One of the big impacts of the Internet has been the enabling of peer-to-peer transactions (P2P). We all know of the impact of Napster, the music file-sharing program, and of success of the online auction system eBay.
One idea whose time may be coming is peer-to-peer renting or property sharing. The relatively recent company Rentalic is an online marketplace where people or businesses can find and reserve almost anything from owners in their area — both goods and services. This includes everyday items we all own like tools, cameras, and lawnmowers to name a few, or even cars.
The idea from the founder, Punsri Abeywickrema, is that people have a lot of things that are just sitting idle much of the time and could be used by others if they were made available.
Rentalic allows anyone to set up a rental store to make their items available and the software takes care of the logistics like scheduling, payment and security deposits through PayPal. Like eBay, the integrity of participants is verified using both renter and borrower feedback. The result is the classic “win-win” — by facilitating rentals and sharing already available local resources, money is to be made by the owner and saved by the borrower.
For automobiles, car-sharing services like ZipCar are evolving into true person-to-person car sharing. This idea is especially interesting for people that have second cars that may sit idle for long periods at a time. These underutilized cars can be turned into revenue to help cover ownership. On the flip side, the burden of car ownership can be lifted for people who have only sporadic needs for a vehicle.
In some of the services, renters and owners must meet strict criteria. The owner’s car even can be fitted with special equipment so a personal meeting doesn’t have to take place.
To help respond to insurance concerns, California has recently passed a law that promotes personal vehicle sharing by removing insurance threats of canceling coverage for people who renting out their vehicles.