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.