Alt Boating

Peer-to-peer everything is hot right now, from Airbnb, where people rent space in someone’s house or apartment, to Uber, where drivers give others a ride in their personal car. The concept is quickly gaining traction in boating, on a smaller scale. Companies such as Boatbound, Cruzin, BoatSetter and GetMyBoat are options for boat owners who are looking to help pay for their boating habit by renting it out when they aren’t using it.

The keys for boat owners are insurance and qualifying potential renters to make sure an owner doesn’t put a rookie behind the wheel of his “baby.” For renters, the prices can vary wildly. Some spot checking revealed many prices that seem to be pretty high, as if the owners don’t really want to rent the boat but perhaps are listing it to appease a spouse. In my hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., on Boatbound, I saw an 18-foot, 10-year-old Sea Ray for rent for $600 a day, which seems steep unless a couple of bottles of Dom Perignon are included. Checking out Boatsetter, I saw a Sea Ray 340 for rent for only $129 a day; I was intrigued until I saw it had to remain tied to the dock and was only for sleeping aboard … doh! But most seemed to be reasonably priced.

Boat clubs have been around and seem to be gaining traction. It’s a concept that can make sense for people who like boating but prefer to leave the responsibility of ownership and maintenance to others. Freedom Boat Club and Carefree Boat Club are the biggest players and can be found in most decent-sized cities. Basically, members plunk down an initiation fee and pay monthly fees. After that, they can make reservations and take out one of “their” boats whenever they like. The only other cost is for the fuel they use. The initiation fee is lower for longer enrollment periods, and the numbers vary depending on location. Most of the clubs are independently owned or operated, so the products and cost of what members are “buying” vary greatly.

The devil is in the details, so spend some time researching the reputation of the potential locations. Look at the fleet itself. Some fleets are nearly new — some operators sell the boats as demos when they amass only 100 hours or so — while others can be well-used. One key is the number of members per boat; after all, members are competing with one another for the use of the fleet. Weekend reservations might be hard to come by, which can be a major source of discontentment. Check all the online reviews and contact the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been filed.

To me, there’s nothing like owning a boat, but for certain people, this sort of interval ownership might make sense. And for folks who aren’t sure if they will be into boating, it can be a good way to try before they buy.

Alan

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