Take a look at the picture above. It’s a screen shot of a Boatsetter page for boats you can charter in Miami. That’s a great opportunity if you’re visiting on business or a vacation and want to charter a boat for a day or evening a few hours. It’s also an opportunity for boat owners who want to make some money off a vessel that otherwise would be sitting empty and unused for that same day or evening. Sounds like a win-win situation. Is it?
In a sense, Boatsetter, with its headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, is a marine example of a sharing economy; an Airbnb on the water. The South Florida Business Journal says it now has 10,000 vessels from19 to 150 feet, and it’s growing rapidly. Most requests are for boats between 19 and 30 feet, where the renter does the driving him- (or her) self.
Boatsetter provides the insurance, although the renter pays the cost of the insurance in a standard user contract. But the boat owner doesn’t need to carry a separate, expensive commercial marine insurance policy. The boat owner meets the potential renter at the boat for a routine orientation; the owner has the ability to kill the deal then if the renter doesn’t seem right. If the boat is larger than 35 feet, Boatsetter recommends that the renter hire a Coast Guard-licensed captain; the company has a database of captains in each of its 300 locations.
The Boatsetter rentals can be very profitable for boat owners. Jackie Baumgarten, the Boatsetter CEO, says one of their Miami users made $150,000 a year with a 27-foot powerboat. That’s a lot of rentals.
Even if most owners make much less than that, the idea of monetizing your boat is very appealing. A recent study by the National Marine Manufacturers Association said that even people who describe themselves as “active boaters” only use their boats for an average of 71.5 hours a season. That leaves a lot of hours when their boats are just sitting at the dock, while the owner still has to for pay a slip, insurance, a loan (if any), and routine maintenance and repairs.
A straight charter operation is much more traditional way to make money with your boat, but charters are geared toward larger boats and yachts. That’s where the owner generally hires a charter management company to take over the management of the charter business for the boat. In most cases, boat owners also form an LLC with a separate bank account to protect themselves if anything goes wrong with the charter. Read more: