What RV owners need to know about renting to Burning Man

To ensure Outdoorsy RV owners are fully prepared for incoming rental requests for Burning Man, read on below. With 70,000 festival-goers headed to Burning Man from August 25 –September 2, 2019, there’s a lot to know!

While some renters will tell owners upfront that they’re interested in renting their RVs for Burning Man, others might not be so forthcoming. Note that renters headed to Burning Man will start to make reservations in May and June, with a few stragglers booking in July and August.

A few pro tips if you decide to rent your RV for Burning Man.

  1. In your listing, make sure to mark your rig as Burning-Man friendly.
  2. Make sure you set the default insurance package for your rental to the Peace Of Mind option (the most comprehensive package) during these dates.

  3. Buy a GPS unit to place in your rig (if you don’t have one, you can buy one from Outdoorsy).
  4. Keep track of your conversations — and only communicate through the Outdoorsy platform, not via text.
  5. Make sure all payments are made on the Outdoorsy platform.

A few pro tips if you decide to not rent your RV out for Burning Man.

  1. In your listing, make sure to update your profile to say it’s not Burning-Man friendly.
  2. Make sure you set the default insurance package for your rental to the Peace Of Mind option (the most comprehensive package) during these dates.
  3. Buy a GPS unit to place in your rig (if you don’t have one, you can buy one from Outdoorsy). This is the best method of precaution to prevent renters from taking your RV to Burning Man. Having a GPS unit in your rig is crucial to back up a potential claim that could arise if the renter deceptively takes your rig to Burning Man.
  4. Keep track of your conversations — and only communicate through the Outdoorsy platform, not via text — if you have any hesitation that the renter may be misleading about their final destination.
  5. Make sure all payments are made on the Outdoorsy platform.

Below are a few more suggestions on how to recognize whether a renter is going to Burning Man and how to adjust pricing, security deposits, and cleaning fees accordingly. If you have a burning question you don’t see answered below, you can find free feedback and advice from other RV owners in the Outdoorsy RV Owner Community on Facebook.

What Do I Need to Know About Burning Man?

What is Burning Man?
Burning Man is an annual week-long experimental arts and music festival in the Nevada desert. Participants come from all over the world to Black Rock City, a temporary city with a fully functioning street grid system, post office, and airport. While many will create camps or villages using tents, yurts, or other home-made solutions, RVs and campervans are very popular options as well.

What’s Wrong With a Little Playa Dust?
Due to Burning Man’s location in the middle of an ancient lake bed, everyone and everything inevitably will get covered with a fine alkaline dust (“playa dust”). This dust is not dangerous, but it does get everywhere. In addition to a standard car wash and interior clean, fabric and porous materials will require a secondary deep clean. In general, any RV that goes to Burning Man will likely have to be cleaned multiple times in order to return to its pre-rented state, and more importantly, will require replacement of air filters and a deep clean of other mechanical components. For this reason, many owners choose not to rent to Burners, but those who do can make significant income from radically increasing their rates, deposit limits, and cleaning fees to protect against environmental and human-caused factors.

How Do I Price My RV?
Most owners double (at minimum) the daily rate of their RVs, with many charging up to $1,000 / night. This pricing deters most renters, and allows owners adequate income in the off-chance that vehicles do make it out to the extreme conditions of Burning Man. Alternatively, some owners block off two or three days during the week; however, it’s important to note that many “weekend warriors” will drive up early to attend the Man Burn (arguably the main event; also, the point at which the city is the most populated).

How Much Should I Charge for Security Deposits?
Among other things, Burning Man is known for its harsh conditions and its motto “safety third.” Neither of these inspire great confidence in those renting their RVs to Burners, and therefore we recommend increasing your security deposits to $3,000. Please note that Outdoorsy’s insurance does not cover damage to vehicle interiors, which should be paid out by the security deposit (and the increase in standard pricing).

How Much Should I Charge for Generator Usage and Other Add-Ons?
If you have a generator included in your rental, be aware that it will likely be in heavy usage throughout the week. Some owners charge between $1 – $4 / hour for generator usage, while others tack on a flat $20 / day add-on. (Be aware that since Burning Man is hosted in a desert, there’s a possibility that your generator might overheat. One way to protect your generator is to cover it with a reflective tarp or orient it under a shade structure.) You can also ask for feedback from other owners on the Facebook Owner’s Group.

