Start a rental business: 8 inspiring rental business ideas

by Eliisa L.

10 September 2021
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The renting business industry has experienced impressive growth over the past decade. More and more people are looking for opportunities to rent out what they need, instead of buying it. This creates opportunities to establish high-profit rental businesses - whether you're an individual looking to get some use out of your already existing equipment, or a retailer looking to expand your offering.

In this article, we'll take a look at why it's profitable to take part in the rental industry, and the different rental business ideas that you can get started with today! Let's see what we have in store.

Why you should start a rental business

A change in consumer behaviors

There is a wave of change when it comes to consumerism: younger generations are becoming the largest group of consumers, values are changing and people are more interested in environmentally friendly and sustainable ways of life. 

Buying and owning things is not only a strain for the environment, it also takes up storage space and takes away freedom - the freedom that consumers are willing to pay for. As one study shows, 78% of millennials would choose to spend their money on experiences, over materialistic goods.

Owning loads of things limits how light you can travel, how easily you can move from one place to another, even how willing you are to try out new things if it always means buying the proper equipment for it. 

Learn more about how access is affecting the way people consume

Quality over quantity

Unlike retail, with rentals, you don’t have to worry about the number of products and restocking them. You can get a profitable business started with only a handful of products, and with proper maintenance and care routines, you’ll get your money’s worth and more. It’s always easier to start off small and grow as you go - one thing you want to avoid is investing in a large fleet of equipment that doesn’t get used.

Increased Profit Margins

Having the same items on constant rotation, going from one customer to another, means you’ll essentially have an inventory that pays for itself. Again, with proper care, you’ll be able to keep your inventory on rotation for a long period of time, making a limitless, healthy profit. 

Additionally, you have the option to rent-to-buy your products, meaning that if the customer ends up liking the item they’ve rented, they’ll also have the option to buy it. Another common practice is end-of-season sales, where old inventory gets replaced with a new one, and the old items get sold off at a discounted price. 

Opportunity for Growth

Renting out equipment also offers an opportunity to grow your business in other areas as well. Depending on what kind of equipment or items you’re offering for rent, your customers might be interested in additional services.

Take ski rentals, for example, there’s a good chance that the same customers that rent out the skis might also need the equipment delivered to their hotel or cottage, or they might need lift tickets, guided tours, or skiing lessons. 

Depending on the industry you operate in, there are various ways of making your business the one-stop shop your customers are looking for. Offering convenience and ease makes sure your customers are satisfied and happy, which is always good for business.

Rental business ideas 

When deciding what kind of rental business you want to be operating, it’s, of course, important to consider the profitability of the industry and so on, but a major factor to consider is your own interests. If you enjoy hiking and spend most of your time exploring the local outdoors and the best trails, it would make sense for you to start renting hiking and camping equipment, providing guided tours, and offering your expertise on the subject. 

Now, let's take a look at some of the most rented items in 2021 and profitable rental business ideas you can get started within no time: 

Camping & Hiking equipment rental business

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People are looking forward to traveling more and experiencing the world, and with the pandemic limiting our freedom, people have been keen to go see what their local outdoors have to offer. In fact, since 2019, outdoor activities like hiking have been at an all-time high. Since there are things to consider like convenience while traveling and budgeting, renting out hiking gear has become a solid solution for people wanting to explore the outdoors. 

While more people are eager to try out camping and hiking, lack of experience, expensive equipment, and traveling with all the gear might be extremely off-putting for many. This is where rental services come in.

With the right equipment at a fraction of the retail price, expertise from the staff, and the opportunity to book guided tours, rental businesses are offering all of the convenience and access to the outdoors that people are looking for.  

Additionally, camping and hiking rentals rarely depend on seasonality, which means they’re a year-round business.

Sports equipment rental business

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Just like with camping and hiking, the popularity of sports equipment rentals has also grown. People are more enthusiastic about trying new sports, and since rental businesses are offering the opportunity to do so without having to worry about buying expensive equipment or sportswear, or having to travel with all of the equipment, the sports rental industry has experienced significant growth in the past years. 

