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RV-sharing website keeps Alberta couple who created it too busy to camp

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2018-08-20 Rachel Ward
a group of people posing for a photo in front of a mountain: Cherie and Chad Ball of Okotoks, Alta., shown here with their son, founded Wheel Estate, a peer-to-peer RV and camper rental website, in January of 2017. © Cherie Ball/Facebook Cherie and Chad Ball of Okotoks, Alta., shown here with their son, founded Wheel Estate, a peer-to-peer RV and camper rental website, in January of 2017.

Chad and Cherie Ball may be looking for a vacation after a summer of matching wannabe campers with RV rentals.

The Okotoks, Alta., couple is into their second season running Wheel Estate, a business that helps owners rent out their camper vans or motorhomes in a style similar to that of Airbnb.

They got the idea for the business 10 years ago when they tried to rent a neighbour's RV and discovered his insurance would be void once money changed hands.

"We were hit by the recession pretty bad back then and we just wanted an affordable getaway, trying to hit the reset button," Cherie Ball told the  Calgary Eyeopener   on Monday. 

It took the couple six years to secure an insurance policy to back their idea and launch the business, which they did last year. 

Now they even own their own RV but mostly take it out just for charity or promotional events.

"We haven't had time to use it," Ball said. "We've been busy, so that's a good thing. But we would like to get out a little bit more if we could, for sure."

a blue camper in a field: Looking to book the perfect weekend getaway on wheels? A new Alberta-based company helps weekend warriors get a taste of the open road. © Wheel Estate/Facebook Looking to book the perfect weekend getaway on wheels? A new Alberta-based company helps weekend warriors get a taste of the open road.

The season is going well, with people taking part from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador, Chad Ball said, and no one has trashed an RV yet. In two years, the only insurance claims have been for a few awnings damaged by wind, he said.

"Mother Nature's kind of our biggest nemesis right now," he said.

Variety of options

The online rental site allows people who have RVs sitting empty in their driveway to make a few dollars. RV companies do rent out motorhomes, but Ball said the price is prohibitive due to the insurance costs for commercial operations, as well as upgrades for gear.

Using their service, Ball said RVs go for an average price of $107 a night and often come equipped with camping equipment, such as cutlery, linens and an axe for firewood. Some owners deliver the RV to the renter's home and allow pets, as well.

"You want that tent trailer just to get off the ground? You're looking at $40 a night," Ball said. "If you want that luxury fifth-wheel-toy-hauler experience, $250 will get you that."

Wheel Estate takes a 15 per cent commission, he said.

There are a few similar companies out there, but he said Wheel Estate's goal is to focus on good experiences, rather than becoming the largest.

With files from Tahirih Foroozan and the Calgary Eyeopener .

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