How Much Should I Charge for Cleaning Fees?
Do not underestimate the power of playa dust — it is inevitably going to get into every nook and cranny of your RV. This is an unavoidable fact of any RV that goes to Black Rock City, even vehicles that have every window, door, and vent taped up and protected immediately upon parking. Owners whose RVs have previously gone to a Burn have noted that it generally takes between 4 – 12 hours to clean their rig by hand, and around $750 to get professionally serviced. We recommend the latter, as professionals have tools to carefully clean your generator, air ducts, and other components that are sensitive to water. Around $1,000 seems to be the standard cleaning fee, though you might go higher or lower depending on the size and age of your vehicle. Ask for this fee up-front.

What Are the Best Cleaning Tips?

Burning Man’s official website recommends the following for vehicle maintenance:

If you drove your car to the playa, wash it as soon as you can after returning home, because the alkaline dust can corrode your electronics, and do damage to your upholstery, plastics, etc. Before you do anything, get an air compressor (or go to the air station at your local gas station) to blow all the dust off your engine. (Unless you really know what you’re doing, don’t spray water on your engine, as it can damage your sensitive electrical components.) Then, put on a pair of goggles, open all the windows, and turn your AC fan on high. Then switch your temperature control from cold to hot on ALL your different vent options, including both recirculating the air and not. This will start to get all the dust out of your vents.

Then wash your car with a splash of white vinegar in the soapy water. Vacuum the hell out of it with the strongest vacuum you can find, and then use Armor All on your plastic and leather parts, as it cuts the alkaline playa dust really well.

So you can do all this, or (be lazy like me and) take it to a professional car wash place. In San Francisco, they recognize playafied cars, and take extra steps — and charge you for them — to wash your car thoroughly, usually running it through the machine twice, and applying extra elbow grease to your playafied bits. It’s worth the money.

The secret to breaking down playa dust is vinegar. Use it liberally.

If you choose to rent your RV to a Burner, we recommend that you send them Burning Man’s official RV Guidelines4, which includes a comprehensive overview of servicing and maintaining an RV on playa. In addition, both you and the renter should read this helpful guide: “How to Bring an RV to Burning Man without Getting Burned”to avoid any complications while out of cell reception. This includes ideas on how to protect vents, pipes, and windows to minimize dust in the vehicle.

My renter is international. Is there anything special about accepting international credit cards?
For international renters, ask them to wire funds to Outdoorsy directly, and we will disburse funds to the RV owners’ bank account. Wire transfers should be completed well in advance of the hand-off. Why do we do this? In the past, international (particularly European) renters have disputed valid credit card charges when they return home, and because European banks commonly err on the side of the consumer (the renter), owners have lost rental income. To prevent this, we strongly suggest following the above protocol regarding wire transfers.

What if I don’t want my RV to go to Burning Man, but I suspect that a renter is trying to take it?
Here are some clues that someone is trying to take your RV to the Burn without your permission:

  1. If you are within 200 miles of Black Rock City, and you’ve received a booking request for August 27th (or a few days before or after) to September 4th (or later), you may have Burners.
  2. If you ask to see their social profiles and they are dusty and wearing goggles, suspenders, and/or tutus in their pictures, you may have Burners.
  3. If they are vague with their destination and/or explicitly note that they’re not going to Burning Man, you may have Burners.

If you suspect you may have Burners, check out the Outdoorsy GPS Tracker.5 The subscription is free for Outdoorsy owners, and you can track where your RV is at all times. If you’d like to ensure that your vehicle will not be heading to the Playa, you can easily geofence Black Rock City, Nevada and remind your renters that their deposit will be held if they enter the fenced perimeter.

Where do I go to set event pricing?

In the Owner Dashboard, navigate to “Your Listings” and click on “Adjust Pricing.” In the lower section of the page, there is an area to add and edit seasonal/event rates.

What amenities should I stock in my RV?
If you decide to rent your RV out to a Burner, congratulations! You’ve already provided them with the biggest amenity that they could want. You’re welcome to include anything that you feel would enhance their experience, but there is no industry standard on mandatory items to include. Due to the nature of the event, you will want to remove anything from your RV that you wouldn’t want to replace.

How do deductibles work?
Vehicles going to Burning Man follow the same rules for claims and deductibles as everyone else. Take photos of your vehicle prior to hand-off, and document again thoroughly when your RV is returned. Submit any paperwork to our claims team, who will be responsible for releasing the amount of the deductible owed to you.

We hope that this information addresses most or all of your questions, but if you still have more, please comment below. Thank you for renting on Outdoorsy!

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