In fact, the growth has been so significant that even major retailers have noticed the change and have hopped on the renting bandwagon

Bike rental business

Bikes are one of the most popular rental business industries. Depending of course whether you’re offering e-bikes, mountain bikes, city bikes, and so on, it’s a relatively low-cost industry to get into. With some expertise, passion, the right e-commerce tools, and a fleet of bikes you can have an incredible business going for you that doesn’t necessarily depend on seasonality. 

Take Bike Garage for example - a one-man band that started out with a small bike fleet offering unforgettable mountain bike experiences in the beautiful Peak District National Park all year round. 

Check out our complete guide on starting & running your own bike rental business. 

Canoe & Kayak rental business

Canoe or kayak renting is one of the more low-investment rental businesses that you can start. In addition to kayaking, things like SUP-boards, and overall more relaxed water activities have become more popular over the past years.

When it comes to running operations, kayaks and canoes generally speaking don't need a lot of space - either renting out even a small space by the water or offering delivery services for customers once they rent out the equipment.

In addition to the equipment itself, you have the opportunity to, again, just like with many other rental industries, offer your expertise. You can expand your offering and increase your profit with guided tours and deliveries.

Ski rental business

With the great joy that comes with visiting mountainous areas and ski resorts, comes the challenge of traveling with the gear. It's big, heavy, and challenging to travel with. For first-timers, buying skis and boards, on top of the other sportswear and other gear, can get extremely expensive and overwhelming. Ski rental businesses aren't only there to offer the right equipment, but also expertise to make the experience flawless and safe. 

Getting into the ski rental industry can be a bit complicated since the majority of ski rental businesses operate together with ski resorts. Because of the competition, it might be hard to compete with other, already established businesses.

Luckily, thanks to the outdoor activity hype that's been going on, winter sports are also a booming industry that is open for anyone to start operating a rental business. You can either operate in a high-traffic area near competitors, or you can share a piece of your secret winter paradise and offer visitors incredible experiences, tours, and the equipment they need in order to experience the surroundings.

Take advantage of your own expertise, hobbies, and knowledge of surrounding areas. Offer your customers an opportunity to experience ice fishing, snowshoeing, snow biking, snow surfing, even camping.

Clothing rental business

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Generally speaking, people want nice, trendy, high-quality clothes to wear. However, following trends and investing in new pieces can become extremely costly, and you’ll end up running out of space for all of your clothes. Because it’s all about convenience, quality, and wanting to be trendy, clothing rentals offer a great solution for those looking to spice up their wardrobe - either for one special event or for a whole season. 

Renting clothes isn’t a new concept by any means, bridal wear, prom dresses, and suits have been popular rentable clothes for a long time thanks to their affordability. However, with everything going on with fast fashion and mass production, the fashion industry is looking for a way to enjoy fashion and clothing without harming the planet and cluttering our closets any more than it already has. 

If you’re starting off small, you might want to really get to know your audience and maybe specialize in a niche: plus size clothes, designer clothes, maternity clothing, and so on, and see whether short-term, special occasion rentals are more suitable for you, or subscription-based everyday wear. 

Start your clothing rental business with our complete guide.

RV Rental business

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Whether it's for travel, camping, or moving purposes, not all people have or can afford to buy large enough vehicles to get the job done. If it's only for one-time use only, it doesn't even make sense to do so.

Investing in a whole fleet of RVs or renting out your only RV can be a great business venture since you're getting your money's worth of something you already own. Instead of having it sit back, collecting dust, waiting for the next road trip, you're putting it to use and making a profit while doing so. Offering RVs means you most likely also enjoy other outdoor-related activities, which you can also rent out for your customers' convenience. Being able to provide your customers with not only the needed vehicle but also additional equipment and gear makes the whole experience that much better, and better business for you.

