How to Write a Car Rental Business Plan: Complete Guide

Whether you’re looking to raise funding from private investors or to get a loan from a bank (like a SBA loan) for your car rental business, you will need to prepare a solid business plan.

In this article we go through, step-by-step, all the different sections you need in your car rental business plan. Use this template to create a complete, clear and solid business plan that get you funded.

For more information on car rental businesses, make sure to read our guides below:
How Much Does It Cost to Start a Car Rental Business?
How To Build a Financial Model For a Car Rental Business
How To Start a Car Rental Business in 7 Steps

1. Executive Summary

The executive summary of a business plan gives a sneak peek of the information about your business plan to lenders and /or investors. Potential lenders and investors will lose interest if the information you provide is not concise, informative, and scannable.

Though the executive summary is the first and the most important section, it should normally be the last section you write because it’s the summary of the different sections included in your business plan. 

Why do you need a business plan for a car rental business? 

The purpose of a business plan is to secure funding through one of the following channels; 

  • Obtain bank financing or secure a loan from other lenders (such as a SBA loan)
  • Obtain private investments from investment funds, angel investors, etc
  • Obtain a public or a private grant

How to write your car rental business plan’s executive summary?

Provide a clear and accurate summary of every section, including every piece of information that could attract potential lenders and investors to your business.

Always ensure that the executive summary doesn’t go beyond 2 pages and only includes valuable information for the investors. 

In summary, the 5 key sub-sections you should include in your executive summary are:

  • Business Overview: this section is one of the most important, it should provide information about your car rental business model. For example, make it clear if you will lease small cars alone or include trucks and vans as part of your business. Also, be sure to include a detailed list outlining all the services you will offer at your car rental store. If you are offering short-term or long-term car rental solutions, then you must also mention it here. 
  • Market Overview: Describe your market, the region’s demographic distribution, and the target market’s average income. Be clear on the specific problem your car rental business will solve and the expected number of competitors in the region. 
  • People: introduce your management structure, their experience level, and relevance to your business model. If it’s a partnership, who are your partners, what is their role in the business, and what’s the leadership hierarchy? 
  • Financial Plan: how much profit and revenue do you expect in the next 5 years? When will you reach the break-even point and start making profits? It is ideal to include a chart depicting your key financials such as revenue, gross profits, and net profit. 
  • Funding Ask: what loan/investment/grant are you seeking? How much do you need? How long will it last?
An example of a Funding Ask slide (source)

Get a rock-solid business plan with the Car rental financial model

  • 5-year financial plan already built
  • 20+ charts for your business plan
  • Video tutorial 🎥
  • 5,900+ downloads

2. Car Rental Business Overview

This section should introduce your company, mentioning crucial details about your car rental business by answering some of the following questions; 

  • Why are you starting a car rental business? 
  • Where exactly is your car rental shop/store located? 
  • Why did you choose that location? 
  • What type of car rental store are you opening?
  • How many cars/vans/trucks will you have from the start? 
  • What car rental services will you offer?
  • What will be your pricing strategy? 
  • What will be your operating hours? 
  • What will be the legal structure of your company?

Read on to find out more information about other important sub-sections of the business overview:

a) History of the Project

Like for any business plan, you must explain clearly why you decided to start a car rental business today. You can explain that in the following subsections; 

  • Your passion & experience
  • The rationale behind you starting this business today

Passion & Experience

Being passionate about your car rental business proves your commitment to running it. And sometimes, that’s all lenders need to provide funding for your business.

It’s even better if you have prior experience in the field, showing your credibility and ability to run a successful business. But that doesn’t mean little or no experience won’t count. Just be sure to provide enough reasons to justify your ability to start and run a successful car rental business. 

Rationale

Now that you have demonstrated your experience and interest for this business and industry, you must explain why opening a new car rental company in your area makes sense today.

What problem will your car rental store solve in the region? For example, if many car rental stores in the region only offer small cars and vans, your store could specialize in trucks and other heavy vehicles instead.

Of course, you would have to demonstrate that there is a market for it. For instance, if you start a car rental business in an affluent residential estate, where a majority own personal cars, your business might not be successful. Similarly, opening a new store when the region already has stiff competition may limit your growth opportunities.

b) Business Model

This section should provide information about your car rental company’s business model.

First, find out if you want to start your car rental store from scratch or use a car rental franchise. Also, make it clear if you will lease small cars and vans alone or include trucks.

Other important questions you should answer here include:

  • Will you offer car rental services to a specific market or the general consumers? (economic vehicles vs. premium vehicles)
  • Will you provide short-term or long-term car rental services? 
  • Will your car rental business target other businesses or individuals? 

Another significant aspect to keep in mind is whether you will need auto repair services within the same premises or a personal mechanic for frequent maintenance.

c) Products & Services

It’s no secret that your car rental company’s services and products will determine your business’ revenues and profitability.

So it’s important to list here all the types of cars you intend to rent as well as other potential extra services to help investors and lenders better understand your business model.

