A boat rental app looks to bring boating to the masses and it has proven popular in Central Florida

click to enlarge A boat rental app looks to bring boating to the masses and it has proven popular in Central Florida (2)
Image via GetMyBoat
In 2020, as the world closed down, many people rediscovered to benefits of being outside. Across the U.S., outdoor offerings from camping to road trips saw a dramatic uptick in interest.

During this wave, sharing economy app GetMyBoat saw a wave of new interest. The app is exactly what it sounds like, a platform for boat owners to rent out their vessels to folks in need. The service uses what is known as a bareboat charter, allowing boat owners to lease their boats to others while not in use.And Central Florida took to the idea in a big way.

After a record-breaking 2020, GetMyBoat saw a whopping 347 percent growth in the Orlando-Daytona region during 2021.

It was this type of growth that helped draw international attention to the California-based startup, with Japanese-based Yanmar buying a majority stake in the business. Best known for its agricultural and construction machinery, Yanmar has focused on growing its marine engines since the early 2000s.

GetMyBoat has worked with Yanmar since 2018 and, in that time saw the service surpass 150,000 active boats within the app, including over 115 within Central Florida. The service allows users to rent the boats directly, providing a revenue source for boat owners while their boats would otherwise sit unused. But it wasn’t until the pandemic that the app really took off. 2021 saw a 3,900 percent growth in activity on the GetMyBoat app with Miami the most popular globally on the app. It’s not just GetMyBoat that’s seen the increase. Similar concept Boatsetter also saw growth in 2021. That growing interest in boating can be seen in Florida where double-digit growth in boat sales have continued since before the pandemic.

The influx of $21 million in growth capital Yanmar is injecting into GetMyBoat is expected to cause even more expansion for the company resulting in an estimated two million users by the end of the year. In Central Florida, that means more than just improved weekend options for locals.

With more than 110 boats in the region and more being added by the day, GetMyBoat is rapidly changing how locals enjoy the region’s waterways. Unlike membership clubs, there are no monthly fees and the variety of boats on the app is more extensive than what most marinas offer. The service, which many compare to Airbnb is mostly focused on day trips but at least one houseboat on the service offers a monthly rental option. Despite the region’s extensive waterways, houseboats are still uncommon in many Central Florida communities.

In other regions with high housing costs, houseboats have become a solution some are turning to with houseboat communities now common in places in New York, San Francisco, and Long Beach. The solution has yet to catch on in Central Florida but improved access to boats in general, such via GetMyBoat, may help address that. At least one Florida-based startup is looking at 'floating houses' as both an affordable housing and climate change solution with housing solutions that can cost as little as $120,000 for houseboats that withstand the region's extreme weather.

Still, GetMyBoat is primarily focused on smaller boat options, with kayaks, ski boats, fishing boats, and pontoon boats making up the majority of the Central Florida listings. Among the more than 100 listed locally, the majority are also concentrated along coastal communities where marinas are more common and boat rentals don’t require accessing the owner’s backyard.

Even as many return to the office and finally feel comfortable eating inside a restaurant, the joys of nature that rediscovered these past two years will hopefully remain. For Central Floridians, partaking in the beauty the region has been so blessed is now easier than ever, and in the process may help alleviate the region’s critical affordable housing shortage.
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