Britain has long had a love affair with caravans and life on the road has been given a trendy makeover by the Instagram-friendly Van Life movement.
So perhaps it’s no wonder that a new site Camplify, which taps into the spirit of the sharing economy to create ‘the Airbnb of caravans and motorhomes’, is proving something of a hit.
Whether you fancy heading out on the open road without having to buy your own caravan or motorhome, or have a camper that could be turned into a money-spinner when you aren’t using it, Camplify reckons it has the answer.
So how does it work? Grace Gausden finds out and speaks to entrepreneurial caravan owners using it to turn a profit.
Hire: There are now 3,500 vehicles currently listed on Camplify across the UK and Australia
Britons enjoy 10million caravan holidays a year. Meanwhile, there are 1.1million leisure vehicles currently in Britain, however, most are only used for just two-to-four weeks of the year – sitting empty for the other 11 months.
Camplify, which started up in Australia and then launched in the UK last April, is looking to make use of these under-utilised leisure vehicles.
Building on the success of home sharing site and car sharing sites, Britain is now seeing the rise of the caravan and motorhome sharing economy.
Camplify allows people either to rent caravans and motorhomes, or hire out their own leisure vehicles to holidaymakers – with the potential to earn over £10,000 a year from doing so.
The company was founded in Australia in 2015 and it already claims to now be the largest caravan and motorhome sharing platform in Britain after launching here just last year.
It has 3,500 vehicles currently listed across the UK and Australia.
Those looking for a caravan or motorhome can simply go to the Camplify website and browse available vehicles in their area.
The website will tell users when the vehicles are available, how much it costs per night and what is included with the motor.
It is free for customers to list their vehicles on the site but an eight per cent commission is taken once a caravan or camper is successfully hired out.
RAC breakdown cover and insurance is provided for those hiring out the vehicles and Camplify also holds a £1,000 security deposit from anyone that hires out a vehicle at the time of booking.
To help people decide how much to advertise their vehicle for, Camplify offers a pricing calculator that requires a number of details, including what year the motor was manufactured and how many people it sleeps, to suggest a starting price.
We made £10k hiring out caravans
Simon Tucktan and Steve Tanner have made over £10k from hiring out their caravans
Two men who have managed to make a success of hiring out their motorhomes are business partners and brothers in law, Simon Tucktan and Steve Tanner from Surrey.
The duo listed their two camper trailers on Camplify in April 2018.
Since then, they have seen over 90 customers holiday in their vehicles, made more than £10,000 in hire income and have decided to double their fleet.
Speaking about what encouraged the two to start hiring out their campers, Steve, said: ‘Both Simon and I were unhappy with our previous employment, we had a passion for camping with the family and would often talk about running a campsite.
‘We were one of the first members to join Camplify as it launched last year in the UK and very quickly our unit was popular holidaymakers. Our dream for a future path into the leisure industry was realised.’
After the success of renting out their first caravan, the two decided to list their second unit.
They ended up purchasing even more units, creating a small fleet, and listed them all on the website.
They added: ‘We both now work on growing our caravan business full time. The hire income we’re making has enabled us to expand our fleet and continue to grow our thriving business together.
‘We would eventually love to have a campsite full of folding campers going out all over the UK for all different from families, festivals and events.’
Luxury motorhomes that can cost £180 per night
Top-end motorhomes can make around £180 per night in peak season and if a customer made bookings for 112 nights of the year, they could see potential earnings of just over £20,000.
Justin Hales, chief executive and founder of Camplify, said: ‘We’re constantly seeking new ways to inspire adventures and make outdoor holidays more accessible.
‘In just under a year, we’re thrilled to have been able to send over 1,000 people on British caravanning holidays that they previously wouldn’t have had access to.
‘We’re over-the-moon with the community of 600 caravans, motorhomes, campervans, camper trailers and caravan homes now boosting their income via Camplify.