Of course, leasing cars is the main service you will offer at your car rental store. However, depending on your target market, you can always add extra services to make you stand out vs. competitors.

For instance, if you target business travelers, you may want to stick to short-term rentals with premium cars. Instead, if your store is located next to a airport in a touristic area (such as an island), you may want to offer anything from economic to family cars and even RVs and campers.

d) Pricing Strategy

Use this segment to give the clients, lenders, and investors a sneak peek of your pricing structure. Notably, your prices should reflect the standard rates offered by your competitors.

You should add here a pricing list outlining the average rental price per vehicle category (economy, sedan, premium, vans, etc.). You don’t have to provide accurate figures but price ranges instead.

Including a pricing table with the main vehicle categories is necessary to help investors compare your pricing strategy with your financial projections later on.

e) Legal Structure

Finally, your business overview section should specify what type of business structure you want. Is this a corporation or a partnership (LLC)? Who are the investors? How much equity percentage do they own? Is there a Board of Directors? If so, whom? Do they have experience in the industry?

Get a rock-solid business plan with the Car rental financial model

  • 5-year financial plan already built
  • 20+ charts for your business plan
  • Video tutorial 🎥
  • 5,900+ downloads

3. Car Rental Business Market Analysis

A complete understanding of the market where you want to operate is important for the success of your business. For example, opening your car rental store in an area where a vast majority have personal cars may not be the best decision. 

Similarly, setting up your store in a region where a large population relies on other means of transport may limit the growth opportunities.

Therefore, you must cover 3 important areas in the market overview or market analysis section of your car rental business plan:

  • Car rental industry status quo: how big is the car rental industry in your area? What is its growth rate (or decline rate) and what are the factors contributing to its growth or decline?
  • Competition overview: how many competitors are there? How do they compare vs. your business? How can you differentiate yourself from them?
  • Customer analysis: who is your target audience? What type of vehicles do they prefer? How regularly do they rent cars?

a) Car Rental Industry Status Quo

How big is the car rental industry in the US?

The US car rental industry is estimated to be $54.2 billion in 2022. The steady growth (9.8% in 2022) is attributed to the increased demand for transportation services and the overburdened public transportation system. Also, new technologies like GPS tracking have made it easier for many establishments to acquire and retain customers. 

The 9 largest car rental companies in the US control 94% of the market

How big is the car rental industry in your area?

Once you have an overall picture of the national statistics, focus on the local figures. If you can’t find specific information online (it’s hard to find region-specific details, by the way), read this guide on how to estimate TAM, SAM, and SOM for new businesses. 

So, as there are 17,287 car rental businesses in the US in 2022 with a total annual revenue of $54.2 billion, the average annual revenue for each car rental business is around $3 million. So, the area where you plan to open your car rental company already has 20 competitors, you can assume that the car rental industry in your area is valued at about $60 million.

How fast is the car rental industry growing in your area?

As part of the market trends, you must also assess the growth rate of the car rental industry where you operate.

If you can’t find the information online, you can use the number of competitors as a proxy. For example, if the region had only 18 car rental stores in 2020, which increased to 20 in 2022, you can assume the average annual growth rate of the car rental industry is around 5% in your city / area.

b) Competition Overview

Understanding the level of competition in the region is just as important. Find out the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, knowing the major driving forces behind their success or why they fail. 

Take note of their services, marketing strategies, and anything else that can help your establishment stand out. If many stores offer the same service, try to stand out by taking a unique approach. That’s only possible with enough online and offline research to help you identify an exceptional product or service.

c) Customer Analysis

This is where you provide detailed information about your target audience. It is similar to the details on the business overview section of your business plan, only that you will provide detailed information this time. A few important metrics that should be part of your analysis include; 

  • Average expenditure on car rental services
  • Frequency of visits (How often do they need car rental services?)
  • Average monthly or annual spending on car rental services
  • Type of car rental services preferred 
  • Anything they like or dislike about existing car rental businesses

4. Sales & Marketing Strategy

This section sums up your plans for acquiring new clients. Staying ahead of the competition can be challenging when starting a car rental business. So, here are a few sample questions to help guide you in selecting the right marketing strategy; 

  • What are your Unique Selling Points (USPs)?
  • What are the different marketing strategies you will use? 
  • How do you intend to track the success of your marketing strategy? 
  • What is your customer acquisition cost (CAC)? 
  • What is your marketing budget? 
  • What introductory promos and offers do you intend to provide to attract new customers? 

What marketing channels do car rental companies use? 

Some of the best marketing channels for a car rental business include; 

  • PPC ads, Facebook ads, etc. 
  • Car rental aggregator platforms (booking websites)
  • Signage
  • TV & radio advertisements
  • Partnerships with hotels, booking platforms, corporates
  • Loyalty programs

You don’t have to rely on all the marketing channels listed above. Instead, choose the most suitable options to help you acquire many clients as your business grows. Later, you can use other marketing strategies depending on your business’s performance. 

