‘A good side hustle’: Young entrepreneurs cashing in on campervan trend
Young entrepreneurs are tapping into the growing campervan trend, making money by fitting out vintage vans or buying fleets of vans to rent out.
Even before the pandemic, social media had made #vanlife or #vanlifeaustralia cool, but the trend has been super-charged by COVID-19 driving a resurgence in domestic holidays.
Actor Zac Efron added a touch of Hollywood glamour to the trend when he recently posted photos on Instagram of himself with a van in South Australia, after filming Gold in Adelaide.
A growing number of Generation Z and Millennials are capitalising on the trend, such as Sydneysider Marcus Moffat, 22.
Mr Moffat bought his first van “Henry” in June last year and spent $20,000 buying it and doing it up himself.
He listed it on van rental platform Camplify and brought in $19,000 in bookings in six months. He then refurbished a second van “Harlow” for a total cost of $25,000, which has brought in $8000 since it was listed in November.
Marcus Moffat, 22, has found owning campervans and renting them out to be a good side hustle while at university.Credit:Rhett Wyman
“It started because I wanted to travel Australia,” Mr Moffat said. “[Renting] it wasn’t my first intention but it worked out to be a good side hustle on top of university studies and my part-time job as a construction labourer.”
Mr Moffat said he had done all the carpentry, plumbing and electrical work himself, skills he learned when growing up and through his day job. Mr Moffat said there were plenty of fit-out companies who could do the work but it could cost $30,000 up to $70,000.
Figures from Camplify show Australians aged 21 to 30 make up one in eight campervan owners on the platform. However, their savvy marketing skills and understanding of design trends mean this demographic had 26 per cent of the top-100 booked campervans on the platform last year.
In 2020 there was a 41 per cent increase in people in this age group renting out their caravans, motorhomes and campervans on the platform.
Camplify chief executive Justin Hales said the pandemic had accelerated the trend.
“People are being driven by the demand that we’re seeing through the platform, but also people that may have lost hours or jobs looking to make extra income,” Mr Hales said.
While new campervans and full-size motorhomes had strong demand, a lot of younger van owners were filling a niche doing “really funky custom fit-outs of campervans and motorhomes”.
Demand is high on Camplify for vans that allow pets and renovated vintage vans with a retro aesthetic.
Vanlife Conversions owners Jared Melrose Campbell (front) and Sam Peterson. Credit:Justin McManus
Jared Melrose, 41, and Sam Peterson, 36, who started vanlife.com.au and featured in a 2019 documentary The Meaning of Vanlife, are now in Torquay, Victoria working full time fitting out vans for other people.
“There’s a lot more curiosity among 20 to 40-year-olds and for a lot of people, there’s a huge surge in them wanting to downsize into downsize and potentially explore Australia with all the restrictions,” Mr Melrose said.
He said the pair had received a lot more requests this past year and could scale up the business but preferred to retain the personal touch and work-life balance, since they both had young families.
Jonny Dustow, a musician who lives in his van, runs the online community and (in non-COVID times) in-person meetups for vanlife.com.au. He has noticed an increase in entrepreneurialism around the #vanlife movement.
“It’s happening a lot – more people are renting out their vans through websites or on Facebook because they might have a spare van or a van and a house,” Mr Dustow said.
“It’s more popular with people who just want to try it and give it a go. Another thing on the entrepreneurial side is so many people can work online now that they can take their jobs as engineers or accounts and set themselves up in a van to work from home.”
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