- Andy Hitch
Start an ATV Rental Business
Updated: Dec 8, 2019
At least four or five times a year, a customer will ask me advice about starting an #ATV #rental or #Jeep rental #business. It's a difficult and expensive business to start, so I don't mind helping where I can.
The first thing you need to understand is that your ATV #rentals will get seriously abused. No matter how many rules you have, or how strict you are with your customers, your ATV rentals will get destroyed. Hell, I bought a $22,000 #Razor a while back. It got wrecked and totaled in it's first 30 minutes on the trail. What's worse, the guy couldn't pay for it.
First and foremost, you need to plan for the worst, because it WILL happen. Someone will total your brand new machine and won't have the means to pay for it. Also, someone will eventually die in your machine and you will be sued. These are guaranteed. Ask yourself if you can handle that. If not, walk away now.
No matter what you say or do, you can't keep people from being stupid. I know other companies that have had deaths and totaled machines, and they strictly do #guided #ATV #rentals. Wrap your head around that. Doesn't seem possible does it? Trust me, it will happen. I know, I tried guided #ATV #rentals myself.
Here's a little story about one incident I had: Dad was on a 2 up #ATV rental. His 6 year old son was on the back. As I was leading the pack at a safe pace, he kept dropping off. He would slow way down and let the group get a couple hundred yards ahead. Then, he would punch the throttle so he could go really fast and jump every bump he could find. It took me a while to catch him. Once I did, I gave him a stern warning. It didn't matter though, he kept doing it. Problem was, he was a really nice guy. Eventually, I got mad at him and yelled. I felt so bad for his little boy, and so embarrassed for his father I had to treat like I child in front of the boy. Hind site being 20/20, I should have turned the entire group around in order to take him back to base. Instead, I gave him one last chance and I was extremely stern with him. I watched him like a hawk. Didn't matter though. First chance he got, he did it again. This time though, he wrecked and the #ATV rolled over the little boy, breaking his leg.
Point is: No matter what you say or do, people will act stupid. Your equipment will get destroyed and people will get seriously injured.
Here is a basic list of what you will NEED if you're getting in the #ATV #rental #business:
- Good mechanic on staff
- Good quality equipment
- Generally liability insurance (cost will be roughly $25,000 year)
- Rock solid waiver and damage contract
- Legal ability to operate on the trail
Now, I'll explain each requirement:
Mechanic - If you elect to pay a #motorcycle or #ATV shop to repair your equipment, you'll go broke fast. They charge over $100 an hour and can take days or even weeks to fix your vehicles. You can hire a mechanic for under $25 and they can do the work immediately so you have minimal downtime. Trust me, you're going to need one.
Equipment - You can do like I did and start off with older, lesser quality equipment. Eventually though, you will realize the importance of new model, quality #ATV's. When I say "ATV rental", I am referring too #UTV, #ATV, #dirt #bikes, #snowmobiles, #Razors, #RZR, 4 wheelers, #quads, and whatever other term you can think of. You can see the machines I run on our website. I use these because they are the best quality and hold up well.
You can try to entry level units like the 570 or 900 RZR. You will have frame issues though. I personally like to run the best. It's best for me, and it's best for my customers. I do everything I can, and spend the extra money for a better customer experience. For me, it's not about the profit. It's about my customer's happiness.
General Liability Insurance - Trust me, you will get sued. I had an older couple rent a #Razor from me a few years ago. After signing the waiver, we went over safety and operation on the trail. An hour into their ride, I see a helicopter flying in. I raced out to where the helicopter was landing and found out it was the couple. But, neither one of them were injured. Somewhere along the line, they called their adult son to meet them at the back end of the trail in his truck. Dad let him drive the #Razor and he flipped it. His arm was caught in the roll bar and severed. They sued me for that. They sued me for someone who wasn't even a customer, who didn't sign a waiver. A person we had never met. Of course they didn't win. But, had I not had an insurance company team of attorneys to back me up, they might have. They were suing for 1 million dollars. If I had to pay my attorney to defend me, it would have cost 50k minimum. Point is: You will get sued multiple times and for reasons you don't see coming.
