- Newcomer Blacksford is disrupting the RV rental market by creating a platform of rentable Winnebago-converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinters.
- Blacksford is currently located at McCarran International Airport by Las Vegas and the Bozeman Airport in Montana with plans to expand to new locations in the coming year.
- The company was founded by Jonathan Distad after he had a less-than-optimal experience trying to rent an RV for a family vacation.
- Blacksford rentals range from $199 to $399 per day, depending on the RV.
- Rental options include the Winnebago Revel, Solis, View, and Vita.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Newcomer Blacksford is disrupting the RV rental market by creating a platform of rentable Winnebago-converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinters based out of airports.
The company was founded by Jonathan Distad, who originally ran an IT business before deciding to pivot to the camper van and RV rental industry.
The idea for the Blacksford platform came after Distad realized that RV rental systems were too closely correlated with the "RV sales experience" that was known to "nickel and dime" consumers. According to Distad, this creates an uncomfortable rental experience for RV customers.
This realization, coupled with his prior difficult experience trying to rent an RV for a family vacation, inspired the start of Blacksford.
"The founders of Uber weren't taxi drivers," Distad said. 'They just said, 'there's got to be a better way to do it,' and that's pretty much the approach that we took. "
According to Distad, Blacksford — which first started its operations around mid to late 2018 — was designed around the way he wanted to rent an RV.
"Being a technology guy, I, from the get-go, was just hell-bent on making sure that it had amazing technology and amazing customer service," Distad told Business Insider. "I was befuddled by the pricing [in my prior experience], so I said, 'Screw it, we're just going to include everything so people don't have to worry about mileage or generator fees or 'am I going to buy kitchen kits or bedding kits?''"
Blacksford has a partnership with Winnebago, allowing the rental platform to source its vehicles directly from the famed RV maker.
Blacksfords' fleet includes the Winnebago Revel, View, Vita, and Porto, which are all Class B or Class C RVs on a Sprinter chassis.
This partnership with Winnebago allows Blacksford to guarantee the quality of its vehicles while potentially implementing several Winnebago enhancements, such as more accessibility-friendly options, according to Distad.
"Winnebago had the most transparent pricing to dealers, which was important," Distad told Business Insider. "They were the most eager to work with us, they believed in our mission, and they had a more mature warranty program than their peers."
Blacksford also works directly with airports to set up its rental locations by major travel hubs.
It's currently located at the McCarran International Airport by Las Vegas and the Bozeman Airport in Montana …
…but has plans to expand to additional locations in the next two years, including a rental outpost at the Denver International Airport.
Before the coronavirus pandemic started decimating the travel industry, Blacksford had projected a 1,500% year-over-year growth, according to Distad.
However, by mid-March when more states started announcing stay-at-home orders, the company saw 90% of its reservations canceled.
But like other RV rental companies and makers, business for Blacksford picked up again when it reopened its bookings in mid-May.
Source: Business Insider
Now, most of its summer dates are booked out, and Distad projects the company will pass the predicted 1,500% growth in 2021.
Unlike other RV rental platforms like Outdoorsy and RVshare, Blacksford only offers converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinters by Winnebago …
… although Blacksford currently syndicates through Outdoorsy, according to Distad.
According to Distad, Blacksford and camper van rental platform Cabana share the most similar customer base.
But unlike Cabana, Blacksford has an all-inclusive pricing model that includes unlimited miles with no upcharge.
This pricing model also means Blacksford rental customers will receive WiFi and bedding, kitchen, and bathroom supplies at no additional cost.
Each van also comes with custom dishware and bedding, plus an extra set of the latter for those who plan on renting for over a week …
… as well as an annual pass to national parks and 24-hour roadside assistance.
Blacksford will also offer extra amenities — such as games — for those who plan to travel with children.
The company also has a GuidePost program which offers both free programming to "point [customers] in the right direction", and a paid $99-per-day option for a fully planned and customized trip.
There are four pricing options that vary depending on the RV.
For example, the Winnebago View that sleeps up to five people is $399 per day, while the Winnebago Revel that sleeps two is $275 per day.
The Winnebago Solis, Vita, and Porto all sleep four people, but the Solis is $249 per day, while the Vita and Porto are both $199 per day.
According to Distad, the Vita, View, and Solis are the most popular builds in the Blacksford fleet.
The company replaces its RVs every year around the van's 12 to 18-month mark with the company, ensuring that all of the builds are up to date.
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