Rental businesses have exploded in popularity — especially over the past few years. The sharing economy has changed the way guests travel, paving the way for rental business ideas to become a reality.
With a greater focus on experience, travelers seek out equipment for a single-use or limited-time basis. Since most rental business ideas are born out of a passion, it’s smart to try to get to know the market before diving in.
A sustainable rental business might start with renting out equipment on weekends to a handful of users. But starting up an equipment rental business isn’t a walk in the park — there’s plenty to consider when renting gear.
So, whether you want to dabble in sports, hiking gear or renting RV’s to guests, explore the booming rental market and design a rental business that can serve you year-round.
What are some good rental business ideas
Starting up any business in the tourism industry can be intimidating. Rental businesses can provide owners with the flexibility to work as much or little as they like.
Rental businesses function operate with users paying a fee in exchange for hourly, daily or weekly use of a rental item. The possibilities for starting up a rental venture are endless — so you’ll want to explore ideas to see which kind of business stands out to you.
20 different types of rental businesses
You’ll notice that rental businesses can range from land-based activities to outdoor recreation, transportation and watercraft rentals.
When deciding on a niche, factor in your location and whether you’re able to capture enough of the market to create a sustainable rental business.
Enjoy exploring the possibilities of a lifestyle full of adventure, connection and happy customers. Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Alpine and cross-country skiing
Plenty of people flock to the mountains in the wintertime. In order to take full advantage of the snow, a few key pieces of equipment are necessary, and many people choose to rent gear.
Downhill skiing requires users to don boots, skis and poles to help them navigate the slopes. Some savvy skiers opt to wear a helmet and goggles while on the mountain.
Cross-country skiing requires different skis, skins and boots than downhill. So, if you’re able to offer a variety of winter recreational equipment, you might be poised for a more profitable season of reaching a wider audience.
Ideally, to make sense of renting skiing equipment, you’ll want to live relatively close to a ski area. However, as a smaller rental operator, you may be able to provide more flexible options to your customers, especially if you can offer flexible delivery and return options.
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are built for fun. These four-wheel-drive vehicles, designed to be taken off-road, are ideal for backcountry exploring, equipped to handle dirt, sand and snow.
One company, Steve’s ATV rentals has multiple locations, all using Checkfront’s system. Typically operated by one driver, they’re similar in size to a golf cart, with a significant amount of power.
You’ll need to check with local state or provincial rules to determine permit requirements and find out whether ATVs can be operated in parks or other recreational areas.
I once travelled with my entire family to Los Cabos, Mexico, for a vacation. We rented ATVs for a tour near the beach and cruised through rolling hills, dense forests and dusty beach paths. It was a fascinating way to explore the landscape and something I likely wouldn’t do on my own.
3. Bicycles, e-bicycles and trailers
Rental bikes are one of the most popular types of leisure rentals. A benefit to bikes is their easy storage, durability and user-friendliness. Many people learn to ride a bike at an early age and bicycles are virtually the same no matter where you go.
Most bicycle rental businesses offer a range of options. Travellers will often be able to choose from cruiser bikes, hybrid bikes, road and mountain bikes, as well as fat tire bicycles designed specifically for sand and snow use.
You only need a handful of bicycle rentals to see a return on investment, with the knowledge that high-quality bikes will last a few years with regular maintenance.
E-bikes are gaining in popularity, and help travellers travel longer without worrying about running out of energy.
Some companies also offer tandem bike rentals, bicycle trailers for kids and power-assisted bicycles. With no shortage of bicycle variety, the choice is yours when it comes to renting e-bikes and accessories to customers.
Boating is a popular activity for fishing, recreating, tubing and water skiing. While owning a boat is feasible for everyone, it can be a fun and profitable business in the right market setting.
One example of a thriving Checkfront company is Classic Boats Venice. With a fleet of electric boats and kayaks, they offer tours around Venice for travelers the world over.
5. Backcountry camping
Backpacking is one hobby that can be expensive. Between buying large overnight packs and durable sleeping equipment, sometimes it’s just easier to rent.
One Canadian company, known as Rent-A-Tent provides guests with basic camping essentials. They offer packages, designed with amateur campers and hikers in mind, allowing them to enjoy the great outdoors without needing to spend a huge amount on camping gear for a weekend getaway.
Rent-A-Tent uses Checkfront to power their camping packages and rentals, delivering equipment to customers and operating with two retail locations in Vancouver, B.C. and Banff, AB.
6. Camping gear
For all the outdoorsy folks, here’s looking at you. Camping rentals can include anything from backpacks, tents, pillows and sleeping pads to carabiners, cookware, hiking poles and propane stoves.
Since some people may only camp a few times a year, it can make more sense for guests to rent gear.
When venturing into the great outdoors, guests appreciate having everything they need for multi-day adventure trips — either solo or with the family. Camping rental equipment may include cookware, fuel, tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads and rain gear.
Camping doesn’t have to be limited to tent pads and forested sites. Now, you can camp and still be fancy. Glamping accommodations often include canvas tents, beds and luxury amenities that bridge the gap between rustic camping and indoor lodging.
