What it's like to own a luxury restroom rental company
If you're looking into starting your own restroom trailer company or are looking to purchase a restroom trailer in the future this article is for you. Me and my wife started our company about 5 years ago me having previously owned a plastic portable toilet company for many years before that. I have spent nearly my entire life in the portable toilet industry starting from about 12 years old.
The Honeymoon Phase
Owning a brand-new restroom trailer or restroom trailer company with several new trailers is what I call the honeymoon phase. Several people I know have started restroom trailer companies and enjoyed it for about a year or so. There is so much excitement when starting your own company, picking out the best restroom trailers, decorating them and getting your first clients. Yes there are some frustrations from learning how to set up your procedures to working out billing and government obligations but at first your costs are quite low because you're cleaning your bathrooms yourself, storing them at home and your trailer is new and needs no maintenance. But after a while you'll find out why restroom trailers are so expensive to not only purchase but to own. I've had many clients go out and purchase a restroom trailer to avoid rental fees only to ask for our help in fixing their restrooms, or to solve weird issues their bathrooms have. Believe it or not, we find the ones that break down the most are the ones that simply sit at a venue and don't move. We've had many clients give up on their restrooms and ask us to purchase the bathrooms from them.
Maintaining restroom trailers
One of the most challenging and expensive problems regarding owning restroom trailers is maintaining them. Restroom trailers go through enormous amounts of abuse throughout their lifetime. Every delivery subjects these bathrooms to earthquakes and hurricanes simultaneously for hours as they are driven around our pot hole filled California wine country. On top of all this, these portable bathrooms have to be quite light to be transported so in certain aspects they aren't as strong as a public bathroom should be. One specific aspect that I have a love hate relationship with in regard to my restroom trailers are the toilets. Because they are designed for an RV they are weaker than a traditional toilet, they are more complex with more moving parts than any home toilet. However they also have great advantages, for one they sip water and use around 20x less water than a traditional toilet, that's amazing.
But maintaining a bathroom is so much more than the toilets, everything wears out from the locks, the lights, electrical, plumbing, they all need lots of maintenance. You cannot simply hire a normal contractor or plumber to fix them either or buy most of the parts to repair them from a local hardware store. Unlike a house you cannot even really paint them because the paint will simply flake off in no time at all and cause your bathrooms to look horrible. To give you an idea of how much time we spend maintaining our bathrooms, we probably spend about 1/3rd of the time repairing and maintaining them to our clients renting them. We spend the entire winter season rebuilding every restroom trailer so that next year our clients get a great trouble free experience.
Admittedly, most of the restroom trailer rental agencies in my area don't service their bathrooms to the level that we do and I've heard of the horror stories that happen because of this neglect. Bathrooms that never make it to their destination, bathrooms that are dingy, smelly or broken. These experiences that people have help sell more of my bathroom trailers than I could ever do, but they can also give the whole industry a bad reputation.
The right mix of skills
If you're in the market to purchase a restroom trailer personally or for a business venture a key ingredient for success is the ability to maintain, fabricate, and repair your restrooms. A wide variety of skills are necessary to keep these bathrooms going; electrician, plumber, RV tech, automotive detailer, mechanic, welder & engineering backgrounds are highly recommended having or have access to. Backgrounds in general business, customer service, trailer driving are all needed too, and that's just for starters.
Porta potties & Restroom Trailers are not the same
Many portable restroom operators (PRO's) make the mistake of adding restroom trailers to their existing portable toilet businesses assuming that a luxury executive restroom trailer is the same thing as a plastic porta potty. A portable toilet and restroom trailer are very dissimilar businesses, so much so that I can say the only things that are compatible from a potty company and a trailer are the pumper vacuum truck to service them and the rental software used to manage inventory/bill clients. We at Fancy Flush have more in common with an event rental company than a portable toilet company. We tend to find drivers, cleaning techniques, and most of the business model of a portable toilet company to have no benefit in our niche. For one most portable toilet companies operate on a massive scale having several hundred clients on a recurring billing cycle. By contrast most of our clients only rent a bathroom trailer for a weekend.
It's much better than renting plastic potties
If you were previously a "PRO" owning your own plastic porta potty company like me you might find a restroom trailer company more rewarding. For me, the clientele is so much different when renting luxury potties. When I was in porta potties most people hated the product I rented. I've had neighbors threaten to call the police on me for dropping a bathroom off at a site. Most of my clients were also general contractors who is simply filling a legal requirement. On contrast a lot of my clients and their guests love our equipment, many times we'll get free wine, attend cool events and make new friends doing what we do. We also have much less headache as we've gone from dealing with hundreds of clients per week, drivers with routes to do, specialized & expensive to maintain trucks to having common everyday trucks, and only a few clients per week allowing us to dedicate more time to giving our clients an amazing experience. I'd say it's like going from serving food in a cafeteria to an exclusive boutique restaurant with limited seating that only opens on weekends. The opportunity to make lots of money is diminished but so is the stress.
Should you get into restroom trailers?
There are pros and cons to any type of business venture or purchase. If you think you can purchase a restroom trailer and never have to worry about it again you probably shouldn't purchase one. Restroom trailers unlike a car or home are a niche product, you can't simply go to your local mechanic or contractor and have them fix it all for you. A restroom trailer is an oddity, combining parts from RV's and houses with varying degrees of success. For most people I highly recommend staying away from a restroom trailer purchase, but if you have the right attitude and right skill set you just might be successful.
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