Unique rental opportunities thanks to the sharing economy.
Have you heard of the sharing economy? Even if the term seems unfamiliar, there’s a good chance you’ve used some of the services in this unique business sector. If you’ve ever rented a private condo for the weekend using an online service or booked a ride that relies on someone’s personal vehicle rather than a cab, then you’ve participated in the sharing economy.
In Canada, the sharing economy is big business. Statistics Canada has found that in a 12-month period (to October 2016), people spent nearly $1.3 billion on ride-share services and private accommodation rentals alone. Over the years, the services making up the sharing economy have broadened to cover everything from renting a luxury handbag to booking a backyard pool.
Not sure what’s available in the peer-to-peer rental space? We’ve done a bit of research.
Need a ride?
The North American ride-share industry is dominated by the likes of Uber and Lyft, where you can request a driver using an app. With the growing interest in side gigs, a vehicle owner can sign up to be a driver and earn an income, while also having the flexibility to set their own schedule. But there are lots of newcomers on the scene that offer their own unique type of transportation service.
Families who opt out of owning a vehicle have the option of signing up for a car-share service. Companies such as Communauto and Zipcar offer flexible access to vehicle rentals in many cities across Canada, whether it’s for an hour or a few days. The car-share approach is different from traditional rental companies in that you are paying by the hour rather than a flat rate and you can usually find a car any time of day that you need one.
In Europe, there’s a sharing service called BlaBlaCar that connects drivers and passengers heading in the same direction. Founder Frédéric Mazzella of France created the service out of personal experience, when booking a bus or train to get home to see family proved very frustrating. After securing a car ride, he noticed that many vehicles on the road didn’t have any passengers, and his idea for a carpooling service was born. Is BlaBlaCar available in North America? Not yet.
A place to rest
There once was a time when planning a trip involved booking a hotel room. But thanks to the sharing economy, you now have much more choice about where to rest while on the road. It took a few years for Airbnb to gain some traction, but millions of people all around the world now use the site to book everything from shared rooms to houses, condos, cottages and even private islands. As this sector has blossomed, other accommodation alternatives have emerged with their own unique twists. Blueground specializes in connecting people who are looking for furnished digs to stay somewhere for a month or longer. And then there’s TrustedHousesitters, where you stay for free in exchange for looking after the place. Duties may include cutting the grass, feeding pets, watering plants and other chores outlined in the terms of agreement.
If your needs are simple, Couchsurfing might offer the perfect solution. This membership site connects travellers around the world who are either looking for a place to stay or have accommodation to offer. Hostelworld is another site helping to connect global travellers to more economical accommodation. You can easily reserve a hostel spot in the area you’re visiting, and the handy ratings system offers added comfort that there won’t be any surprises when you arrive at your home away from home.
If your idea of hitting the road means taking your sleeping accommodations with you, then renting a recreational vehicle might be the right choice. Services such as RVezy can connect you with a variety of recreational campers to suit your needs. And it’s a convenient service for RV owners who are happy to see their motorhome or trailer being used, rather than sitting idle.
Buy or rent?
Many communities have a tool rental business where you can rent anything from a power drill to a backhoe for a few hours or a few days. But thanks to the sharing economy, the rental space has seen significant growth. Need a ladder for a couple of hours? Maybe Sparetoolz can help. This peer-to-peer online service connects tool owners with people who need them. Renters get what they need for a reasonable price without the expense of buying something they may never use again. And the person with a workshop full of great gadgets can enjoy a bit of revenue from lending out a nail gun or specialty saw.
If your skis and bikes are collecting dust, Spinlister might be able to get them working for you. This sports rental site connects gear owners with people in need. This can be an ideal solution for travellers who don’t want to lug gear along.
Need a wardrobe boost that won’t break the budget? Check out Beyond the Runway. With a focus on high-end fashion, this online service gives clients access to a wide range of designer items, from office wear to ball gowns to handbags. Items can be rented for a few days or a few months depending on the subscription package you choose.
Book a backyard
Putting underutilized items to good use helps others, and in some cases can even foster a greater sense of community. Take, for instance, the backyard pool. When the heat of summer hits, it becomes the most popular spot in the neighbourhood. This concept has sparked a unique type of sharing business called Swimply. Pool owners can rent out their splashy space by the hour – perfect for private swimming lessons or a family pool party.
Maybe you have a really unique home, backyard setting or business? If so, Peerspace might be the right fit. This site links property owners with people looking for just the right venue to host a party, have a meeting or even shoot a film.
If your idea of a perfect afternoon is venturing out on the water, then you should know about Getmyboat. This service connects watercraft owners with water enthusiasts who want to rent everything from jet skis to yachts to fishing charters. You can also request a captain to handle the controls, removing that level of stress from your floating adventure.
These are just a few examples of how the sharing economy is changing how we think about buying versus borrowing. And as this space continues to evolve, the sky’s the limit on whatever might be next for connecting and sharing with others.
 Statistics Canada, “The sharing economy in Canada,” The Daily, February 28, 2017, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/daily-quotidien/170228/dq170228b-eng.pdf.