By Leah Kaiz Fellows
Peer-to-Peer Boat Rentals: A Brave New World
New online operations make it easy for boatowners to defray costs and boat "renters" to get into the game at low cost.
In the last 10 years, Internet technology has provided a boom in the peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing of goods and services. Now, more than ever before, it’s easier and safer for individuals to share fixed assets like homes, cars, tools, and yes — boats!
Some of the pioneers in this shared economy are sites like Airbnb.com. Here people around the world can offer to rent their homes, apartments, or even boats (in their slips), directly to others in search of low-cost, low-hassle lodgings when they’re traveling. Similarly, Relayrides.com has revolutionized the way people share and loan their cars.
The P2P marketplace enables everyday people to leverage their assets and offset the cost of ownership. At the same time more variety exists in the marketplace, allowing lower rental rates.
Now the race is on in the boating space!
On average, boat owners spend a lot less time on the water than off. The rest of the time they rack up expenses for maintenance, dockage, storage, and the like. Now, several dynamic P2P platforms are popping up, offering a wonderful option to get would-be boaters out on the water and at the same time allow boat owners to defray the costs of ownership.
A handful of P2P boating platforms startups are running neck and neck with their launches since early 2012. Key features offered by Fun2Rent.com, Cruzin.com , and Boatbound.co include various combinations of the following:
- Free membership
- Easy boat listings
- Third-party insurance for collision and liability
- Complete control over when you rent and who you rent to
- The ability to create profiles for both owners and renters
- Ratings and reviews for owners and renters
- Some form of safety or security check
- Secure payment through the site
- Access to a whole online boating community
First, it’s free
Before, if you didn’t own a boat you could join a boat club, or charter a boat, often through a broker. Boat club memberships aren’t free and limitations exist on usage. You pay whether you use it or not. You also have geographic limitations. With P2P boat sharing you can contract to rent a boat of any type, anywhere, at any time, and you only pay when you decide to rent. Somewhat like charter, but cheaper.
This symbiotic relationship creates inexpensive rentals while allowing boat owners a safe environment to offer their boats for rent only when they want to. Each site makes listing your boat a snap. And the beauty of the P2P program versus buying a boat and putting it into charter is that you don’t have to make reservations to use your own boat.
Some P2P platforms provide insurance
When shopping for a P2P site you’ll find a variety of options out there. Not all of them offer third-party damage and liability insurance. Many early platform adapters saw that in order to make this a sustainable, scalable industry, insurance was key.
Shawn Gardner, co-founder and CEO of Fun2rent.com explains that many lakeside rental companies or large recreation areas don’t have a large enough inventory to offer insurance on hull damage. “When you rent from these private rental companies, if you total the boat it’s coming out of your paycheck. We have better rental insurance than most of the companies out there.”
On all three sites listed above, the insurance provided by the platform becomes the primary during the course of the rental. Each site has slightly different terms, so check for specific details. In addition to insurance, both Boatbound and Cruzin include towing services as part of the rental through BoatUS.
You have complete control
Unlike charter-boat owners, as a P2P owner you have complete say over who rents your boat and how much you charge. “The owner always has control of their vessel and its available rental days. They have complete say and approval as to who they rent to,” says Jaclyn Baumgarten, co-founder and CEO of Cruzin. She also explains that if an owner has any doubts, they can take a renter out for a sea trial – and that, too, is covered by the site insurance.
Get to know your renter
Each site makes it easy for owners and renters to create profiles and include all their experience. Owners are encouraged to talk with prospective renters, and check out their social media profiles. On all the sites, both renters and owners can review finished transactions to the benefit of everyone in the community.
Security and safety checks
Each site has a method for doing a security check. Most sites will look for a valid U.S. drivers license and do a basic check for moving violations and felonies. Cruzin also does a fraud-prevention check and wants to see two years on a like vessel. Renters have to sign an affidavit, and their insurance coverage is based on being truthful.
Fun2rent.com provides a safety check online that renters can fill out, and also offers a link and discount to online safety courses through Fresh Air Educators. Cruzin offers a link to a free boating safety course through BoatUS.org.
Each site provides a secure payment system that makes it easy for renters and owners alike. Owners can set security deposits, pricing, and any extra charges for items such as wakeboards, and have them all charged through the site. Renters can be assured that as long as they look into the requirements of each rental and included features, there won’t be unexpected fees or money changing hands at the dock.
Building an online sailing community
All the sites see themselves helping to grow and expand the boating community both on the water, and online. “It’s exciting to be part of changing the dynamic of boating through a peer-to-peer platform. Boating is a social activity which meshes well with the shared economy trend,” Says Baumgarten. Similarly, the Cruzin partners are “excited to take that natural community and bring it online.”
These sites give boat access to more people than ever before. As Gardner says, “we’re making boats more accessible; we’re making them more affordable. We’re allowing people who didn’t have access to boats before to even consider buying one and defraying the cost by listing it on our site.”
Some of the sites have their own twist on things
Boatbound takes the online community one step closer toward a social network. Their goal is to create an “Ahoy” culture. As they say on their website, “Boating isn’t just a recreational activity, it’s a way of life!” With this Ahoy culture they encourage sharing on various social media sites in order to earn perks.
Fun2Rent doesn’t handle sailboats at this time, but it’s not just for powerboats either. They have all kinds of toys listed, from ATVS and dirt bikes to personal watercraft, snowmobiles, and trailers. With this diversity, Gardner says, “We see owners who also rent throughout the site.”
Cruzin works hand-in-hand with boating industry experts. “We very carefully selected our partners and worked with them to craft solutions that are properly suited for the boating community. Our members’ satisfaction and security are our top priorities,” says Baumgarten.
Several U.S. sites have plans to expand into the foreign marketplaces, where they will find like-minded entrepreneurs already in place. Right now Incrediblue.com http://www.incrediblue.com/, started by Greek entrepreneurs, is one of the front-runners in the European boat rental marketplace. According to founder Antonios Fiorakis, “Incrediblue is a first-mover and an award-winning company that has been leading the boat rental marketplace space in Europe.”
There are other sites out there that will connect people in a P2P system such as GetMyBoat.com. Though their focus isn’t on taking payment through the site or providing third-party insurance, they’ve taken a different approach. “We wanted to make boating more affordable and accessible to the masses. To do this we are bringing together a fragmented charter industry but also giving private owners a chance to list and make some additional income off their unused boat,” says Bryan Petro, Head of Product at GetMyBoat. According to Petro, they have rentals in 800 cities, 48 states, and 60 countries. P2P listings account for 20 percent of their overall listings.
As these new sites grow, more owners are likely to see the benefits of a secure site handling their marketing and payments, and assisting in getting their boats rented.
Turning a little-used boat into a business is an idea that stands to revolutionize the boating community.
Leah Kaiz Fellows
- Leah Kaiz Fellows is a former sailboat captain, PADI dive instructor, and avid traveler. She currently runs her own marketing company on land, Blue Gypsy Inc. Future plans include buying a catamaran and sailing around the world.
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