Trailer Rental Business

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Trailer renting has grown significantly over the past years, and it hasn't gone unnoticed by larger retailers. Especially for industries like home improvement and furniture, where the bigger, bulkier items can't necessarily fit in a regular car's trunk. This has opened a new opportunity for them to expand their offering and start renting trailers by the day or the hour.

However, you don't need to be a large corporation with a fleet of trailers to get started; you can put into use what you already own. And since trailers are extremely versatile can be used for anything from moving furniture, going on road trips, and gardening, you'll be able to reach a larger audience. 

Tool Rental Business

tool-rental-business

Whether it’s power tools for a DIY project, cleaning tools for an unexpected stain, or just a drill for hanging up a piece of wall art - for most people, it doesn’t make sense to go out and buy all of the needed tools and parts for one small project since power tools take up space and most of the time are expensive, considering the number of times you'd be using them.  

Tool rentals are one of the faster-growing industries, even though it’s also one of the oldest ones. Home Depot, an American retailer specializing in everything home-improvement relates, started renting out power tools already back in 1995. For a long time, they were one of the few known businesses that provided individuals with tools for short-term renting - otherwise the industry mainly focused on contractors and B2B renting. 

Now, with the growth of DIY projects and upcycling furniture, tool rentals are more in demand than ever before. Just like with many other rental services, you can get away with starting off with a small inventory, focusing for example on fabric cleaning, and expand your offering by providing the right cleaning fluids and other needed supplies. 

​​Camera Rental Business

camera-rental-business

If you're a photography enthusiast with equipment lying around, collecting dust, this rental business idea is just for you. Cameras are one of the things that everyone needs at some point in their lives. From students to large corporations, producing high-quality content means investing in high-quality equipment that can make it happen.

Unfortunately, investing hundreds or thousands of dollars into camera equipment isn’t always possible or doesn’t always make sense, especially if it’s for a one-time gig. With cameras and accessories constantly developing and improving, it’s easier to get your hands on the latest equipment without the need to buy it. While being a great solution for a temporary need, this also allows potential buyers to test out the cameras or accessories before making a purchase decision. 

Starting a camera rental business can be easier and more profitable than you think, especially if you’re already an experienced photographer with a larger collection of cameras, lenses, or other accessories. Just like with renting tools, it’s easy to start small and move yourself up by offering additional services like a photography course or just general expertise on the subject.

Party Rental business

party-rental-business

Party supplies - we all need them at one point or another. Even if someone is a party throwing enthusiast, it’s rare for people to have things like chairs, tables, catering equipment, accessories, inflatable decorations, sound systems, and so on just laying around and waiting for the next party. Like we’ve mentioned before, it's all about offering convenience and things that will make a special day even more special (and Instagram-worthy). 

While there are a number of different party supply rental businesses already out there, there is always space for new rental services that provide something new or different. Find yourself a niche whether it’s a certain type of aesthetic, equipment selection, or specialize in something specific like outdoor cooking or inflatables. Depending on your inventory, you can offer your party rental services all year round, or during certain seasons as a side gig.

In addition to your inventory, the biggest win you can make running your business are the additional services: if someone is in need of outdoor seating, a canopy, and decorations, they might also need delivery services and help setting up the venue.

Getting started with your rental business

Taking part in the access economy and opening up a new business venture isn’t only profitable for you, it also opens up doors for new experiences and more affordable options for consumers. Once you get started with your idea and get the inventory you need, you’ll also need the right tools in order to offer your customers a smooth and frictionless customer experience.

Whether your rental business idea is a small camera equipment rental store or a full-scale clothing rental service, Rentle will be here to support you with your store management and e-commerce so that you can grow and focus on the things that really matter. 

Learn more about how Rentle can support your rental business

Here are some of our other articles that we think you'd like: 

Online booking system vs. rental software - which one's the best for your business?

Getting started with a click and collect rental business.

The 4 access economy models driving sustainable consumption

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Eliisa L.

The storyteller that spends her time in the studio, outdoors, or creating the best, most relevant content for rental shops.

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