We first told you about boat sharing a couple of years ago in Peer-to-Peer Boat Rentals: a Brave New World, but these days, boat sharing is getting even easier for both the boat owner and the boat renter. Early adopters have tested the waters, and now there are thousands of boats available for rent. A clutch of boat sharing websites including Boatbound, Boatsetter, and Getmyboat have evolved, providing renters with a better experience, and providing owners with the confidence that their baby is in good hands.
Better Boat Rental Choices
If you’re looking to rent, there are choices galore. You can find thousands of boats in the major coastal areas—Florida, Southern California, San Francisco, Seattle, New York and the North East—and there are even some boats in the BVI, the Mediterranean, and Croatia. The majority are 18 to 30 foot long open fishing or pontoon boats, but there’s also a selection of sailboats, kayaks, cruisers, and offshore sportfishing boats.
While you might expected these sites to be populated with 70s classics, we're pleased to say that the quality of these boats is exceptional. Most boats are relatively new, and in great condition. And your boat could join them at any time, turning it into a money-making asset.
The number-one concern we hear about boat sharing is what happens when a renter damages your boat. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to be a common problem. Boatbound is reporting an incident rate of less than 0.5 percent. Insurance issues have also been addressed, and boat sharing sites have separate policies from the owners’ personal policy. The websites also have clear insurance guidelines. There’s often a deductible, which is covered by a deposit from the renter.
Boatbound has recently introduced a new policy with BoatUS that’s tailored specifically to give people peace of mind with peer-peer rentals. Highlights include:
- Higher liabilities covering the cash value of boat, $300,000 per person or one million dollars per accident
- Coverage for watersports activities such as waterskiing and wakeboarding
- Coverage while the owner is training a renter
- Coverage for trailers
In addition, if you’re a BoatUS customer, you get ‘fast track underwriting’ in most cases. That means that boats smaller than 45’ with no claims over 10 years old no longer require a survey.
Boat sharing websites can now also arrange for professional captains, to improve the trust between owners and renters. If you’re confident at the helm in a 24’ center console but want to rent a 40’ cruiser, using a captain can help you overcome any hesitation. Renters can search for boats that come with captains, listings show if a captain is required, or you can book a captain with a rental. We especially like Boatsetter’s implementation. With over 1200 captains to choose from, they list which captains are available along with renter reviews. Captains are so popular that according to Cruzin, in Chicago they were all booked for this past July.
Want to rent out your boat but don’t have the time to manage it? Boatbound has launched a concierge service for owners like you. In South Florida they’re partnering with Boatyard to help owners take care of time-consuming chores like photographing, cleaning, and fueling the boats. They also have a handy mobile App to help you order boat services. And Boatsetter has quickly developed marina partnerships, with over 160 marinas around the country that can offer maintenance, provisioning, or get boats charter-ready.
The website experience has also improved. All these services are mobile-friendly, with simple dashboards for updating your listing and availability, viewing rental history, sending messages, or responding to inquiries. Boatsetter has an App to to help with the vessel inspection, view trip information, create damage reports, and provide ratings and reviews.
Boating is social, and boat sharing is creating new communities. Boatbound has been fostering these by organizing local gatherings and raft-ups, and giving away captain’s hats and T-shirts. They’ve also started a private Facebook owners group, where owners can ask questions, provide ideas, and generally help each other provide a good experience.
Services have evolved to the point where renting is a lot easier than it was just a few short years ago. But read the fine print, and check with your insurance agent and/or insurance company to determine if they restrict rental usage. Owners should also check with their marina, as some are starting to treat boat sharing as a commercial enterprise and are charging higher slip fees.
If you’re interested in listing your boat, check out some tips in our boat sharing survivors’ guide.
Editor's note: This article was updated in December of 2016.