To Rent or Not to Rent: Boating and the Peer-to-Peer Market

Renting your boat or yacht to someone for a few hours – or days – might help you make a little extra cash, but pay attention to the details.

STATEWIDE—Sharing is caring – such is the theme, at least in spirit, of the sharing economy, which has given rise to a variety of new peer-to-peer business experiences like Uber, Lyft and AirBnB. The boating world is not immune to the tentacles of the sharing economy, with thousands of boats listed for short-term rentals on AirBnB or VRBO. Boaters might also be aware of the peer-to-peer boat rental network, Boatsetter. Allowing others to use your boat to make a little extra cash might sound like an ideal side hustle, but what should you know before allowing someone to pay you a fee for the right to use your boat for a few hours (or days)? Should cities and counties, just the same, step in and regulate the boat sharing economy, along the same lines they have tried to do with AirBnB’s land-based rentals?

There are no easy answers, of course, though BoatUS, in a May 16 blog post on its website, listed five tips boaters should take into consideration when engaging in peer-to-peer boat renting. The tips were: know your liabilities; know your coverage; be prepared for unexpected breakdowns; going bareboat or captaining your rental; and, do your due diligence (safety training, check identification, etc.).

The Log featured a story on “Boat-and-Breakfasts” in July 2015, where tourists would look to rent a boat, instead of a hotel, on their travels. We explored whether the marketplace should allow crowd sourcing at local marinas.

But who is responsible if something happens? Is there a situation where a short-term boat rental would be considered an illegal charter? Can a boat owner double as a qualified captain should the rental indeed labeled as a charter? What about marina security – will allowing new people to regularly visit the docks pose certain risks for other boaters?

Regulating short-term rentals in the boating world hasn’t really shown up on the radar. The topic has rarely been covered in the media – The Log hasn’t covered the issues in-depth since our 2015 story; the Los Angeles Times took a look at the subject in 2016, while had a feature on short-term boat rentals in 2013. Miami Herald hailed GetMyBoat as the AirBnB of boating.

Short-term boat rentals aren’t popping up on harbor commission or city council agendas, just the same. A casual perusing of recent marina newsletters doesn’t reveal short-term boat rentals to be a hot topic discussion item, especially not in the same context as, say, copper reduction mandates, ethanol, fishing license reform and other boating issues.

The lack of attention or discussion, however, does not diminish the need to address short-term boat rentals – both practically and from a regulation standpoint. Cities, counties and states are still trying to figure out how best to manage the sharing economy – especially considering the individual liability and marina security issues at stake.

In what way, in context of everything written above, should the issue of short-term boat rentals be framed? Do we first acknowledge the sharing economy as the new norm, and if so, then whether short-term boat rentals should be an acceptable activity at all marinas and harbors? Where else do we go from there? Should we require all short-term boat rentals to have a qualified captain with U.S. Coast Guard certification? What should the insurance requirements look like, assuming we’d require the boat owner to be insured in the first place? Will marinas be given leverage to regulate or manage security issues, as part of an attempt to alleviate the potential concerns of neighboring boaters? What about a curfew, particularly for renters who might uses the boat rental for a large party?

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3 thoughts on “To Rent or Not to Rent: Boating and the Peer-to-Peer Market

  • June 7, 2019 at 7:31 am

    Boat sharing gives more people the opportunity to go boating; It exposes more people to our sport. Young people who don’t want to invest in a boat (or the time and expense to maintain it) can still enjoy being on the water. Many of these people will eventually buy boats. And those that already own a boat can often pay for their moorage just by renting their boat a few times a year.

    One issue is how they are insured. Virtually all recreational policies prohibit renting your boat. Boatsetter has partnered with BoatU.S. to provide customized insurance that protects both parties. The only other choice is a charter policy, which typically is much more expensive. Having the proper insurance is key to making sure other boaters and even marina facilities are protected from damage by a renter.

    Most renters appear to be respectful of others at the marina. They’re plunking down a good chunk of cash, as well as a hefty deposit to enjoy a boat and are usually well vetted by their owners.

  • July 2, 2019 at 9:32 pm

    The City of Newport Beach is making a great mistake in the inconceivable relocation of the Lido Firehouse to the Balboa Peninsula. This action is being funded by the Council in spite of several objective findings of consultants that suggest this essential public safety facility should be either rebuilt in-place or moved somewhat closer to Hoag Hospital. Fire defense posture and emergency medical response criteria all speak to the importance of seconds under life saving circumstances. By relocating the Lido Firehouse away from the service district deeper into the Balboa Peninsula will add critical minutes to the response time to residents of Lido Island, Newport Heights and Newport Shores communities.
    There is an old adage in fire management circles; “you cannot move a firehouse from an established neighborhood, and you cannot move a firehouse into an established community.” When the three response apparatus are moved to proposed 28th Street/Newport Boulevard location the residents there will be surprised to learn that together the engine company, truck company and paramedic ambulance respond to ten thousand code three (red lights & siren) calls for service annually. This noise will greatly impact the surrounding community.
    A more appropriate location for this new firehouse would be to move this facility to 3700 Central Avenue, adjacent to the Elks Lodge. This is ideally located according to the objective findings of the aforementioned city funded consultant studies and the property is already owned by the City of Newport Beach. Further, this would provide the ability to construct a boathouse being the new Lido Firehouse, something that the Newport Beach Fire Department desperately needs to provide essential fire suppression capability on the water in Newport Harbor.



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Standing Watch/Take Action

In this section you will find resources and supplemental information on what you can do to Take Action. Submit additional information or tips on this issue to

Potentially regulating the short-term boat rental space remains raw and under-developed. There are so many opportunities to figure out the space – which means boaters have the unique opportunity to help shape the discussion. Reach out to these policymakers, lobbyists and thought leaders and start the discussion on what the future of short-term boating rentals should like.


Marine Recreation Association
Mark Sandoval


Recreational Boaters of California
Ray Durazo


National Association of State Boating Law Administrators
John Johnson, CEO


California Division of Boating and Waterways

Ramona Fernandez, Acting Deputy Director


Randy Short, DBW Commission member


The Apex Group
Bret Gladfelty


U.S. Senators

Sen. Dianne Feinstein
Twitter: @SenFeinstein


Sen. Kamala Harris
213-894-5000, 619-239-3884
Twitter: @KamalaHarris


U.S. Representatives

Rep. Ted Lieu
323-651-1040, 202-225-3976, 310-321-7664
Twitter: @TedLieu


Rep. Alan Lowenthal
562-436-3828, 202-225-7924
Twitter: @RepLowenthal