Start Your Own Canoe, Kayak, and Raft Rental Business

Canoe, kayak, raft, and other water sports rentals are always a popular industry. Canoe rental business start-ups can range widely in how much they cost to get started and run, so it’s a possibility for many different people. 

If you’re in an appropriate area with water access, here’s how to start a canoe rental business.

How Does a Canoe Rental Business Work?

There are a few different ways that a canoe rental business can work. A big part of how to open a canoe rental store is location. Basically, you would expect most canoe rental businesses to be located right on the water. In fact, many of their customers would only discover the store upon visiting the lake, river, or beach in the first place.

While not all such rental businesses are right on the water, that’s typically the best way to do it. Otherwise, there need to be transportation considerations taken into account. Some camping rental businesses will offer kayaks as well, which are relatively easy to transport with the right equipment.

People will generally approach the rental business to rent a canoe, kayak, or raft for a day or several hours. They’ll also need life vests, paddles, and helmets in the case of whitewater rafting or kayaking. The business will have certain rates for the rentals, and that’s how it will make its money.

What Is a Kayak Rental Company’s Business Model?

One of the most significant differences between kayak rentals and other rental businesses is that they are generally seasonal in nature. Even in areas where renting canoes or kayaks throughout the fall and winter is viable, they will almost always see a downturn in business over that time.

This seasonality means that businesses need to focus on the peak summer season. Determining how to start a pontoon canoe rental business needs to take this into account. The limited operating season will affect every aspect of the business and could alter the viability of the business idea.

The water sports rental company will derive revenues from rentals, including the kayaks, canoes, and rafts themselves, along with accessories. Depending on the individual nature of the business, there might be additional services like guides in the case of whitewater rapids or other river trips.

In addition to the rentals themselves, any rental locations based on rivers will often provide pickup service at a location downstream. Going downriver is much easier than going upriver, and any casual kayakers or canoers will likely jump at the opportunity to skip the arduous journey to return their canoes.

What Are the Costs of Running a Canoe Rental Business?

A big part of figuring out the answer to “are canoe rentals a profitable business or not?” is looking into the costs involved.

Of course, you’re going to have the purchase and replacement costs for your canoes, kayaks, and rafts. As far as other types of recreational rentals go, these have a low overhead. You’ll also need paddles, life jackets, and possibly helmets.

There’s also insurance to consider. You need to protect your business from claims occurring from your operations.
Giving someone a canoe and sending them downriver opens up a lot of potential risks. Having your customers sign waivers absolving your business of any responsibility for injuries isn’t enough to protect it. You need insurance, and that’s going to be a recurring cost.

Then there are also the costs involved in running the business itself.  Check out Quipli’s equipment rental cost calculator to help you determine what your cost and rates should be. You’ll either need to own or rent a site to do business from. Ideally, this will be right on the water, which could be expensive real estate. You’ll also need to pay utilities, employee wages, and other costs as they come up.

What Types of Kayak Rentals Should I Provide?

Rafts, kayaks, and canoes are all rental business ideas that can work for a variety of different locations. Understanding your location and the customers you’re likely to draw in is a big part of determining what type of rentals to offer and how to grow a canoe rental business.

Should you plan on offering whitewater rafting rentals, you’ll need to be somewhere where there are whitewater rapids. If you’re on a lake, that simply won’t do. Instead, you’ll have to focus on kayak and canoe rentals. Kayaks are particularly popular in both river and coastal waters.

You might consider other water sports rental ideas as well. Tubes, paddle boats, boogie boards, and more are all viable options depending on the local conditions where your business is going to be set.

How Can I Grow My Raft Rental Business?

Setting up your canoe rental business is one thing, but how to run a canoe rental business is another. You need to make sure that you’re drumming up enough business to keep the lights on. Luckily, you’re entering an industry where customers don’t take much convincing.

Partnerships with hotels, restaurants, and other tourist sites are going to be a major factor here. Having brochures in lobbies where visiting families are looking for fun activities will really help your canoe rental business model.

Of course, you’re going to want to have an established web presence to pick up anyone searching for rentals in your area. That means having a quality website that’s been search engine optimized, along with keeping up a good presence on social media.

What Are Some KPIs I Can Use to Understand How Well My Canoe Rental Business Performs?

Your KPIs are your key performance indicators, the metrics from your business that best represent how it’s doing. This analysis involves more than just monitoring total profits while wondering, “how much does a canoe rental business make?” It requires taking a much closer look at the health of the business using various metrics.

Your return on investment for canoes, rafts, and kayaks is one such metric. You shouldn’t just be looking at the overall return on investment, but the returns on different types of watercraft. This approach can let you know where your focus for the business should lie.

The stock to rental ratio is also important, and your aim should be to keep it low. That would mean that all of your stock is being rented out, rather than having too much and only leaving it lying around.

You should also look at your debt to asset ratio. As your business continues to grow, you should be reducing debt and growing assets. When you divide your debts by the cost of your current assets, it shouldn’t be any more than 30%.

How Should I Handle Reservation and Inventory Management?

Maintaining your canoe rental profitability is going to depend on how well you can run your business. You’re going to need the right tools to do so. A big part of your daily operations will be inventory management and reservations, so you want to make sure you’re doing those right.

This consideration is the kind of thing you want to have a dedicated system for. You should have your inventory and reservations systems integrated to ensure that your customers have access to your stock, increasing your sales and growing your business.

Quipli’s Inventory Management Solution

With Quipli, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve made the right choice for your inventory management and reservations. Your canoe rental business plan will be best served by our simple inventory management and professional online presentation. Just reach out to our team today for a demo of what Quipli has to offer.

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About the Author
Kyle Clements
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Kyle Clements is the Founder & CEO of Quipli, a provider of full rental e-commerce experiences for independent rental companies. Kyle has a decade of software startup experience and has been part of several successful ventures that have become publicly traded or been privately acquired, such as Uber and Clutch Technologies. In the past few years, Kyle has completed hundreds of customer interviews understanding needs and trends in the growing rental market. Kyle brings a unique perspective to the rental industry and is passionate about partnering with rental companies, from upstart rental companies to 8-figure rental businesses, to run their operations more effectively and assist them in creating an impactful experience for their customers.

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Quipli is a U.S.-based maker of advanced software that lets independent rental companies accept customer orders and receive payments online, as well as gain unprecedented control over rental inventories, scheduling, and much more.

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