Running a self-drive hire business is no mean feat. As any business owner will know, there’s a whole host of potential hazards to manage; from market competition and fraudulent customers, to vehicle damage and late returns.
If you’re just starting out, the best thing you can do is prepare yourself for all eventualities, protect yourself against risk – and try to steer clear of the common pitfalls.
Here are some of the key mistakes to avoid:
1. Taking out inappropriate insurance cover
If you’re looking to rent out campervans or motorhomes to anyone on a temporary basis, a standard vehicle insurance policy won’t provide you with the right cover. Instead, you need a a self-drive hire insurance policy, tailored to your specific business model. A specialist, independent insurance broker will have access to a wide range of markets and can help you to find the most suitable cover for your needs.
Read all of the terms and conditions carefully once your insurance is in place. This will make sure you don’t unintentionally invalidate your policy. It’s vital that you can rely on it to provide you with full protection should you need to make a claim.
2. Falling victim to fraudulent or untrustworthy customers
Meet each hirer, thoroughly check their documents and make sure you feel comfortable about their intentions before going ahead with a booking. This is especially important in the case of last-minute and walk-in customers.
For every hirer with a UK driving licence you must carry out an online driving licence check via the DVLA. Inspect the original documents – both card and paper counterpart (if they have one) – to make sure they’re valid. Also check that the photo matches the customer’s face, and that there’s no evidence of tampering or inconsistent information. Cross-check the name and address with two second forms of ID. This can be either two utility bills or one utility bill and one council tax bill, bank statement or similar document (no older than 90 days). If you’re in doubt of the identity of the customer or have concerns about their ID documents, contact your broker for advice.
3. Being unprepared for costly claims
It’s likely you’ll be faced with cases of vehicle damage. This could range from minor dings and interior spills to major crash damage. It’s unsurprising, since many of your customers will be unused to the vehicle dimensions, fuel type or local roads if holidaying away from home. The cost of repair will vary, so bear in mind your policy excesses when considering making a claim.
Unfortunately, some customers may refuse to take responsibility for damage. To avoid arguments, be sure to take a deposit and carry out a detailed vehicle condition assessment and inventory, signed by both parties, before handing over the keys. Its well worth looking out for self-drive hire insurance policies that come with legal advice in case of any disputes.
4. Not planning ahead for off-hire losses
Any rental campervan that’s off the road is a campervan losing money. If there’s a lull in business, the vehicle is in for repair or you’re awaiting the outcome of a claim, you’ll have no income from it until the issues are resolved. So it’s essential to have contingency plans in place for such situations – both financial and in terms of fleet management. Choosing an insurance policy that includes off-hire cover means that your vehicles are protected even when not in use. An expert insurance broker with an in-house claims team will help ensure you’re fully covered and keep claims-processing time to a minimum.
5. Underestimating the competition
Self-drive hire is a competitive market. It’s essential to have a clear business plan, engaging website, friendly approach, well-presented vehicles, trusted reputation and carefully considered marketing campaign. Not to mention a reliable insurance provider, of course!