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A love of exploring the great outdoors on the back of a three or four-wheeler makes starting an all-terrain vehicle rental business a way to share your enthusiasm while encouraging others to enjoy off-road adventures. Your target market may include families, outdoor adventurers, contractors or scientists who choose to use the machines to reach remote areas. Thoroughly knowing your area’s off-roading potential helps you jump-start the business.
The best spot for renting ATV’s is close to designated off-road areas or back country recreational locations where the machines are allowed. Check with the state or federal agency that manages the area to determine what permits or licenses are required if you operate within the boundaries of the park or national forest. When looking for a building to lease or buy, you need a front office for meeting customers and a garage from which you can fix broken down vehicles if you choose to repair them on-site rather than sending them to a nearby mechanic. You also need a covered vehicle storage area. Space for trailers may also become a necessity, although opening a shop next to an off highway vehicle trail so trailers are not needed to transport the vehicles to a distance location is the easiest way to handle transportation logistics.
Customer Insurance and Waivers
Offer customers insurance for a fee that covers damage to or collision with your vehicles. Explain the required deductible before the insurance kicks in. You can also fold the cost of the insurance into the rental fee, although you still need to explain to each renter what is covered. If a customer claims to have ATV coverage, ask for a copy of his policy to confirm it also covers rentals. You may also want to offer a collision waiver damage for a fee that keeps the customer's insurance company from going after them for damages. If customers refuse optional insurance, require they sign liability waivers to protect your business in the event the customer is injured.
Buying ATVs will likely be your biggest cost. Look for used ATVs in prime condition to save money. Start with just a few, gauge the response to your business, and add on more machines as the business grows. For instance, if you get rental requests from families, consider adding youth quads for children to ride or side-by-side machines that allow passengers. Utility quads are a good choice if you sell to people who hunt or need to work and carry equipment into the back country.
Handling the Equipment
Provide training on how to drive the machines and proper off-road etiquette to keep damage to trails to a minimum. To get the ATVs to the site, you can either rent transportation equipment to the customer or deliver the equipment yourself. Renting trailers and hitches for an additional cost means you need to show customers how to secure, load and unload the equipment. Delivering ATVs to the trail-head requires scheduling and hiring an experienced driver.
If you’re the only company renting ATVs, you have more flexibility with the pricing compared to competing with other local shops offering rentals. Most rentals are based on time rented and the type of ATV with fully loaded, more powerful machines renting for more. Refundable deposits are another fee to determine in case the renter does not return the vehicle or they cause damage. Develop a rental schedule, such as by the hour, half or full day, or multiple days for renters who head for distant trails. If you provide or rent helmets, gloves or goggles, add these costs into your rental pricing structure or charge for them separately.
Promote Your Rentals
Work with local tourism boards or chambers of commerce to get word of your rentals to tourists and workers in the area. Create a website with keywords related to the outdoor recreational opportunities in your area. Get involved on forums catering to four-wheeling enthusiasts. Put rack cards in nearby hotels, restaurants and other area attractions.
Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.