Waiver / Contract - If you have general liability insurance through one of the only three insurance providers in the U.S. that I know of (MBA, Evolution, or Verocity), they may supply a rock solid waiver and rental agreement. I use Evolution. They are the best. Keep this in mind: Some might offer damage insurance for your #ATV and #UTV #rentals, but it will cost ALOT. In my opinion, it's not worth it. They will bleed you dry. I use an in-house insurance. Basically, I offer damage insurance for $30 per #ATV rental. It covers the rider for very costly damages. It has a $2000 deductible. Basically, the rider pays for damages they do up to $2000. Everything after that, I cover.
Even though you will have a rock solid waiver and damage contract, some people will still sue you and they will still not pay for damages. My advice is to be detailed, honest, and fair with your customers. Explain the process and the #ATV #rental to your customer. Tell them what happens if it is wrecked. Tell them about some of the injuries you've seen. When something does get damaged, be fair and honest with them. You can be an asshole and over charge them like most #ATV #rental #companies if you want. I personally don't operate that way. It's a matter of choice I guess. I like to treat others how I'd like to be treated. Even if they don't treat me with the same respect and kindness.
Legal Ability to Operate - Thinking about opening an #ATV #rental #business in #Estes #Park, or anywhere else in #Colorado? Good luck! First, unlike most states, you can not plate an #ATV or #UTV in #Colorado. This means you need legal land to operate on. This means your machines need to be at the trail. You only have two possibilities. You can operate on your own land, or on government land. If operating on your land, you should check with your county. I can tell you right now that in #Northern #Colorado it's not a possibility. In order to operate on government land, you'll need a permit with the USDA Forest Service. It is quite the process. It will take time and money, not to mention a hefty yearly fee (3% of your gross sales). Availability is the main issue though. I'll give you this one piece of important advice though. You must first actually care about your National Forest. If you disrespect it or allow your customers to disrespect it, you will lose your permit (if you are lucky enough to get one). I care about our National Forest, and I work my ass off to keep it clean and do right by the USDA and other users of the trail.
No matter where you #operate, keep this one thing in mind: You WILL piss off the locals. I promise you this will be a major issue. At one time I operated legally on my own property. My closest neighbor was 2 miles away. I didn't bother anyone. It didn't matter though. Jealousy gave way to an uprising that included people from near and far. Long story short, the county changed actual laws just because of me. When enough people get together on an issue, our government will respond. In my case, it ended my business overnight.
Luckily though, I worked with the Forest Service and got a #permit to #operate in a different area. Nothing changed though. Locals have still come together to fight against me. Your relationship with them and the #Forest #Service or BLM is paramount. Work hard and do right by everyone. You might have a shot?
In summery: Whether you are doing #ATV #rentals, #Jeep #rentals, #ATV #tours, #dirt #bike #rentals, or #snowmobile #rentals and #tours in #Colorado or anywhere else, you need to do it right. I know a guy who bought a $300,000 fleet. No mechanic, no real plan. In two months time his fleet was obliterated. He lost his ASS! He ended up selling the garbage equipment he had left for pennies on the dollar and got a job at a factory. Worst experience of his life he told me. Don't be that guy. Have a mechanic and a rock solid business plan. Most importantly, don't take it personal when your equipment gets wrecked. Be honest, fair, and kind to people. Oh, and get ready to work hard. Please don't email me with questions. You have enough to think about here. Focus on what I have written. Everything else are small details you'll figure out, and need to figure out on your own along the way.
I sincerely wish you the best. I hope my advice helps you to some degree. At the end of the day, we are all human. We are better when we lift each other up. Work hard, have love in your heart, and you will succeed at whatever you choose to do in this life.