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Why I Love Running a Campervan Rental Business in Hawaii (and Why it's not for Everyone)

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Bri here 👋🏼

I embarked on this journey to own and operate a Campervan rental business here on Hawaii island back in early 2021 and since then I've learned a lot about myself, my motivation, the areas where I'm gifted, and my areas of weakness.

While I love to show you all the glamour of exploring the island and building some pretty sick campervans, I also want to use this space to share some of the business-side too. And like any business, there are things that make you wonder how you got so lucky and there are elements of the job that make you want to drive it all into the harbor some days 😂

3 Reasons I love running my campervan rental business.

Reason #1: It's a lot of fun and you meet some great people when you run a campervan rental business in Hawaii.

Every time I read about a guest's trip in our guest books, it makes me SO happy. I love hearing what people did and what experiences the island had for them. This island has brought me so much Aloha, I love seeing other people experience that, too. It's such a unique experience that we get to provide and I love seeing people's eyes light up when they start to visualize their own adventure.

Reason #2: Running a Campervan rental business provides additional not-so-passive side-income.

I hate it when people call my Campervan rental business "passive income." There is nothing passive about it, but it does provide some really nice additional income on an island where the cost of living is super high. I run my community consulting business full time, so I love that I can "squeeze" van duties, fixes, cleanings, and guest messages in the in-between times without it requiring my full-time attention all of the time. Once we pay off the loan from the vans, any profit from the vans will go towards buying a home.

Reason #3: Running a Campervan rental business has great work perks!

Having a Campervan fleet on the Big Island means you can often go on last-minute trips around the island. Rather than those trips needing to be day-trips, we can go for 1 or 2 nights or even work remote from the van if we want to. While a lot of people experience island-fever after a few years, our capacity for adventure and discovery on the island has remained so open and abundant because of the access we get through the vans.

3 Reasons why a Camepervan business isn't for everyone (including me some days).

Reason #1: There is so much that breaks when you run a Campervan rental business.

My friends often hear me complain that running this business is hard, but it's difficult to really explain the volume of issues we deal with. Even with relatively new vehicle frames and super intentional design (read: idiot-proofing literally everything), sh*t still breaks! ALL THE TIME!

Running a campervan rental business means you deal with not just people breaking the vehicle itself, but everything inside the van. It's all of the liability of an Airbnb and Turo vehicle combined into one. I have a list of mechanics I trust, handymen near me, body shop owners, and electricians who can help when I have an issue.

While my partner and I are super handy and can fix a lot of the issues ourselves, if we can't fix, we usually have to spend quite a bit of money to find someone who can. This means we try really hard to make sure we've exhausted all our options before paying a professional. Which means we might spend several hours on an issue that we can't even fix and spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars paying someone else to fix it in the end. This also means we are probably ordering parts, which takes at least twice as long out here in Hawaii. This also means we probably can't rent the van while it's waiting to be fixed (read: losing more money so we can spend money to get it fixed).

It's just a lot sometimes and if I'm being honest, the fixes are what demoralize me the fastest.

Reason #2: It's really hard to fix issues when a guest is on the other side of the island.

When something in your Airbnb goes wrong, you have a plumber, handyman, and electrician locally and on speed dial. The nature of the Campervan is that the van could be anywhere within a three hour radius when the issue happens. Thank goodness I'm at least on an island and they can't go farther than that.

The vast majority of the time if something goes wrong, my guests are flexible and will work with me to find a reasonable solution. But once in a blue moon, I'm driving out to the boonies to make a fix is or having to search for someone who can.

Reason #3: It's tough to be "on" all the time when you run a Campervan rental business.

While I had an absolute blast building the vans and 99% of the time I absolutely adore my guests, there are times where I just don't want to deal with people. But this is a people business and you are on 100% of the time. I'm so thankful to have an amazing partner who supports me tremendously in this, but being available to others at any time has forced me to take good care of myself in other ways so I have the margin to show up authentically and gracefully for guests.

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