The RV lifestyle has become popular over the last 4-5 years as more people are interested in this way of living and traveling. There are even those who are interested in buying or building their own RV park.
But do RV Parks Make Money?
A successful RV park owner can make from $50,000-$90,000 a year. A successful RV park itself can end up being worth hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on its popularity, location, and assets.
Here are a few numbers and facts to know what it is like to start and run an RV park!
How Much Money do RV Park Owners Earn Per Year?
It is entirely possible to make a profit off of an RV park. Even though summers are the busiest part of your season and business, you’ll find that there is a lot of benefits to owning and running your own RV park.
RV park owners usually generate about 10-30% of returns on their investment for an RV park. This means that, once all the elbow grease is done, you can sit back and relax for a full season of fun, purchase-happy guests.
In fact, some sites have reported that RV parks can be an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Upkeep, employees and seasonal planning can take a lot of profit out of an RV park, but when done properly, can still guarantee those returns.
Most RV campers are long-term guests and tend to pay by the week or even month. On average, you can get around 30-50 month-long RV campers.
Depending on your rates, customer service, and park upkeep, you can generally charge a good price for those customers.
Temporary customers tend to stay for one to three nights at your RV park, and will generally pay a higher fee for temporary stay.
It is because of this that week-to-month rates tend to be a little lower, but more guaranteed income.
The National average salary of a manager of an RV park is around $50,000 a year. Owning the park can have an increase in that salary, especially if you manage your money right – this is estimated at around $60,000 – $90,000 (depending on size and scale of operations). There is also the potential to earn more!
It is through all of this that RV park owners tend to make their money, as long as that income and the general influx of customers is consistent to keep your customers and campers coming each year, and bringing their friends and family!
How Much Does it Cost to Build an RV Park
Land and Acreage:
Location, location, location!
Owning and operating an RV park can come down to the simple idea of where your RV park is located and how much land you are purchasing.
RV’s take up a lot of space, and hitting that 30-50 long-term campers mark is going to take up a lot of (if not all of) y0ur park!
Buying land for an RV park can be as little as $15,000.00 – $50,000.00 worth of acreage depending on the size you are looking for.
One rule of thumb for an RV park is that one acre should fit 10 campsites. That equates to at least five to eight acres for your park if you want to get your 30-50 long-term campers per season (plus temporary camper sites).
For five acres in Michigan, you’re looking at upwards of $25,000.00 on average. This can be discouraging, but don’t fret!
There are private sellers who are offering 15 – 30 acres in Michigan for as little as $10,000 – $30,000
Shopping around in a high-traffic location in your area is a great place to start. Then, look around for private sellers looking to get rid of large property, or perhaps those that are being sold for cheap by banks or the government.
Freshwater, electricity, Wi-Fi, and even cable TV are all something to consider when you create an RV park. A pre-made RV park that you buy outright will already have these hookups (ideally) but if that’s not the case, you’ll need to make sure that you have these!
Each one will have an added cost, sometimes ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Using our previous model of 30-50 seasonal campsites, you’d be looking at a minimum of $5,000.00 in hookups, water, electricity, and internet expenses. Don’t forget this, as it is a huge part of RV camping – unlike tent camping which is more rustic.
Insurance and Legality:
When creating an RV park, you need to establish yourself as a business, LLC or corporation. Make your business legal, get insurance and make sure your zoning and regulations are all intact.
Hiring legal attorneys or even doing it yourself can have a lot of costs. Forms from your city or county can be expensive, to begin with. Fines for not following zoning laws or forgetting a license for your business will be even higher.
Make sure you’re doing the research: get legal, and get going!
Employees and Upkeep:
Let’s say you went ahead for that large 15-30 acre lot. You’ve got the land, the hookups and you’re ready to go!
Suddenly, a rainstorm happens, and a few days later your grass is three inches higher than before and full of mud tracks and puddles. You’ve attracted a host of mosquitos and all of your footpaths are underwater.
What do you do?
Well, first of all, don’t build on a swamp. But mostly, you’ll need maintenance and landscapers to keep your land looking fresh and perfect for campers who want to come stay!
Some RV parks have their employees pulling double-duty, while they man the welcoming center, the facilities, and landscaping all at once. This can help cut costs, but can also result in some inexperienced maintenance depending on whether or not your employees are seasonal or veterans.
In that case, RV parks can hire private contractors or third-party landscaping teams. While these have an increased coast (between $500.00 – $2,000.00 packages) you are more likely to have a pristine, beautiful place for your campers to call home.
Marketing and Advertising:
Marketing, even in your local media, can cost hundreds of dollars for short run times. Utilizing online social media such as Facebook and Instagram can definitely help you cut some of those costs.
Keeping your theme and logo prevalent on Facebook and Instagram – even Twitter and Google – is incredibly important for your business! Most people want to see one major thing when they’re looking for a campground to visit: photos.
If your photos are only in the off-season with dead leaves or frost on the ground and no people in the photos, you’re probably going to discourage potential guests.
Instead, keep your events, happy photos with smiling campers and sunny spots on the front of your page! Include photos of dogs to show you are pet-friendly! Have a lake or pond? Show us that winning catch!
Mostly, remember that you don’t have to break the bank to advertise or market your new business!
A lot of parks can vary in their themes from family-friendly to outdoor resorts. If you have a theme in mind, stick to it and make it the best it can be!
For example, a lot of family-friendly parks will have outdoors equipment and playgrounds for children, while other themes will have pools, nightlife and event weekends – like pub crawls or trick-or-treating for kids!
These will have added costs but will be worth it in the end.
Your theme can create a fun experience that will bring campers and their families back year after year. Traditions are a huge part of family and couples vacations, so make sure you’re creating memories and traditions with your campers at all costs!
Where Can I Find RV Parks for Sale?
While it might be cheaper to start your own park from scratch, you can also fall into the pitfalls of not knowing how to fully operate your own park. This can cause a lot of losses in the first few years of operation and can discourage new entrepreneurs.
So you want to buy one?
Websites like The Campground Connection have hosts of sites that are for sale. In the midwest alone there are several RV parks and campsites for sale within the $200,000 – $500,000 ranges.
While this may seem like an astronomical amount, these parks have been in operation for years and usually come with a lot of experience and all the figurative bugs figured out already.
This gives you a huge advantage of preventing a lot of losses at the beginning of your investment (but you will most likely need to take out a loan on these parks).
Should I Buy an RV Park Today?
The biggest question you need to ask yourself is: are you willing to put in the money, time, effort and elbow-grease that comes with creating and starting your own RV park?
If the answer is yes, you’re looking at years of fun in the sun, meeting people from all over the country and being your own boss in the great outdoors. You can open up a business that you can pass down to generation after generation for years and years to come!
If the answer is no, you may just need to consider a stable budget, your ideal goals, and aspirations for your park and how much you’re willing to put in yourself, both in labor and finances. There’s nothing wrong with being prepared, so do the research, look into your local laws, and decide if this is all something you can see yourself committing to for a long time.
What are you waiting for?
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Shelby Sullivan is our specialist when it comes to pontoon boats and recreational watercraft. She is often found sailing the freshwater lakes of Michigan. She is also a light-traveler who enjoys camping and traveling the world. Read more about Shelby here.