NEW YORK - Cars, apartments, prom dresses and even surf boards. Those a just a few of the items people can rent directly from other private individuals in today’s robust sharing economy, which was recently valued at $26 billion. The Internet makes peer-to-peer commerce easy with secure online payments, photos, reviews, and even social networking opportunities.
With more than one billion cars in the world, RelayRides helps owners put their idle cars to work.
Anas Kasawat made more than $1,000 this month.
"I’ve always thought why can’t I rent my own car, and it was hard to find the right insurance, and no one would do it. So RelayRides was the perfect choice in the end," said Kasawat.
Security and safety are big concerns in the sharing economy. The international ride sharing service "Uber" was recently criticized for not responding to customers' concerns regarding accidents and theft.
But RelayRide’s million-dollar policy helps build consumer confidence behind the wheel. Its unique inventory of electric, luxury and stick shift models makes it fierce competition for traditional rental companies.
The software driven service is 35 percent less expensive than traditional rental companies in major metropolitan areas. But economics are only part of the reason people are using technology to share, says RelayRides CEO Andre Haddad.
"I think a lot of people are sensitive to their footprint. Their societal footprint, their environmental footprint, and, when you think about all the cars that are out there that could be better utilized and we’ll have less need for more cars, that also is a big motivation for a lot of our users in listing out their cars on RelayRides," said Haddad.
Daryn Swanson rents out his bikes on "Spinlister." For him, it’s all about connections and community.
"I just like the idea of sharing my things, I have three or four bikes and I don’t use them all at the same time, so I thought it was a good way to meet some people and share what I have," said Swanson.
For Spinlister’s Andrew Batey, the sharing economy means connecting like-minded people with a shared passion.
“I really see that everywhere. We’re in 66 countries now. I could go to Bangladesh and feel the same way about biking as I do," said Batey.
And, when Swanson’s bike was not returned on time, he was pleased with Spinlister’s reaction.
“They were so good about it, they gave me a credit, and they were very helpful, like immediate responses. Part of that might be the size; they’re still pretty small, I believe, and you get a lot more personal attention with that," he said.
An independent survey commissioned by Spinlister says only 4 percent of Americans use even the most popular sharing services.
"That’s not a critical mass at all. I think that at the end of the day that companies that will be here in ten years in the sharing economy space are the ones that focus on customer service and making sure that everyone on both sides is as happy as possible," said Batey.
For now, bikers and drivers in New York can enjoy the ease and affordability of sharing. As the industry grows, though, its technology and services are likely to be challenged.