- Peer to peer boat rental outfits like Boatsetter, GetMyBoat, Click&Boat, and in Europe Samboat, have web sites and apps that work more or less like other sharing platforms, such as Zipcar and Airbnb.
- You can use many of these services world-wide, and schedule a boat to rent for your vacation or trip virtually anywhere in the world. Using them to rent gets you insurance, plus ratings and reviews for boats, their owners, and their renters.
- If you’re headed for unfamiliar waters, in many cases you can also hire a captain to go with your boat rental.
- Payment goes through the service and makes renting more convenient.
- If you own a boat and you’d like to rent it to others, these services provide a listing platform and also the ability to control who you rent to and when you rent the boat.
Peer to peer rental platforms have changed the way people rent vacation homes, cars, and even boats. Companies including Boatsetter, GetMyBoat, Click&Boat, and (in Europe) Samboat have developed platforms that are similar to those that most of us have already become familiar with for renting other things, like Zipcar and Airbnb. Many boaters applaud this new boating option, since it can allow people who may not otherwise be able to afford boating an introduction to the watery world. It can also give established boaters much greater flexibility than they used to have in where and when they rent a boat. People who are considering a purchase can rent to try out a boat they may want to buy in the future. And from a boat owner’s perspective, this can provide a way to recoup some of the funds put into those boat loan payments.
Just how widespread has peer to peer boating become? GetMyBoat claims the ability to link you up with 130,000 boats in 184 countries (though they include things like full charters, dive excursions, and SUP rentals in that count). Boatsetter, which has been an industry trend-setter and has acquired other peer to peer boating upstarts like Boatbound and Cruzin, says they have almost 25,000 boats for rent in over 2100 cities in the US, Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, and Europe. Click&Boat boasts 30,000 private yacht charters and boat rentals from California to Croatia. And Samboat offers over 25,000 boats for rent throughout Europe. These vessels range from kayaks to mega yachts of just about every shape, type, and size.
If you’re not 100-percent confident in your boating abilities you can “rent” a captain to go along with many boats. But no matter how experienced a renter may be, one of the biggest initial worries on the minds of both boat renters and boat owners is, of course, insurance. That’s why these services make it part of the package. When you book through the Boatsetter, for example, you’ll be getting a BoatU.S. policy underwritten by Geico Marine Insurance which includes coverage for the boat itself, boating liability, fuel and other spill liability, medical payments, and uninsured boaters. This doesn’t require you to do anything unusual with your regular insurance policy since it only goes into effect during the rental period, when it automatically becomes the primary policy.
Rent a Boat
Of course, as is the case in any peer to peer transaction, there are some differences between renting a boat via one of these services and renting from a traditional boat rental fleet. The first and most important thing is to make sure you’re comfortable with the boat you’re getting. After reading the descriptions and looking at the pictures of a boat, make sure you thoroughly survey the reviews of the boat and the owner reported by prior renters. This is one of the greatest advantages peer to peer rentals, since you can learn from people just like yourself who already have first-hand experience. And don’t be afraid to ask questions of the service provider, too. Because of the relatively new nature of these services, they’ve set up substantial help lines, customer service emails, online chats, and support teams to answer questions and assist new renters. Beyond that, here are a few of the important items to keep in mind:
In most cases the owner or a representative will meet you at the boat. Be sure to ask the owner to show you boat’s 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, and ask the owner to show you how to operate it if you’re not already familiar with everything. Remember that depending on the size and type of boat and they waterway it operates on, certain safety gear is required by law. Every rental should have it aboard but check to be sure – if the marine police or Coast Guard performs a safety inspection of the boat while you’re operating it, they will hold you responsible. If you’re not sure what you’ll need to have aboard, be sure to check out Boat Safety Gear You Need Aboard to Avoid a Ticket. Finally, make sure you are comfortable with the overall safety of the vessel before you accept responsibility.
Many states require anyone running a boat to have a boating license, which is usually granted after completing a short online boating safety course. An owner renting in a state where it’s required may ask you if you have the proper certification, but regardless of what he or she might say, it’s up to you to make sure you have met any mandatory requirements.
