At boats.com, we are keen to support the growth of boating. So, with the recent news that Brunswick and our parent company, Dominion Marine Media, have partnered with the peer-peer boating company, Boatbound, we thought this would be a good opportunity to provide some guidance to those of you looking to rent or share your boat.
Peer-to-peer sharing platforms have been available for people to rent their cars and vacation homes for awhile. Last summer Boatbound emerged to apply the sharing economy model to boating.
What I find particularly interesting in this new ownership model is the opportunity it presents to open up boating to younger people, which is a big issue—particularly in sailing.
There has been some healthy skepticism amongst boaters that there are too many issues to overcome with the sharing model – competency, insurance, the potential for damage, etc. But these seem to have been resolved. The peer-to-peer rental model is something I would recommend people take a serious look at – either to use a boat in a different location or to cover some of the costs. And others must too- Boatbound now has over 2000 boats listed across 47 states, 500 cities, and 70 countries (although they are not able to support international rentals yet, and their launch focused on the San Francisco and Florida markets).
The peer-to-peer psychology is that renters will take care of your boat because you are someone like them. So, if you are thinking of putting your boat on the market to rent, or renting from someone else, here are some recommendations.
Boat Owners: What to do
Have a plan. Before you rent your boat, think about what kind of renting fits your schedule:
- What kind of rentals do you want to support - per hour, day, and multi-day/overnight? And do you want a one-off rental or want a renter who will rent on multiple occasions? I like the idea of finding a few renters that I get to know who use the boat a few times a year. Boatbound is finding that more and more of their rentals are repeat users.
- Consider how quickly you can respond to new renters. Most peer-peer rentals are last minute (“Can I use your boat this weekend?”). While companies are seeing longer term and vacation bookings, this is still a small percentage – so you should be prepared to move quickly to get the booking.
- Check to be sure that your insurance company rules are OK with using the sharing website’s insurance provider for the rental.
- Decide what level of experience you want someone who rents your boat to have. It is up to you to vet the renter, so it is worth asking about any courses taken, state boating certificates, etc.
- Work out how the renter will get access to the boat. Is there a key for your boat or dock? How will the renter access it? You may need to be there, unless your marina will work with you to offer access to your guests.
- Put together a how-to book with instructions on your boat’s systems. A simple binder will work for this. It can also provide a place for renters to record their trip and any notes.
Prepare Your Boat For Renting
Your boat should be clean and have a full tank of fuel before every rental period begins. Remove any personal items from your boat, as personal belongings are likely not covered by the peer-peer insurance policy. Also make sure the required equipment is there, so if at any point during the rental period the Coast Guard decides to board the boat, you meet the standards.
Check In Your Renters
Every new renter you meet has the potential to become a repeat renter, so creating a positive first experience is key. The more personalized the experience, the better.
- When you first meet a new renter, share any helpful tips on where to cruise and things to do/see out on the water.
- Do a trial outing with your renters - Show them the boat controls and offer suggestions on how to maneuver in your marina. This is important to give you (and them) the confidence that they can handle your boat.
- Do a safety walkthrough - Make sure your renter understands where the safety equipment is on the boat and how to use it – such a lifejackets, charts, safety equipment, radio and GPS.
- Take note of the current fuel levels and point out any pre-existing damage.
Meet Your Renter At The End Of The Reservation
At the end of each rental, indicate to the renter that you will meet them back at the dock or at another designated drop-off location at the time agreed upon prior to the rental. At this time, be sure to:
- Check the fuel level
- Conduct a final walk-through to ensure everything is in good condition.
Boat Renters: What to do
The main key as a boat renter is to make sure that you are comfortable and feel safe with the boat. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions! Here's a list of specifics:
When you arrive at the boat, ask the owner to show you the unique features prior to the start of the rental period. All boats are different, and all owners operate them differently, so get comfortable with the boat before you take it out on the water.
We also recommend you ask about the safety equipment, especially if the owner does not show you how to operate it. And make sure you are comfortable with the overall safety of the vessel before you accept responsibility.
Document Existing Damage
Conduct a thorough inspection with the owner and document everything with photographs. In the event of an accident or loss, this documentation can be critical in determining culpability.
Make sure you discuss what to put in the tank with the owner before the rental begins, both to avoid damage to the engine and to make sure you both have the same expectations.
Before heading out, make sure you have all important contacts handy.
When you return to the dock, make sure you thoroughly clean the boat. Don’t leave any trash behind; give the seats a wipe down, etc.
Lastly, these peer-to-peer websites are based on user reviews. These reviews allow potential renters to see if an owner has good ratings and make an informed decision on whether or not they would like to rent that particular boat, and for owners to decide if they should take a booking from a specific renter. Boatbound has not had a single incident yet—long may that continue!
For more options, read Peer to Peer Boat Rentals: A Brave New World.
For more information, visit Boatbound.