attract first-time customers who want to take a step up from tent camping and are looking for a more affordable option than renting a motorhome, Krenek said. And, because there is no odometer in a travel trailer or fifth wheel to record mileage, rental businesses can profitably keep customers who want to take long road trips, he said. Still, there are some issues that must be dealt with regarding tow- able rentals, Krenek acknowledged, including helping the customer determine if their vehicle can tow a given towable, what type of hitch they have, and if they have and/ or need a brake controller or a weight distributing hitch. He said it's also imperative that the renters know how to hook up and disconnect the trailer or fifth wheel, and that a test drive is strongly recommended if they are not used to towing a trailer. Managed Fleet vs. Owned Fleet e instructors spent a significant amount of time at the school talking about the pros and cons of operating a fleet of privately owned RVs that they manage for those owners versus owning the rental fleet outright. Onken said he continues to see strong value in running a man- aged fleet, which he said carries no investment costs, offers lower expenses and higher profits, makes it relatively easy to obtain RVs, allows for the easy disposition of units, allows the business to grow at its own profitable pace, and provides a diverse fleet an RV rental business couldn't normally obtain. Still, he did acknowledge challenges, which can include lots of business partners (the RV owners), split loyalties, more paperwork, and more difficulties controlling the fleet's complexion. Addition- ally, managed fleets are generally older than dealer-owned ones, and it can lead to the perception the business is a "mom and pop" operation, he noted. In his market, Onken said he has not had significant difficulty obtaining quality RVs to rent. Private owners appreciate the supple- mentary income and the fact that their RV can act as a tax shelter, he said, while adding it's important not to oversell the program. Information is Invaluable e school covered a wide range of additional topics, including how to choose inventory, good budgeting practices, how to set a pricing strategy, and tips for good marketing campaigns. Other topics include rental contracts, how to obtain financing and insur- ance liability. Bill Burko, a 30-year veteran of the RV industry who previously attended the rental school years ago when he was a rental manager with Altman's RV in California, said the event has grown over the years in terms of the scope of educational offerings and in its pro- fessionalism. He said this year's school was particularly valuable for him in terms of Internet and technology options available to promote RV rental businesses. RV Rentals First-time attendees were equally impressed with the school. Greg Willis, marketing coordinator and rental manager for Leisure Time RV in Oklahoma City, said he was amazed at the amount of detail offered in the seminars. "As a new person to the industry, this school is a must-do; there's just so much good information," said Willis, who at the time of the school had been in his job less than a month. "But the most valuable thing for me was networking with fellow dealers. I would come back again next year just for that." Instructor Scott Krenek asks attendees to raise their hands if their business rents towables. Krenek is a big believer in the advantages of renting towables, noting that they don't tend to depreciate as fast as motorized and they don't tend to require as maintenance. Bert Alanko, president of MBA Insurance, addresses students during one of the seminars. Alanko said a primary strength of the rental school is that its instructors aren't simply book-smart academics – they are businessmen who make their living by running successful rental operations. RVPApr.indd 80 3/20/14 2:30 PM

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