Borderland Glamping and Fossil Beach Farm are two examples of luxury camping. Borderland Glamping offers full glamping set-ups on public campsites. Customers simply choose a location and purchase a permit, and the rest is set up for when they arrive. Similarly, Fossil Beach Farm offers guests the opportunity to stay in canvas tents and yurts providing prime oceanview glamping views on Hornby Island.
7. Camper vans
While there are many variations of camper vans — they share a similar format. With enough room for a double bed and a space to cook food, camper vans offer lodging and transportation all-in-one.
Some rental companies outfit SUVs for off-the-beaten-track destination camping by way of rugged four-wheel-drive vehicles equipped with sturdy rooftop tents.
One Checkfront customer, Maui Camper Van Rentals, provides modern and Westfalia camper vans for travelers looking to explore the Hawaiin island at a relaxed pace.
8. Recreational vehicles
More people than ever are renting their own RV’s and earning a hearty income while they do. Perfect for people looking for a luxurious approach to travel, the demand for RV’s spiked during COVID as people sought out options for safe travel.
Some rental businesses are modernizing the approach to RVs, and the Woods on Pender is one of them. With an on-site fleet of airstreams and trailers, they’ve added hot tubs and decks alongside RV’s, offering rentals centred on total relaxation.
Provided you have the space to store your vehicle, renting your RV can be a savvy tactic for maximizing your return on investment — even if just for a few weekends per month.
9. Canoes and Kayaks
As a popular tourist activity, canoeing and kayaking provide customers with a calming and go-at-your-own-pace type of experience. To successfully run a canoe and kayak rental business, you’ll need to have adequate storage space and the ability to transport rentals.
If you’re located near a body of water, running a kayak and canoe rental business can be a brilliant route to go. In addition, plenty of accommodation providers operate canoe and kayak rentals on-site.
Wonderful for people of all ages and abilities, kayaks tend to be a bit lighter and easier to transport than canoes but offer a similar experience. So, whether you choose to offer guests a canoe or kayak, with a lifejacket and paddle, and your rental’s ready to go.
10. Stand up paddle boards
Popular for people of all ages, stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) allow users to explore lakes, oceans and rivers, all while (hopefully) staying dry.
In fact, during the summer months, paddleboarding is one of the most popular activities. As a result of their user-friendliness, stand-up paddleboarding is a fun, relaxing way for an entire family to share an activity.
Plus, some paddleboard businesses allow dogs aboard, and these pseudo-surf boards are ideal for toddlers to tag along, too.
11. Event rentals
Have you ever been to a four-year-old’s birthday party or a tech party? If so, then there’s a good chance you’ve seen a bouncy inflatable castle.
Live events like birthday parties and weddings are primed for rentals, where items are usually one-time-use and provide a day’s worth of joy and laughter.
Charity events, farmer’s markets and sporting events all share one thing in common — their use of tents.
While great for protecting people from the elements, more tent rental companies are popping out of the woodwork with some serious style. Irregular-shaped canvas tents are growing in popularity at weddings.
This may be an excellent and environmentally-friendly rental business, but one challenge is with staffing to set up and take down these massive tents.
Consider the types of event rentals that can be managed with a small team or handled by savvy rental clients. If you live in an area with plenty of demand for parties, getting into event rentals can be a smart venture.
12. Camera equipment
Between camera bodies, lenses, digital cards and accessories, it can be expensive to buy outright as a photography hobbyist.
Photographers will admit that most camera gear isn’t cheap. Why not earn money on gear you already own? And, if you’re tech-savvy, camera rentals can be a highly-profitable rental route.
Some photography rentals operate remotely and one Checkfront customer, Robert’s Camera in the U.S., provides renters with camera bodies, bags, lenses, lighting equipment and tripod rentals.
13. Filming and videography equipment
Similar to photography gear, video equipment can command a high daily rental rate for items that would cost ten times as much to buy outright.
Even professional film crews rent equipment on location to save on some of the travel hassles. If you’re based in a popular tourist destination, GoPro equipment rentals can be a brilliant option for travellers looking to capture their vacation memories.
14. Gym equipment
At-home fitness flourished during COVID-19. And since customers weren’t able to go to gyms, this was a time for fitness enthusiasts to rent equipment from local suppliers.
Fitness rental equipment can include anything from free weights to resistance bands to recumbent bikes for training for a triathlon or a treadmill to someone wanting to keep up their cardio in the wintertime.
The challenge with gym equipment is transporting heavy pieces of equipment with ease. But, if you’re a regular at the gym, you know how important your workout is to your sanity.
If you can muster the strength for it, renting fitness equipment helps customers maintain their fitness at home.
15. Jet skis
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you picture jet skis? Tropical temperatures, plenty of sunshine and thrill-seeking, perhaps? When considering the feasibility of jet skis, location should be your number one factor.
As an example, Clearwater Jet Ski Rentals operates as a Florida-based jet ski rental company. With endless waterfront access, this makes it both attractive and easy to rent jet skis to guests.
