Cruising in a boat on the water sounds fantastic when you’re hot and sweaty in a D.C. summer. With the recent launch in D.C. of Boatbound, a peer-to-peer rental marketplace for boats, watercraft have joined the world of quickly arranged car rides, grocery delivery and apartment rentals. Boatbound frequently gets described as an Airbnb for boats with good reason, it’s the same principle of helping owners make a bit of cash when their property isn’t in use while giving those who only want to rent a boat for a little while to get to directly rent from owners. The San Francisco-based company runs listings in every state but Alaska, but D.C. has outstripped them all in demand, even though the company only started operating here last month.
“D.C. kind of came out nowhere as a market,” said Boatbound co-founder Aaron Hall. “A significant chunk of the rental requests come from the area.”
There’s less than a dozen boats listed in the D.C. area at the moment, ranging from a 40-foot yacht to a canoe, but Hall said that there are close to 70 in the approval pipeline that will soon be on the site. The rental costs of course vary widely, from $70 to $500 per day on the D.C. listings currently. Overall there are around 150 rentals a day arranged by Boatbound, and the number is growing. Investors have been interested too and the company raised a little over $1 million in early stage funding so far.
Boats might seem an odd choice for the peer-to-peer market (or “pier-to-pier” as described on the website), but Hall said there’s a interest by boat owners, who can use it to pay off any debt on the boat and lots of demand all over the world for the opportunity to rent them. Insurance and other guarantees are necessary of course, and it’s thanks to connections with major insurance players that Hall has been able to get comprehensive insurance, a million dollars in liability coverage, for the company to reassure any skittish boat owners or users.
“We needed to have that program in place to make this market work,” he said.
All of the owners and potential renters are carefully vetted to make sure that the boat is seaworthy and that any renters can handle the craft, whether it’s sailing, power boating or rowing that canoe. Hall does acknowledge that Boatbound is an extension of the model used by Airbnb, but without the regulatory and other hurdles faced by that company.
“Airbnb paved the way, but we’ve got all the big players behind us,” he said, “Even the Coast Guard have said they’re glad about us.”
Just since the beginning of the month, Boatbound rental requests have totaled close to $4 million, with a big spike likely coming for the Fourth of July and on into the depths of summer. Enthusiasm from the boat industry is also in part because boat users tend to be older and Boatbound is doing a good job of bringing in younger people into the field.
“Boating tends to skew older, but about 60 percent of our renters are 35 and under,” Hall said. “All of the important companies are paying attention.”
And it’s a pretty easy sell when it’s hot and humid, Hall said, perfect in D.C.
“It’s great for the owners and the people renting,” he said.
Images courtesy of Boatbound