Booking websites are still the largest marketing channel for car rental companies

What are your Unique Selling Points (USP)?

In other words, how do you differentiate yourself vs. competitors? This is very important as you might need to win customers from competitors. A few examples of USPs are; 

  • High-quality services / vehicles
  • Unique vehicles (e.g. luxury cars, RVs & campers, etc.)
  • Promos and offers (e.g. discounts on long or multiple rentals)

5. Management & Organizational Structure

You must address 2 things here:

  • The management team and their experience/track record
  • The organizational structure: different team members and who reports to whom?

a) Management

Small businesses often fail because of managerial weaknesses. Thus, having a strong management team is vital. Highlight the experience and education of senior managers that you intend to hire to oversee your car rental business.

Describe their duties, responsibilities, and roles. Also, highlight their previous experience and explain how they succeeded in their previous roles.

b) Organizational Structure

Even if you haven’t already hired anyone yet, you must provide a chart of the organizational structure defining the hierarchy of reporting of your company.

An example of an organizational chart for a car rental company

6. Financial Plan

The financial plan is perhaps, with the executive summary, the most important section of any car rental business plan.

Indeed, a solid financial plan tells lenders that your business is viable and can repay the loan you need from them. If you’re looking to raise equity from private investors, a solid financial plan will prove them your car rental business is an attractive investment.

There should be 2 sections to your financial plan section:

  • The startup costs of your project (if you plan to start a new car rental business, purchase new vehicles, etc.)
  • The 5-year financial projections

a) Startup Costs

Before we expand on 5-year financial projections in the following section, it’s always best practice to start with listing the startup costs of your project. For a car rental, startup costs are all the expenses you incur before you open your stores and start making sales. These expenses typically are:

  • The renovation / refurbishment of the building / space
  • The acquisition of the vehicle fleet

As you can see, the startup costs vary mostly depending on factors like the size and the quality of the fleet of vehicles you intend to rent to your customers.

As an example, it costs on average $220,000 to $243,000 to start a car rental business with 30 cars.

Note that these costs are for illustrative purposes and may not be fully relevant for your business. For more information on how much it costs to open and run a car rental business, read our article here.

Startup costAmount
Acquisition of the Fleet$150,000
Premises (deposit)$49,500
Insurance$3,000 – $5,000
Website$200 – $20,000
Renovation and Design$10,000
Office Supplies & POS$6,000 – $7,000
Permits & licenses$50 – $1,000
Total$220,000 – $243,000

Get a rock-solid business plan with the Car rental financial model

  • 5-year financial plan already built
  • 20+ charts for your business plan
  • Video tutorial 🎥
  • 5,900+ downloads

b) Financial Projections

In addition to startup costs, you will now need to build a solid 5-year financial model for your car rental company.

Your financial projections should be built using a spreadsheet (e.g. Excel or Google Sheets) and presented in the form of tables and charts in the business plan of your car rental company.

As usual, keep it concise here and save details (for example detailed financial statements, financial metrics, key assumptions used for the projections) for the appendix instead.

Your financial projections should answer at least the following questions:

  • How much revenue do you expect to generate over the next 5 years?
  • When do you expect to break even?
  • How much cash will you burn until you get there?
  • What’s the impact of a change in pricing (say 20%) on your margins?
  • What is your average customer acquisition cost?

You should include here your 3 financial statements (income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement). This means you must forecast:

  • The number of customers over time ;
  • Your expected revenue ;
  • Operating costs to run the business ;
  • Any other cash flow items (e.g. capex, debt repayment, etc.).

When projecting your revenue, make sure to sensitize pricing and the number of customers as a small change in these assumptions will have a big impact on your revenues.

Source: Car rental financial model template

7. Funding Ask

This is the last section of your car rental business plan. Now that we have explained what vehicles your car rental company offers to whom as well as your marketing strategy, this section must answer the following questions:

  • How much funding do you need?
  • What financial instrument(s) do you need: is this equity or debt, or even a free-money public grant?
  • How long will this funding last?
  • Where else does the money come from? If you apply for a SBA loan for example, where does the other part of the investment come from (your own capital, private investors?)

If you raise debt:

If you raise equity

  • What percentage ownership are you selling as part of this funding round?
  • What is the corresponding valuation of your business?

Use of Funds

Any car rental business plan should include a clear use of funds section. This is where you explain how the money will be spent.

Will you spend most of the loan / investment in purchasing the fleet? Or will it cover mostly the cost for the warehouse and its renovation?

Those are very important questions you should be able to answer in the blink of an eye. Don’t worry, this should come straight from your financial projections. If you’ve built solid projections like in our Car rental financial model template, you won’t have any issues answering these questions.

For the use of funds, we also recommend using a pie chart like the one we have in our financial model template where we outline the main expenses categories as shown below.

An example of a Funding Ask slide (source)

Get a rock-solid business plan with the Car rental financial model

  • 5-year financial plan already built
  • 20+ charts for your business plan
  • Video tutorial 🎥
  • 5,900+ downloads