There’s a new, up and coming trend coming to the sharing economy: Peer-to-peer (or shall we say pier-to-pier) boat-sharing is picking up speed in the startup space, according to a recent article in Business Insider. Now, eager wannabe skippers can rent all types of vessels, from sail to ski, around the world through online sharing systems.
The motivations driving boat-sharing make sense. The recreational boating industry is expanding now more than ever. The National Marine Manufacturers Association found that 37.8 percent of the U.S. adult population–88 million people–took part in recreational boating for at least one day in the last year. The NMMA reported that 2012 saw the largest number of people go boating since 1990 when the organization began collecting data. Additionally, the recreational boating industry has a total economic impact of $121.5 billion in the U.S. each year, including $51 billion spent on approximately $12.4 million registered boats, meaning that big money has the potential to be both made and saved.
Further, on average, a ski boat goes unused for 95 percent of the year, meaning that tons of money is wasted on marina storage for individually-owned boats.
But despite the sunk coasts of storage fees, a large percentage of the boats used in peer-to-peer sharing are provided by small to medium size brick-and-mortar boat shops, reads the article. One of the biggest obstacles to fully inculcating the boating industry in a peer-to-peer system is the inability to differentiate between what registered rental boats are individually owned v. privately owned.
BoatBound, though, is an outlier, with 99 percent on the company’s boats being individually owned, according to founder Aaron Hall. The San Fran-based startup began on AngelList, and after only a few days, the startup already had hundreds of followers. The company has around 1,000 boats in its inventory, but will only rent a few hundred boats out a week.
BoatBound is just one of the 17 boating startups on AngelList, along with Incrediblue and GetMyBoat; however, each startup seems to be keeping to a different business model. Insurance, for one, acts as one of the major differentiators on the market. Some peer-to-peer boat sharing companies such as Yachtico offer insurance at checkout, while others like GetMyBoat simply make the coverage an option on their sites through third-parties. Other startups have partnered with BoatUS, a boating insurance that offers on-the-water towing if renters run out of gas or the battery dies.
It’s also important to note that insurance regulations vary by country. U.S.-based startups can force renters to get insurance or make it available to them, while many European countries require boats to already have accident protection by law.
I searched a handful of the pier-to-pier sites for rentals near Boston and Nantucket and found dozens of available skiffs and motorboats ready for renters. Seasonal weather is an inherent limitation to rallying individual owners around boat-sharing in New England. People often only use their personal boats in the summer, which is prime rental time. Once their precious two weeks of vacation is up, it makes sense fiscally for people to lend out their schooners and eager sea captain to offset high off-season maintenance and storage fees. Whether its through the participation of individuals or smaller boat rental shops, boat-sharing seems to be a trend fit for the Bay State.