By Julie Ann
In this Economy Rent Anything and Rent Everything
A few weeks ago I was walking downtown with a friend. As we passed several people with their dogs, we began having a discussion about how we would like to occasionally have a dog to walk for fun, even though we don’t want to actually own one. A rent-a-dog, if you will. A few days later I stumbled upon an article and found out that this is actually a real thing. And as it turns out, you can rent just about anything.
Sparked by the downturn in the economy, people have come up with some pretty creative ideas to both save and make money. Renting just about anything instead of buying is how you save, renting just about anything you already own is how you make money. So how do you take advantage of this new trend and jump on the rental bandwagon?
Obviously the quickest way to find things for rent (or post your rentable items) is the Internet. CraigsList is the most well-known, but sites such as Rentalic, Snapgoods, Rentabilities and Zilok will connect you with people who have items to loan or people who want to rent what you own.
Let’s say your friend invites you on a bike ride next weekend but you don’t own a bicycle. You know this is a one-time deal, so you don’t want to shell out a couple hundred bucks for a new bike and you don’t know anyone with an extra bike you can borrow. So you log onto one of these sites and sign up as a borrower. Once you are signed-up and approved, you can search for a bicycle within your area. Meanwhile another user has a bike that she rarely uses, so she lists it as available to rent for $5 a day. This looks like a great bike for you to use for the weekend, so you put in a request to rent her bike from Friday night to Sunday afternoon.
You will either use the site’s transaction service (i.e. PayPal) to pay the bike’s owner or arrange to pay her the money at the designated meeting time. You may also be required to pay a site transaction fee and also put down a security deposit (in case you crash and mangle the bike). Once the details have been arranged, you meet the owner, take the bike for the weekend and meet again to return it at the end of the rental period.
As always, if you choose to engage in this kind of Internet transactions, use excellent judgment and exercise caution when meeting with strangers. Carefully read reviews and check out the product thoroughly to ensure you are getting the best rental price. Some rental sites will allow you to only see products listed by an approved network of users, for example your Facebook friends, so you know that you are dealing with a trusted source.
So what if you live in a small town or are just too leery of renting to/from strangers? Consider starting your own mini-network. For example, my church has a Web site where people can list items they would like
to borrow. A private Facebook group would be the perfect place to start a rental network among your friends, co-workers or neighborhood associations. Of course, a less formal way to rent is to simply ask a friend or neighbor or let someone you know rent from you.
Now that you know how to rent, you may be wondering what you can rent. The answer is pretty much anything. Power, lawn and garden tools, party and event decorations (bouncy houses, popcorn poppers, chairs, dishes,) electronics (digital cameras, GPS units, musical instruments,) and leisure items (boats, camping, fishing and sporting equipment) seem to be among the most popular. Maybe you have company coming that needs some special equipment: baby gates or swings, or a bedside toilet for Great Grandma. If you need something, there is probably someone out there willing to let you use it for a price.
A few other caveats about renting items: if you rent an item be respectful and return the item in as good as (or better) condition than which you received it (especially if you put down a security deposit that you don’t wish to lose.) If you are renting out an item (such as a power tool) make sure that you are covered against any liability that could result should the borrower be injured or otherwise harmed using your item. And as with anything, always read the fine print and be sure you know exactly what you are doing before signing up with any site or making any sort of agreement.
So the next time I get the urge to take a dog for a nice walk, I just might see if one is available to rent in my neighborhood. I always wanted to own a mastiff for a day.