Thrilled with the idea of getting out on a watercraft on a gorgeous, balmy summer day, but not a current boat owner yourself? Just as hospitality and vacation services like VRBO have made it easier and more cost-effective to find diverse accommodations in new surroundings, peer-to-peer online marketplaces that connect boat owners to renters are providing a wealth of options for safe, affordable boating. Here are the basics of what you need to know for easy access to budget-friendly boating, whether you’re just making weekend plans, or scheduling your next vacation:
What exactly is meant by “peer-to-peer” marketplaces? It’s a phrase many of us hear tossed around in various scenarios, but it’s basically just an online platform that uses a third-party to connect those in temporary need of a particular asset with those who have the asset, but are not using it. As FATbit clarifies, people rent out a product for money or in exchange for a similar asset only during the time that they need it.
Although hospitality services that provide out-of-town lodging for vacationers are perhaps the most well-known examples of P2P marketplaces, there are various platforms that can also help you rent products as diverse as cars, tools and more. And while certain hospitality sites like Airbnb provide a selection of sailboats and houseboats for rent, there are a number of these online marketplaces that focus exclusively on watercrafts.
Which P2P sites specialize in boat rentals? The peer-to-peer boat rental space has experienced quite a few acquisitions in recent times, with the biggest player being GetMyBoat, which was launched in San Francisco in 2013. This boat-sharing marketplace now provides some 130,000 listings in 184 countries and 9,300 locations, with rentals that run the gamut from powerboats and jet skis to houseboats and sailing charters. Another popular boat-sharing service is Boatsetter, which lists thousands of vessels for rent in over 600 locations, many of which are located in major cities from San Francisco to Miami.
How do these services operate? As Boating magazine explains, peer-to-peer marketplaces makes the entire boat rental process more efficient by streamlining it online. They pre-screen renters and enable boat owners to maintain complete control over when the boat is available, to whom they will rent and how much they charge for the rental. Reputable sites maintain quality control over boats they list, provide secure payment methods online and offer ratings and reviews. According to Mariner Sailing School in Alexandria Virginia, peer-to-peer services handle just about every aspect of the transaction, from deposits to payments. For this reason, they typically take 30 to 40 percent of the rental fee to cover overhead, profit, insurance, water towing services, etc.
What about insurance? Many of these marketplaces are now offering marine insurance policies that protect both the owner and the renter. Renters generally secure liability and collision insurance directly through the site. However, it’s critical to know exactly what is, and what is not, covered by the policy, and what steps you’ll need to take if the boat becomes damaged while in your care. And as the Mariner Sailing School reminds us, you’ll also want to be sure to find out whether injuries to you and your passengers are covered, and to what extent.
What kind of safety checks are in place? Many peer-to-peer boat sharing services have some form of a safety or background check, and most require a valid U.S. driver’s license. However, a boating license may or may not be required depending on the state. But for the well-being of all concerned, getting a basic education in boat safety is highly recommended. What’s more, it’s a helpful way to establish a good relationship between renter and owner. If you’re a novice ready to explore the peer-to-peer boating marketplace, the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is a smart place to find a course that can help you get the confidence you need to get yourself out on the water this season. Find a course near you by zip codes here.