Like auto sharing and vacation rentals by owner, it was only a matter of time before somebody got the idea to create a similar Web-based marketplace for boat rentals.
Two South Florida-based entrepreneurs have just launched competing online ventures connecting boat owners with prospective renters. And both are working to convince locals to try out their sites as a way of defraying costs of boat ownership.
BoatforRent.com started up late last month by partners Zsombor Vasvari and Sabie Valner, based in Boca Raton. The site offers about 2,000 sail and powerboats for rent from 15 feet up to 62 feet located in Europe, Canada, South America, the Caribbean and Africa — but none in South Florida yet.
Vasvari said most of the boats are owned by charter companies paying his company a commission. To encourage more private boaters to jump on board — especially in South Florida — he is offering free listings for a year for owners with fewer than five boats.
“We want to find the best way to serve the boaters with this website,” Vasvari said.
BoatforRent.com provides tips for owners on how to verify prospective renters’ identities, credit-worthiness and boating experience. It includes a link for the boat owner to apply for a short-term insurance policy covering the rental. Vasvari encourages owners to meet renters face-to-face for a test drive.
“Upon handing over the boat, go for a ride with the renter to see if the other person is able to handle it,” he advised. “Boat owners can decline a transaction at any time.”
By contrast, rival Cruzin.com — created by management consultant Jaclyn Baumgarten and partner Mark Harrison and based at Harbour Towne Marina in Dania Beach — promises to perform a bit more hand-holding for its customers.
Cruzin.com is in the test-marketing phase, gauging local interest by inviting boat owners to log onto the site and trying to build inventory over the next few months. The company will hold an open-house at 6:30 p.m. May16 at I.T. Parker Community Center, located at the marina.
The website will focus on power- and sailboats up to 45 feet based in the U.S., connecting owners with experienced skippers only, and handling the entire transaction for a percentage of the rental rate. Cruzin.com pledges to insure both owners and renters for up to $1 million in hull and liability coverage and provide on-water towing service by BoatUS.
The company will perform identity verification, fraud protection, and credit checks on prospective renters through Experian, and will require proof of at least two years of experience operating the type and size of boat requested, Baumgarten said.
“If you are not an experienced boater, you will not qualify for our program,” she said.
Like BoatforRent.com, Cruzin.com encourages owners to meet face-to-face before closing the deal.
Once the website takes off, it will include a feature similar to TripAdvisor where owners and renters can write about their experiences.
Said Baumgarten: “It’s about creating a technological network that’s based on trust.”