I used to rent out rooms in my house and an extra parking space in my driveway. But I never considered charging strangers to use my other possessions, like my canoe or hammock, until I discovered peer-to-peer renting.
That’s right — turn your “stuff” into an income source by renting it out through websites like Zilok.com. We’ve previously looked at how to rent out your car, but that’s just scratching the surface: use these websites to rent out almost anything you own.
Or at least that’s the theory. Let’s take a closer look at how the sites work and what you could earn.
How Peer-to-Peer Renting Works: A Case Study of Zilok
Suppose a guy wants to assemble a deck, but doesn’t want to buy an expensive cordless drill that he’ll never use again. He might be happy to rent yours for $10 per day. And rather than selling your dining room table for $40 at a rummage sale, rent it out to college students for $40 per semester. Makes sense, right?
But are people actually using these peer-to-peer rental platforms? It’s difficult to determine.
Zilok came to the U.S. in 2007, and seven years later, it’s hard to find more than a few user experiences reported online. If you read the reviews on the company’s website, it’s clear that things are being rented. For example, a listing for a poker table that rents for $45 per day has a couple of good comments from renters. But it appears in that case and others it is rental companies profiting, not average users. Perhaps the average user, on the income side, is a rental company.
The peer-to-peer rental concept probably works best in larger metropolitan areas. At the moment, for the medium-sized town where I live, there is exactly one listing on Zilok.com: a Batman costume for $10 per day. The site’s homepage lists recently rented items, but the same ones have been there for a few days, so it isn’t clear how much rental activity is actually going on.
Other Places to Rent Out Your Stuff
It seems that all of the rental websites are in need of some development before they become very useful. When I visited Rentything.com, for example, I immediately saw a bicycle for rent in Dublin, Ireland and a purse for rent in Elk River, Minnesota, one right after the other, even though these markets are thousands of miles apart.
Clicking the “Find Me” button took me to an otherwise blank page for my own location that said, “It’s a little lonely here. Be the first to add something!” Apparently the website is not widely used in this part of Florida. But the good news is that you don’t have to pay anything to list or rent your things.
On Loanables.com, entering my zip code resulted in the display of nine items for rent, including a folding bicycle ($25 per day), an air compressor ($10 per day) and a heavy duty extension cord ($5 per day). It’s not clear whether owners are regularly renting out their things, since detailed contact information is only given once you pay.
Loanables charges a flat 10% commission on rentals, with a $1 minimum. If you’re not sure how much to charge for the use of your things, typical rental company charges are listed on a price guide, which can be useful regardless of which website you ultimately use.
What’s the Best Site for Renting Your Stuff?
Which website has more than 30 million visitors per month and lets you to advertise for free? It is, of course, Craigslist.org. And although there isn’t a specific category for rentals of household items, people regularly rent things on the site. Entering “for rent” in the search box for the Tampa, Florida area, I quickly found a children’s bounce house, a boat trailer, chairs, kayaks and even a yard for rent.
To rent out your things on Craigslist, just list them in the appropriate “for sale” section. People who thought they wanted to buy something might be happy to just rent it. This is especially true of furniture if you’re in an area where people live seasonally, like Florida or any college town. It costs you nothing to try renting out various items, and you can easily renew your ad with a click or two every couple days.
You might also try selling and renting your things in the same ad, setting the purchase price high enough that the rental fee looks reasonable and you’ll be happy if you happen to get a sale.
Until the peer-to-peer rental sites get their act together, Craigslist may be the best place to generate extra income renting out that pressure cooker, area rug or wheelbarrow. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it!)
Things to Consider
Of course, renting out your things comes with some legal issues. For example, if a renter cuts himself with your power saw, he could sue you. Also, since your rental fees could be considered business income, you may have to pay self-employment taxes.
The Complete Lawyer recommends that you get a decent security deposit, take photos of your things before renting them out, have your renter sign a contract, and consult an attorney about local, state and federal tax obligations.
Then there is the commission you pay, depending on the site you list through. Even though it’s free to list your items, when and if you rent them to someone, you’ll be paying Zilok a transaction fee of up to 10% of your earnings.
If you do give this a try, start with simple items that don’t have much value and aren’t easily damaged. A renter could break a lawnmower or hurt himself with it, but these outcomes are less likely with patio furniture or an unused tent. And realistically, you can probably put off any worries about tax consequences until after you make a few hundred dollars (but don’t take that as qualified legal advice).
Your Turn: Have you ever rented out your things for extra income, and did you use any of the websites mentioned? Tell us about your experiences.