Document Existing Damage
Conduct a thorough inspection with the owner and document everything by snapping off pictures with your cell phone. In the event of an accident or loss, this documentation can be critical in determining culpability.
Most of the time (though not always) you’ll be responsible for the fuel you use. In some cases that means paying a fuel reimbursement fee, and in others you’ll be expected to fill the tanks back up on your way back to the dock. If filling up is your responsibility make sure you discuss what fuel to put in the tank with the owner before the rental begins. Certain marine engines require fuel of a specific octane level and some owners may prefer to avoid low-volume fuel docks which could have issues with stale gas.
Before heading out, if at all possible get a contact number for the owner. You may also want to get a number for the Coast Guard, but remember that they prefer contacts in case of emergency come over the VHF radio. If you’re not familiar with contacting the authorities over the VHF, be sure to read How to Use a VHF Radio.
When you return to the dock, make sure you thoroughly clean the boat. Think of it the same as you would for a vacation home rental; you’d take out the trash and leave the house in “broom clean” condition, right? The same is true for a boat rental. Don’t forget, just as you can review the owner and boat, the owner can review you. And owners always reserve the right to reject a renter, so if you plan to enjoy peer to peer renting in the future you’ll want to leave that boat in ship-shape.
Share Your Boat
There was initially some skepticism among boater owners that peer to peer renting was a good idea, because of the potential for accidental damage or misuse. But the peer to peer psychology is that renters will take care of your boat because you’re someone like them, not some faceless company or rental facility. And in practice, that usually turns out to be true. Add in the insurance coverage these services provide, and many owners have found that peer to peer rentals are a great way to recoup some of the expenses associated with the cost of owning a boat. If you’ve decided that this is the right call for you (and have verified that it won’t violate your own insurance policy) here are the things you now need to consider.
Offering different types of rentals will affect your schedule differently. Since you need to meet the renter at the dock, you probably won’t want to offer rentals by the hour unless the boat’s very close to your home or place of work. Offering half day, day-long, or full weekend rentals may make a lot more sense. Also consider how flexible you are and how quickly you can respond to new rental requests. 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 if the request comes on a Friday afternoon.
Depending on how complex and expensive a boat is, different people will have different renter requirements. Decide what level of experience you want someone who rents your boat to have, and remember that it’s up to you to vet the renter. You should be interested in learning if they’re experienced on the water, have state boating certificates, or have gone through a boating safety course. There are plenty of repeat renters out there, so finding a few renters that you can get to know who will use the boat a few times a year will be ideal, for many owners.
Again depending on how complex and expensive your boat is, you may want to put together a basic instruction book or digital document you can provide to the renter. Even small boats often have rather advanced components, and something like folding the seats into a sunpad may be second nature to you, but completely flummox someone who’s not familiar with the boat.
Your boat should be clean, have a full tank of fuel, and be in optimal mechanical condition before every rental period begins. Remove any personal items, as personal belongings are likely not covered by the peer to peer insurance policy. Also make sure the required safety equipment is aboard, so if at any point during the rental period the Coast Guard decides to board the boat, it meets the standards.
Checking In 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 helpful tips on where to cruise and things to do or see out on the water in your area.
- Do a quick trial outing with your renters. Show them the boat’s controls and offer suggestions on how to maneuver into and out of your marina and/or harbor. 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.
- Take note of the current fuel levels, and point out any pre-existing damage.
- Be sure to clearly set out where and when you expect to meet the renter for check out, when their time aboard is complete.
Checking Out Renters
At the end of each rental, be sure to:
- Check the fuel level.
- Conduct a walk-through to ensure everything is in good condition.
Peer to peer rentals aren’t ideal for everyone, and they aren’t the only option out there for people who love boating but for whatever reason, don’t want to own a boat. For some people, fractional ownership might be a better choice. And others find that boat clubs are their best bet for getting out onto the water. But each and every day, more and more part-time boaters are discovering that peer to peer boat renting is a great option – and today, it’s easier than ever before.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in May 2014 and updated in January 2019.