In the last 10 years, Internet technology has provided a boom in the peer-to-peer boat rentals (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, auto P2P services like Turo and Zipcar have revolutionized the way people own—or don't own—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.
Key features offered by Boatsetter, GetMyboat, and Boatbound 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.
P2P platforms provide insurance
When shopping for a P2P site you’ll find a variety of options out there. At first, not all of them offered complete third-party damage and liability insurance. Many early platform adapters saw that in order to make this a sustainable, scalable industry, insurance was key.
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, some services offer or include towing insurance as part of the rental.
And as for the boat owner, 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.
Secure P2P payments
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.”
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.
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, 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.”
As these new sites grow, more would-be boaters are likely to take to the water—and 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.
For more information on P2P boat rentals from the boat owner's point of view, read Renting Boats is Getting Easier with Boat Sharing.
Editor's Note: This article was updated in December of 2016 and republished in January 2017.