The Perfect Second Income Stream: Rent Out Your Stuff

by Emily Guy Birken · 13 comments

After the two-decade shopping binge that was the 90s and 2000s, pretty much every American can claim an enormous abundance of once-used, rarely-used or even never-used stuff lying around the house. Back when the economy was booming and credit flowed like water, needing to use a tool once was a good enough reason to go out and buy it. But once the recession hit, many individuals found themselves looking for extra money, but unwilling to sell off their stuff. Luckily, somewhere out there is someone who needs to temporarily use the stuff you have and is willing to pay you for the privilege.

That’s the basic idea behind a new method of rental income. Websites like rentalic.com, zilok.com, and snapgoods.com allow you to offer up your goods for rent. Though most people don’t think about renting items other than apartments, cars, movies, or possibly sporting goods — and all of those from a rental agency — there is a real need for the ability to use an item temporarily. Not only does it save the renter money, but it also helps the environment, and generates income for the owner. It’s a win-win-win.

How It Works

Though each of these websites have slightly different usage policies, they all have the same basic set up. Owners post items that they are willing to rent out, including pictures and rates. Each site requires that you accurately represent the condition of the item, so there won’t be any “this looks different from the photo” moments. The renter pays a security deposit, then meets with the owner to borrow the item. In most cases, the balance of the rental (minus the security deposit) is due when the item is returned.

Each site takes a percentage of each rental out of the security deposit. While zilok.com allows renters to pay the owner directly, the other two sites require payment via PayPal.

What Can Be Rented

Pretty much anything you can think of, within reason. Services cannot be rented out, nor can illegal, hazardous, or potentially dangerous items, such as firearms, fireworks, or gambling equipment. Each website lists which items are specifically prohibited by that site.

One item you might want to consider renting out is your car. Travelers to your area could pay a great deal less than they would for a traditional rental car, and you could earn some cool cash by hoofing it or taking the bus for a few days.

When Things Go Wrong

It’s natural that an owner might be concerned that their guitar/power tool/stroller might be returned broken. There are recourses for items returned in anything other than the condition in which they left the house. Zilok.com offers a rental agreement template that both renter and owner must sign that stipulates what will happen should the item be lost or damaged. Snapgoods.com guarantees that the site itself will replace or fix any item that doesn’t survive a rental. Rentalic.com does not assume any liability for lost or damaged items, so if you use that site, it is in your best interest to draw up a rental agreement with the renter on your own.

Other problems include renters (or owners) who do not show up as planned. Each site allows you to review the renter, the owner, and the item — similar to eBay’s review system — so that you can help keep no-shows from happening to other users.

Importance of Location

Becoming what the Daily Beast’s Rob Baedeker calls a “rentrepreneur” is much easier for those who live in a major metropolitan area or at a vacation destination. In my small town of Lafayette, Indiana, not a single other individual has signed up for any of these services. So until this trend truly becomes widespread, only city-dwellers may be able to take advantage of it.

The Bottom Line

There is no reason why your stuff shouldn’t be going to work for you. Since you’re not using it anyway, you might as well get some cash, help someone save money, and be good to the environment. All in all, a great deal.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily January 27, 2012 at 9:48 am

That’s the problem: if other people don’t want it, there’s kind of no use. Interesting idea, though.

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Long January 27, 2012 at 8:32 pm

For myself, I think that I’d rather sell old stuff that I’m not using rather than to deal with the hassle of renting it. I wonder though, for the car rental service, how insurance is handled if the renter would to be involved in a collision. I would imagine that a personal auto insurance policy would not cover commercial use of a vehicle that you own.

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Nancy January 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm

@Long, but if you sell that item, then you’ve only made money once. If you rent it, you can make money over and over. I love the renting idea for those items I still want to own, but only use occasionally, like a power washer, garden tiller, camping gear, party stuff (tables, chairs), etc.

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Kurt January 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm

The latest thing in carsharing is called P2P, or peer-to-peer. Available now in some cities, you can turn your car into a profit center by sharing it with others. You get a part of the usage fees paid by anyone driving your car. Interesting idea; we’ll see if the idea spreads.

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Marbella January 29, 2012 at 3:58 am

One of my neighbors has a large plot of land, 15,000 m2 of which he is not used totally, and he made a part of the corner the plot to a football plan with perfect grass carpet and goals that he rents out as a training plan to the local football club for $ 500 a year.

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Karan January 30, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I wonder though, for the car rental service, how insurance is handled if the renter would to be involved in a collision.

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Jeff Crews January 30, 2012 at 5:08 pm

People will literally do anything to gain some extra money. I might need to see if anyone will want to rent a dog that fetches anything. You think I could get someone to rent him out?

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Emily Guy Birken January 31, 2012 at 9:13 am

@Jeff Crews, if you read the Daily Beast article I linked to in the piece, you’ll find that Rob Baedeker actually managed to rent out his dog for $3. So you never know!

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Jeff Crews January 31, 2012 at 11:16 am

Oh my. It is worse than I thought. :)

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Shawanda @ You Have More Than You Think February 1, 2012 at 4:00 am

I have a bike I haven’t used in years, but that I don’t want to get rid of. For a brief moment, while reading your article, I thought about renting it out. But I’m afraid of what’ll happen if someone gets injured while using it. These days, even if the user is totally at fault, they find some way to attribute their injuries to you. My fear of getting hit with a lawsuit makes me reluctant to try this – at least with certain items.

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Thad P February 3, 2012 at 5:48 am

The neighborhood I live in is not all that large (several hundred homes), but we are 15 miles from the next largest town. Renting out my stuff might make sense if the marketing is localized.

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Maggie@SquarePennies February 9, 2012 at 9:40 am

This is a great idea, but I would ask my insurance agent what my liabilities are. Overall, I’d rather just sell something to not have to worry about that. Some people just love to sue.

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Philip February 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Renting out your car would be a very bad idea. If the lessee has no insurance you could be stuck when your auto carrier declines coverage if the lessee is involved in an accident. Personal lines policies aren’t designed to cover commercial exposures. Additionally, if you do this you may not be insulated from loss in a serious accident or fatality and you would be personally liable and your assets could become at risk. If you rent tools, you would also be liable if a tool is said to function incorrectly and cause property damage or injury. You would need a renter’s contract as well as a hold harmless agreement.

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