One important element to consider aside from location is the high initial acquisition cost with jet skis. Plus, insurance costs may be higher due to the heightened degree of risk. For thrillseekers and water enthusiasts, jet ski rental businesses can offer plenty of fun.
16. Mopeds, motorcycles and scooters
You’ll find these types of rental businesses are usually headquartered in popular tourist destinations.
With the tagline, “we rent fun”, Cruizin Maui, offers travellers the choice of renting mopeds, scooters and motorcycles to explore the island of Maui.
I can remember being 20 years old and renting a motorized scooter, similar to the Vespas that are popular in Italy. With a driver’s license and a helmet, the operator handed my boyfriend and me each a set of keys to a scooter that topped out at 50km an hour.
Street-legal and absolutely thrilling, I can remember smiling from ear to ear as we toured our hometown.
17. Segways and scooters
Depending on where you’re located, you may already see plenty of electric scooters and segways on the streets.
In major cities around the world — and Paris in particular, plenty of users double up on segways and whiz along bike paths throughout the city. As a practical method for moving about in paved areas, renting electric scooters provides travelers with a faster-paced way of seeing the city.
The amazing part about renting electric scooters and segways is how relatively simple they are to use. With a lower initial cost than other rental businesses, these alternative methods of transportation continue to grow in popularity.
18. Scuba gear
Picture yourself standing barefoot on a beach, watching the sunset as guests return from an exciting day of underwater discovery.
Scuba divers and snorkelling aficionados require a solid amount of gear to explore beneath the surface. And since travelling by plane with a mask, snorkel, and fins might be a little awkward, plenty of people opt to rent scuba diving equipment at their destination.
Scuba diving rentals will include breathing apparatuses, regulators and wetsuits. To maximize your return on equipment rentals, you can design an underwater rental package for ocean-loving travellers.
Renting scuba equipment may be just the type of business that makes you feel jazzed to wake up before sunrise.
For surfers in the Pacific Northwest, being able to rent surfboards, booties, gloves and thick wetsuits is key before heading off the beaches of Tofino and Jordan River.
With guests looking to hang loose in warmer climates, having different sizes of surfboards can set you up with a pretty relaxing beach-centric lifestyle. One Checkfront customer, Surfing Turtle Lodge offers a range of activities specific to its location in Nicaragua.
Ocean surfing is the only surfing available. In fact, an Ireland-based company, Rusheen Bay, provides windsurfing as well as kayaking and paddleboarding in Galway County, Ireland.
20. Winter equipment
Whether it’s gloves, goggles or a pair of snowshoes, winter equipment rentals are popular with cold-weather enthusiasts.
You can rent just about anything, including warm and waterproof clothing, to guests looking to enjoy a day on the mountain.
I once brought my boyfriend to a local hill to go skiing. He had never been skiing before, so we went up to the lodge and attempted to rent gear. Turns out, they were out of everything except skis and poles — including gloves and men’s ski pants, so we improvised.
As he was racing through the trees, since we hadn’t yet taught him how to form a “pizza slice” to stop, we were gobsmacked by how much gusto he had for a first-timer, just before he took a sharp uphill turn and rested atop the snow.
While a hilarious and memorable adventure, this is why a digital liability waiver is important for all rental bookings. Guests need to acknowledge that trying out rental equipment for the first time comes with a certain amount of risk.
Hopefully, this gives you some ideas for your own rental business.
And regardless of the type of rental business you decide to pursue, you’ll need to do competitive analysis, market research and crunch your numbers before setting up shop.
It’s vital to set your business up in a way that sustains your lifestyle and passion.
How to know which rental business to pursue
When determining the type of rental business you want to start up, be sure to research competitors locally and across the country.
With your rental business, you can operate remotely, delivering equipment to users or establish a storefront where customers can pick up and return equipment directly.
You may find that the most popular rental equipment tends to attract customers of all ages, but of course, this will differ depending on where you’re located.
According to Google Trends, the most popular rental businesses in the following countries are:
Canada: RV Rentals was the most popular search, followed closely by bike rentals, kayak rentals, event rentals and camping rentals
United States: RV Rentals for the win! This search term was more than double the following, which demonstrates a clear desire for independent travel. The next highest were bike rental,s kayak rentals, event rents and camping in last place.
UK: According to Google Trends,RV Rentals again came out on top as the most popular search, followed closely by bike rentals, camp rentals, event rentals and kayak rentals
Australia: Camping comes in as number one, according to search trends in Australia. It might have to do with being located in the southern hemisphere, but outdoor recreation is showing no signs of stopping.
When deciding on a rental business idea, focus on where your passion and opportunity meet. Where you’re located will define the kinds of rental opportunities available.
By identifying which ones are most feasible and popular, by referring to Google Trends, you’ll set your rental business up for long-term success.
Renting equipment to users is an opportunity to learn more about your prospective customers. Plus, who wouldn’t want to run a rental business built to inspire adventure and happiness?