Boat Sharing Economy: Peer-to-Peer Goes Pier-to-Pier

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The average price for a new powerboat is $37,000 -- just under $14,000 for a used one. But boat owners are out on the water just 26 days per year, according to 2012 data from the National Marine Manufacturers Association. In the meantime, the cost of ownership continues: payments, maintenance and storage.

Also See: Lake Powell Becomes a Luxury Yachting Destination

Maybe the lesson in these statistics is: don't buy, borrow. The much-lauded sharing economy can help you do just that. A growing number of startup websites are offering peer-to-peer boat sharing, enabling would-be skippers to rent practically any size or type of vessel they can imagine. And boat owners, in turn, get a precious income stream to help offset their ownership costs.

Services like GetMyBoat, Cruzin, Boatbound and Fun2Rent are connecting individual boat owners and dealers with pre-screened and vetted renters. Available inventory includes everything from houseboats to sailboats. Fun2Rent even offers ATVs, dirt bikes, snowmobiles and trailers.

Private membership-based services, like Freedom Boat Clubs, have existed for years, but the new-generation services require no membership fees and operate much like Airbnb. You search by city, state or Zip Code and find the boat of your dreams. For owners, it's much like running a charter-boat service – except peer-to-peer transactions allow owners to have complete authority regarding who rents the boat and for how much.

The challenge for such marine rental services hasn't been finding watercraft to rent -- there are plenty of owners and dealers with inventory on the ground. Insurance has been the problem to solve.

In the past, not all of the services offered liability insurance, but now most – if not all, do.

The process for qualifying renters varies with each site; most require a valid U.S. driver's license and a certain level of proficiency per requested vessel.

For the owner who would rather not see his large investment sail off into the sunset in the hands of an unknown skipper, SleepAfloat offers an alternative: rental boats as overnight accommodations, never leaving the dock. The service offers floating homes and urban houseboats, billed as "rooms that rock."

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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