‘As demand for unique holidays amongst Britain’s hidden treasures rises, there’s never been a better time to join us in the caravan sharing market.’
A 2,100 mile family road trip in a VW California
Van Life: Last summer we tested a VW California on a 2,100 mile road trip
It may be considerably more modern than the classic 60s and 70s Volkswagen campervans, but today’s VW California keeps their spirit alive.
The VW California remains true to the campervan concept of being able to cart a family of four around and provide a place for them to eat and sleep. VW promotes it as a family car alternative that’s ready for an adventure any time.
So what’s that like in real life? To put the VW California to the test, Simon Lambert and his family headed off on a 2,100 mile road trip, zig-zagging down through France and back.
Van Life has made campers and camping trendy
Camplify believe that the Van Life movement – a social media trend that depicts people travelling in caravans or motorhomes – is partly to thank for the success of the resurgence in popularity of caravanning.
There are over 4.6million photos with the Van Life hashtag now, which Camplify said is fuelled by childhood nostalgia and the growing popularity of staycations.
As proof that caravanning is becoming more popular, research by Mintel found that trips abroad for camping and caravanning have grown by 21 per cent since 2014.
The data analysts forecasts the domestic segment to grow by an estimated 4.5 per cent and the overseas segment by an estimated 11.8 per cent between 2018 and 2023.
Mintel also spoke to 1,262 internet users aged 16+ who have been on a camping or caravanning holiday in the last three years, or would be interested in going on one in the future.
It discovered that 39 per cent of UK adults have been on a camping or caravanning holiday in the three years ending October 2018.
The main motivation for caravanning was price with holidaygoers looking for a ‘low cost holiday’ with respondents also saying they wanted to be close to nature.
The 12 foot long Beach Pod is described by its owner on Camplify as ‘small but perfectly formed and kitted out for mini adventures’ Based in Guildford it rents from £50 a night
What could you rent?
When looking at motorhomes available for hire, there are numerous options for various prices – we searched used London as a location.
If you’re on a budget and are looking for a break that doesn’t cost the earth, the cheapest option is a folding camper (pictured below), based in Surrey, available from just £25 a night.
Budget travel: This Pennine Pathfinder caravan can be rented for just £25 a night
For this, customers get a six berth Pennine Pathfinder which has an on-board electric flush toilet, hot and cold running water as well as full on board electrics and gas systems.
It also has one ‘oversize’ bed, one double bed and a third double made from the seating area.
Customers who have a bit more to spend could opt for a Volkswagen T5 Campervan from £95 per night.
Cooking utensils and cutlery is included as well as running water, a twin gas cook top, a twin bed and DVD player.
Linen is provided for an extra charge of £10 per booking. It also comes with outdoor furniture.
However, this option will only give customers two berths.
Pricier option: This motorhome costs £250 a night
Those looking to blow the budget can hire out a Airstream Mercedes Interstate Lounge motorhome for a massive £250 per night.
The luxury vehicle seats up to nine people but only has triple bunks and one bed.
It comes with an en-suite, a dishwasher, outdoor furniture, a heater, decking and even solar panels.
Linen is included free of charge and the owners have said that pets will also be considered.
What other caravan sharing sites are there?
Camptoo: Camptoo differs from Camplify in that it focuses primarily on campervan vehicles. Priced per night, customers can browse the website to find a campervan that suits them and is near their location.
This gives campervan owners the chance to rent out their vehicles when they are not being used and gives those who want to go camping the chance to hire a motor for a cheaper price than through a standard rental agency.
The Caravan Club: Not only is the Caravan Club a hub for keen caravanners across the country, it also offers a hire service for those looking to get out and about.
However, this offer is only available to Caravan Club members – membership of which costs an annual fee of £52.
HireMe: HireMe is a site that offers users to rent out both caravans and motorhomes.
Prices vary for hiring but customers are required to put down a £1,300 excess deposit which will be returned after the vehicles are returned without damage. It also has a blanket ban on any pets.