Vacation rental: best amenities - offer use of a car?

36 Replies

I'm looking to buy an investment property in the desert of CA, for high end renters who come for tennis and Coachella. I want my property to stand out among the others, to maximize occupancy in both the high- and off-season. 

1) What amenities are most desirable for my target market?

2) What if I offered the use of a car (my car, kept in the garage)?   

I don't see that a car is typically offered in vrbo/airbnb listings. Doubtless this opens up a can of insurance worms, but it's also a major value add, and solves a pain point for renters. They can uber from airport, then use my car.  

Any and all opinions welcome on how to cost-effectively create a highly desirable 3/2 party house in a competitive market.


Heck no leave that to a car rental place. Just buy nicer sheets, bigger tvs, soundbars, a couple of puke mops, and hope your neighbors don't call the cops too often. 

@Lucas Carl Ha ha ha! Good points, thanks!   That said, La Quinta is a high end market; renters are highly serviced. I want this place to rent all year long, not just Jan - April. Cash flow is key.

If you want to rent your car I would suggest doing it extra through a service like Turo so you get insurance coverage. Sounds like a lot of liability otherwise. 

Renting your car to teenagers for Coachella seems like a bad idea!

Build your own kegorator and put it in there.  I've built 4.  Total cost is around $250 each.  Let the renters purchase or order the keg ahead of time through you.  You deliver the keg before they arrive and return the empty when they are gone..

Build your own pallet bar (google it for pictures).  I've built 2.  One for my swimming pool and one for my shooting range (it doubles as a gun rack).  Both cost about $10 in materials.

I don't think you'll have to worry about renting year-round; from what I understand the area in/around Palm Springs does very very well year-round.  That said, it's not my market; I know there are a handful of people on this forum who do have properties in/around Palm Springs, I'd recommend seeking them out and asking for their input.

Re: the car, I've considered the viability of doing that (ONLY through a service like Turo) but all my properties are drive-to destinations (and I don't have an extra car) so it's a non-starter for me.  In your case, maybe it'd be worth it, maybe not, but here's what I'd do to figure it out: discover if most of your clientele are flying or driving in (I'd think most are driving in from other parts of SoCal??  But again, not my market).  If flying, then maybe you have something... do you have an extra (newer, maybe sexy) car to dedicate to this purpose?  If you don't, forget it.  If you do, would it be an add-on rental to the house?  How much per day could you expect (how much do local companies charge)?  How often is reasonable to expect it to be rented?  What are your insurance expenses to keep it/car payments etc.?  And finally, what are the logistics involved?  Will it be worth the hassle?

I don't think you'll find it worthwhile, but I haven't done the research, so I could be wrong.  

Most desirable amenity in your target market is going to be a pool.  Otherwise I'd go poke around on AirBNB etc. and see what 3/2 houses seem to command the highest prices and/or most booked calendars and suss out why.

Thanks for the thoughtful responses.  @Paul Sandhu The kegerator is a genius idea. @Julie McCoy Really helpful. I'm definitely doing a pool, am talking to a property management gal about what the sweet spot is (sleeps 10-12, pool, spa). I'll put the car in the back burner, and circle back to it, answer the questions you ask, look at Turo. @JJ King Turo is new to me - thanks for bringing it to my attention.


Wow, talk about worse ideas for a buck. I’d rent your place and i’ll bring your car home with me, sell it on craigslist a few months after part by part.

I actually just had this discussion with my insurance agent last week. She works with several landlords who have short term rentals. Basically, she suggested that I do not allow tenants access to anything with wheels; cars, bikes, skateboards, roller skates, etc. We walked through the possibilities and she had some great points in regards to massive liabilities that could pop up. There's the obvious- what if one of your tenants were seriously injured in a car accident- are you liable? What if the car breaks down in the middle of the desert? Do you need to send them a tow? Do you owe them a replacement car for the rest of their stay? What if they accidentally fill your tank with diesel?  What if someone else damages the car in the WalMart parking lot while they are inside- do they pay for the repair? Their insurance? Your insurance? I'd stick with the kegerator, that's a great idea!

