The sharing economy has become common practice in recent years, with third-party services and apps popping up left and right to help those looking to make extra cash connect with those looking to rent. The range of things that can be brought into the sharing economy is never-ending. In fact, it’s not unusual to see consumers renting out their homes, bikes, cars, camping equipment, boats and other unique services to complete strangers online.
However, all this sharing comes with some unique challenges and risks that consumers don’t often consider before listing their items or services. Below, we break down what you need to know about the sharing economy, its pros and cons, and all the options you have available to start participating in this new consumer-to-consumer business model.
- Pros and Cons of the Sharing Economy
- How to Participate
- Sharing Economy Opportunities
What is the sharing economy?
The sharing economy is the term used to describe online platforms that connect consumers to each other, in order to sell or rent things to one another. What can be sold on these platforms varies widely. Physical items—such as homes, bicycles and cars—are the most common. However, services such as tutoring, personal training and cooking classes are often traded or purchased as well.
This complicated business model contains a wide range of different companies, many that serve as a third party host for consumers to connect, while others own rent out to consumers themselves. But luckily for consumers—and thanks to many user-friendly online platforms—getting involved in the sharing economy isn’t nearly as difficult as it seems.
Pros and cons of the sharing economy
Before jumping into the sharing economy, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of this extra revenue stream. While many people typically only see the benefits of renting out their spare items for cash, they fail to understand the amount of upkeep required or the wear and tear that can happen to these rented items over time.
Pros of the sharing economy include extra income opportunities, flexible schedule, ability to travel, and a positive environmental impact from redistributing the same product to others. The environmental impact may not be as obvious when renting out a home, for example, but is easily understood in car, equipment or tech rentals. The ability to choose a used option keeps people from making larger purchases on things they may only use once or twice.
However, as the sharing economy is a relatively new venture, there are little to no governmental regulations in place to help protect those involved. Although some services offer protection for users, some consumers will be required to obtain their own coverage to protect themselves and their items in case of lawsuit or damage. Those who can’t afford it simply go without, which can be a substantial risk. There are also safety issues that come into play, as many participants’ backgrounds aren’t properly vetted. In addition to these larger issues, the inconsistent income and eventual depreciation of used items are important cons to consider as well.
How to participate in the sharing economy
There are a variety of ways you can participate in this type of peer-to-peer economy, both as a landlord or a renter. Take stock of your inventory and what you frequently use, and consider lending out an old bike or rarely used equipment in your storage shed to make some extra money. Feel free to get creative — you may think that no one is interested in your older goods, but with a little bit of research, there is sure to be a market (or even an entire app) dedicated to those types of items.
One of the biggest categories in this space is home rentals. When considering renting out (or trying to rent) within this category, it’s important to understand that there are a lot of options. Homes, apartments, condos, individual rooms, couches and timeshares all qualify as a home rental, meaning that people can continue to live in their home, but with the opportunity to rent out a portion to make extra money.
Home rentals have skyrocketed in popularity over recent years as they provide a more personal alternative to hotels during vacations or business trips. They are often less expensive and provide more space as well. In addition to a cozier vibe, they are often scattered across the city, allowing renters the opportunity to pick exactly what part of town they want to stay in (and live like a local while they are at it).
Before we dive into the potential risks and fees you may face when signing up for these services, the benefits are worth discussing. Listing your home (or even your couch) online can provide an extra income which can help with mortgage payments. The price of your home will also fluctuate on most apps depending on the season and nearby events, meaning you have the opportunity to take advantage of peak pricing.
You also have the ability to control when and how long people can stay, providing you more flexibility than a long-term landlord. This way, if you want to have the house to yourself for one weekend or you have guests coming in who want to stay, you can easily adjust your property’s availability to fit your needs.
The most obvious risk of renting out your home, especially if you are living there while you rent parts of it out, is your safety. Your home is also at risk, as things could get damaged or stolen when a new guest comes to stay. Luckily, most companies are prepared for this. For example, Airbnb offers host protection insurance, which protects you in case of damages or a lawsuit. Although typical home insurance policies won’t protect Airbnb business transactions, you can apply for commercial insurance as an individual to give you added security.
Depending on the item you are looking to post, there are a lot of different services you can sign up for to connect you with the right people. Below are some of the most popular apps and websites, segmented by category.
Home and apartment
Transportation rentals are a hot commodity in major cities across the nation. You can choose to stay in control of your vehicle and sign up as a rideshare driver or make extra cash from your barely used car, RV or bicycle by allowing others to use it for short periods of time. Transportation rentals are most often used by those who traveled via plane but are looking for the freedom a vehicle can provide while at their destination.
Rarely used cars, boats, campers, and bikes are often sold for a fraction of the purchase price. If you still use these items on occasion, part-time rentals can be particularly appealing, as they allow you to make money without getting rid of the item altogether. If you don’t like the idea of trusting someone else with your vehicle, you can still make money by becoming a rideshare driver with companies like Uber and Lyft.
Car accidents and other damage to your vehicle is one of the top risks to consider before listing. Your private insurance won’t cover accidents when someone else is driving or even while you are driving for a rideshare company, and in fact, you run the risk of losing your car insurance altogether when signing up for these services. However, many companies offer protection for their customers that can help bridge the gap and keep you secure in the event of an accident.
Another pitfall of the sharing economy is that vehicle maintenance upkeep falls to the owner and can require a lot of extra work if the vehicle changes hands frequently. Oil changes will need to be performed as the mileage increases in addition to other routine maintenance checks. Most rideshare passengers tip based on the cleanliness of the car, meaning constant cleanups are required to ensure you are getting the most bang for your buck.
Below are some of the third party-services you can list your items on (or find a potential rental) to make some extra cash in the transportation category.
Equipment and skills
Miscellaneous equipment like technology, outdoor and camping gear and tools are more unique ways to participate in the sharing economy. However, tangible assets aren’t the only way to make money off your peers. Offering up your skills in conjunction with these equipment rentals is another great way to turn a profit off of what you already own (and what you are good at).
For example, those that are good with pets can sign up to walk or train unruly pups with extra treats and leashes they have lying around. Meanwhile, those with a garage full of workout equipment can rent their space out to others and offer personal training services on the side. With this sharing category, consumers have the opportunity to show off their skillset and easily make extra cash on the things they love.
Similar to home or transportation categories, the benefits of renting out your equipment and skills focus mainly on the added revenue stream. This category, however, offers you an opportunity to double up on income avenues. By renting out your items and offering an additional related service, you can find consumers already interested in what you’re selling and offer them an opportunity to become a client rather than just a renter. This allows for more flexibility, as you aren’t sacrificing necessities like your car or home to bring in that extra cash.
Damaged or stolen property is always a risk when renting out your items to others. Unfortunately, more unique items don’t offer much in the way of insurance coverage. This is especially true if you plan on listing items and services in a variety of categories, as most insurance coverage is sold over longer periods of time. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to double check the coverage and guidelines of the third-party service you are using before lending to ensure you will be covered in case of damage or property loss.
Once you’ve decided what you are interested in offering to the public, the next step is to find a service that allows you to post your items or services. Check out the list below to see your options for making extra money from your labor and hobbies.
Equipment and Technology
When used with proper precautions, the peer-to-peer sharing economy can be a fruitful addition to your current income. Besides the individual benefits, it also helps to bring communities together and reduce carbon emissions over time. If you are still wary about renting out your items to strangers, taking the extra measure of investing in non-owner car insurance or commercial insurance for individuals can help give you that extra peace of mind you need to get started.