Running a self-drive hire business is no mean feat. As any established business owner will know, there’s a plethora of potential perils to navigate, from market competition, to fraudulent customers, to vehicle damage or late return.
But, as the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. 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 sufficient coverage to protect your investment. What you’ll need is self-drive hire insurance, 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. Then, once your policy is in place, be sure to read all of the terms and conditions carefully so that you don’t inadvertently invalidate your policy. It’s imperative that you can rely on it to provide you with full protection should a claim arise.
2. Falling victim to fraudulent or untrustworthy customers
Meet each hirer, thoroughly check documentation and make sure you feel comfortable about his or her intentions before proceeding with any booking – especially in the case of last-minute walk-in customers. For every hirer with a UK driving licence you must carry out an online driving licence check via the DVLA and inspect the original documents (both card and paper counterpart if there is one) to make sure they’re valid, that the photo matches up with the customer’s face, and that there’s no evidence of tampering or inconsistencies in information. Cross-check the name and address with two second forms of ID – 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 any doubt as to the identity of the customer or have concerns about the proof of address supplied, contact your broker.
3. Being unprepared for costly claims
As a campervan hire company, you’re likely to be faced with quite frequent instances of vehicle damage, ranging from minor dings and interior spills to major crash damage. And that’s unsurprising considering many of your customers will be unused to the vehicle dimensions, fuel type or local roads if holidaying away from home. Likewise, 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, so be sure to secure a deposit and conduct a detailed vehicle condition assessment and inventory, signed by both parties, before handing over the keys. It’s 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
Don’t forget – any rental campervan that’s off the road is a campervan losing money, so if there’s a lull in business, the vehicle is in for repair or you’re awaiting the outcome of a claim following damage and/or dispute, you’ll have no income from it until things pick up or the issues are resolved. Therefore, 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 will also mean that your vehicles are protected even when not in use. Using an expert insurance broker with an in-house claims department can help to ensure you’re fully covered for all eventualities and keep claims-processing time to a minimum.
5. Underestimating the competition
Self-drive hire is a competitive market, so a robust business plan, engaging website, friendly approach, well-presented vehicles, trusted reputation and carefully considered marketing campaign are imperative – not to mention a reliable insurance provider!