When you go on the Quirky Campers website you’re greeted by very up tempo, well written copy with pretty pictures of beautifully built campers. It draws you in, dammit it, makes you want to hire one of their campers! If you’ve read our How To Get Started post you’ll know that the Recreational Society recommend try before you buy or build…and try a lot of different types and configurations. One; it’ll seal the deal that you really want your own camper. Two; you may well be very surprised on what works for you and it could send you down a better path than you originally thought.
This is the service Leanne and Dan from Quirky Campers provide. They do own a camper, Ivan, which is rented out via the site, but essentially Quirky Campers act as an agency renting out other people’s campers. Do you have a camper? Then maybe you should be talking to Dan and Leanne about making some extra coin.
So guys, can you explain how you ended up in NZ ten years ago and what did you do when you first got here?
I was working for a UK management consultancy that was working with Spark (then Telecom) and I was offered a one-year gig in NZ… I would’ve been mad to say no! So Dan gave up his job and we moved to the other side of the world. It was a bit of a risk given Dan and I had only actually been a couple for 3 months! We had a ball and went crazy, travelling the country on weekends and weeks off, hiring vans and cars. We thought we only had a year, so we certainly made the most of it. However, at the end of the year I was lucky enough to be offered a position at Spark. We nipped back to the UK to see family and friends, and pack up for good this time. The rest is history.
Was it a plan right from the start to introduce the Quirky Campers to NZ?
No, not at all. In fact, we only discovered Quirky Campers (UK) in early 2019. But the story goes back a bit further than that. We had hired vans in NZ but they were just a bit, well, boring! And not pet-friendly. We’d now settled properly in NZ with a house and our gorgeous but slightly neurotic mini Schnauzer, Colin, so it was a no-brainer for us to get a campervan. We actually used our wedding in 2014 as the perfect opportunity accelerate the plan – and worked with a converter to buy a base vehicle and commission a build. Our wedding gift list was entirely made of van parts!
Unfortunately this story didn’t have a happy ending. Our so-called converter (who we admittedly hadn’t checked out very thoroughly) was a conman and he ripped us off. No van, no honeymoon and the distress of losing our hard-earned savings and worse, the kind and generous donations from our friends and family.
Cut to five years later (and still trying to get our money back with no joy). We got talking and decided that we couldn’t give up on our dream and set about finding a van to convert ourselves. How hard could it be? (Ha ha!) We were trawling ads of campervans for sale and came across the ‘Campulance’ as he was affectionately called by the German backpackers who built him. They had completed their travels and were heading home so we bought the van… fully intending to leave the layout as it was, try it out ourselves and tweak as needed. After a year of continuous use by the backpackers let’s just say it was a little fragrant! We got it home and set about stripping things back, removing all the soft furnishings and the mattress. On closer inspection the build quality wasn’t so great and we were already discussing ‘what-if’ options. Within 6 hours it was completely gutted! That’s when we discovered Quirky Campers.
We were looking for inspiration for our dream van and were wowed by the stunning conversions available for hire on the website. Having scrolled and clicked on virtually every van listed and learning more about the ethos of the business we thought it would be great to see the concept here. We reached out to the team to ask if they would help us bring Quirky to NZ… and we launched in October 2019.
Is running Quirky a full-time gig for you both?
No, not yet! That’s the dream but we’re both working other jobs to pay the bills and will transition over time as activity increases. It can be a tricky balance and we don’t spend our evenings binge-watching Netflix that’s for sure! But when you’re doing something you love, you don’t mind putting in the hours.
How does Quirky differ from say Mighway?
We’re both providing peer-to-peer campervan rentals but the big difference is that we specialise in hand-crafted campervans… and we’re selective. We look for beautiful, unique conversions with colour, character and quirky touches. Think bach-on-wheels. Our goal is to have Quirky Campers located all over NZ (and customer demand is telling us we should!) but without having too many in one place so our owners are getting the level of bookings they want.
We also offer an all-inclusive price to the customer rather than “drip pricing” (which starts with an advertised daily rate on to which a raft of fees gets added). On those platforms, the owner sets the daily rate they want to receive – and this can vary wildly from van to van – there’s no consistency because each owner is acting independently which makes it harder for customers to compare. When you look at our (advertised, all-inclusive, nightly) rates, it’s clear to customers that if they pay more, they get more so the whole collection makes sense. We work with our owners to set a customer price together and while our commission seems higher the percentage you receive as a pay-out is applied to the whole customer booking value (after deducting the insurance cost). Basically, you get a lower percentage of a higher number so in real dollars you are better off! And we build in premium insurance on all hires to give our owners peace of mind.
Prior to Covid were most of your customers Overseas or Locals?
We only launched last October but in the 6 months we were open before the lockdown about 70% of our customers were from overseas… mostly UK, Europe, Australia and USA. The most common reason for bookings by locals were milestone anniversaries or birthdays which is so cool as we get to contribute to the experience of such a special occasion. We also found that locals were willing to travel a fair way across the country to pick up the specific van they wanted to hire – which tells us a lot about the demand for quirkiness rather than the convenience of standard, factory-fitted camper available more close to home!
Post Covid what’s happening?
Well, our first challenge is getting three of our vans back home! We don’t tend to do one-way hires as each van is privately-owned and unique… and needs to get back home after each trip. When the COVID alert levels escalated so quickly and we went into lockdown we had customers that had to head to the nearest airport and get back to their home country. We’re really proud of the fact that we gave all our customers whose trips were impacted by the government-imposed travel restrictions a full refund – and certainly weren’t about to sting distressed customers, who had to drop off early, with a one-way hire charge! So now we’re running a little campaign to get the stranded vans home. So far, so good!
Beyond that, we want to attract more van owners and build the collection of Quirky Campers across NZ. So you if have a Quirky Camper in the making, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can provide lots more information about renting out a van through us.
We’re also keen to connect with more van converters across NZ. We get lots of enquiries about where and how to convert vans into the type they see on our website – and also where to buy them. While Dan and I do convert vans, Quirky Campers NZ as a business doesn’t do it commercially so having a network of converters we can send potential clients to is great. Let us know if you want to list with us!
You own Ivan the Ambo right, what’s this about starting a whole new Ambo refit with Babs?
Yep, we’re about halfway through our latest conversion because we had so much fun creating Ivan. Ambo’s are great as some of the basics are already done – well insulated and a good floor. And while they can have a lot of km’s on the clock their service history is impeccable – and we kind of love that that these life-saving workhorses can be transformed into a fun mobile holiday home. Barbara (aka Babs) will be different to Ivan – she’ll have a fixed bed rather than convertible, a diesel heater rather than a log burner and will have a mini-projector and pull-down screen for movie nights. I reckon she’ll be ready by the end of July – but we all know things can take longer (and more dollars) than we plan! As long as she’s listed for Spring, all good.
Dan is a project/contracts manager by trade but is also a trained sparky and all round handyman. He absolutely loves working with timber so he’s always working on something… outdoor furniture, beautiful knives (he’d love to get his own forge!) and now campervans! The only thing I insisted we get done by a professional was the tiling – particularly as we use epoxy grout so if you mess that up it’s a nightmare to correct! He would’ve given it a go though 🙂 I designed the layout but Dan built and wired everything. And then I made the squabs and curtains, and did the styling. We’ve discovered we’re actually a pretty good team!
Check out Quirky Campers website HERE for some inspirational builds and you never know, a cheeky weekend away in a different style of camper.