We have a party house within walking distance of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI. I would agree with the others about not giving them a car to use. Too much liability. 

To differentiate, What about offering a gift basket for when they arrive? You could put a picture of the basket in the listing. Wine, coupon to a local restaurant, water bottles, popcorn, are just a couple ideas. We offer a case of beer in the fridge and a case of water. It costs us very little and is much appreciated by guests. Maybe offer concierge service. Grocery shopping for them ahead of time, making restaurant reservations, etc. 

Also, make sure your furnishings are beautiful and everything feels clean. Don't skimp on furnishings for a high end target market. Plus, have a professional take photos of your place to make it look like a million bucks.

Thanks for the input,  @Corby Goade . I hadn't considered *anything* with wheels as a liability. Lots of friends provide bikes at their rentals.  @Wendy Schultz I love the idea of a gift basket, water bottles and a coupon to a local restaurant. And grocery shopping beforehand would be an awesome service!  I will not skip on furnishings, and get fantastic photos. Thanks again for the terrific ideas - and words of wisdom.

@Marissa Myers  

As far as including a car rental with a short term rental, the liability then extends past the property. If they hit someone with your car, you can become liable. My guess is your auto policy has an exclusion to renting. 

For me as a guest, I like the property to be clean - that is number one above all else. I like having good quality internet and even cable in case I am stuck inside. We also like fun things to discover, such as board games, local books or magazines. When we stayed in Nashville, our host had a record player and old country music records. It is just fun to experience something out of the ordinary. I can listen on Spotify, but many of us don't own record players so it was a fun experience. I would stay away from providing alcohol or encouraging drinking alcohol. Of course they can drink if they want to, but no reason to encourage it.


Pool and a spa in a newer home will set your apart. Stay away from the liability of a car as you will have a hard time insuring it.

@Marissa Myers I put a Roku device or a streaming BluRay player with all the HDTVs in the living room.  Lately I've been leaving several XXX discs on the BluRay player before any guests arrive.  

But my clientèle is completely different than yours.  They are single guys or guys without their wives in town for a short term contract jobs at a refinery.

In this business we are, and can be, liable for anything and everything.  I have a 14 month old son and I look and analyze my properties as if everyone had children from a liability standpoint - and or drunk adults after a night of drinking and partying on Broadway (which is actually worse than a 14 month old).  

@Jim Gordon yes to pool and spa! No car. 

@Paul Sandhu The right entertainment options are so important. I've considered an AppleTV, but don't want folks ordering tons of stuff at my expense. How do you handle that with a streaming device?

@Tommy D. lol. I will remember the 14-month-old-son liability perspective whenever I analyze a property. Thank you!

@Marissa Myers There are free channels and there are subscription (Netflix, Hulu, Vudu) channels on Roku.  If people want to watch a subscription channel, they would log in with their own personal account.  I've been buying Rokus for $25 delivered on Ebay.

If you have Direct TV at your primary residence then its only about $10 for your second home. You will also need wifi at your VR. 

Originally posted by @Paul Sandhu :

Build your own kegorator and put it in there.  I've built 4.  Total cost is around $250 each.  Let the renters purchase or order the keg ahead of time through you.  You deliver the keg before they arrive and return the empty when they are gone..

Build your own pallet bar (google it for pictures).  I've built 2.  One for my swimming pool and one for my shooting range (it doubles as a gun rack).  Both cost about $10 in materials.

This is really the crowd you are targeting for your rental?

@Jim Gordon I had no idea that DirectTv is only about $10 for a second home - thanks for the tip!

@Steven Pesavento Great idea on games. I want something really fun for kids, too!

@John Woodrich Good point on the kegerator - probably not after the spring break market....