In 2020, as the world has shut down, many people have rediscovered the benefits of being outdoors. In the United States, outdoor offerings, from camping to road trips, have seen a dramatic increase in interest.
During this wave, the 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 boats to people in need. The service uses what is called a bareboat charter, allowing boat owners to rent their boats to others when not in use. And Central Florida has embraced the idea in a big way.
After a record-breaking 2020, GetMyBoat saw phenomenal growth of 347% in the Orlando-Daytona area in 2021.
It was this kind of growth that helped bring international attention to the California-based startup, with Japanese company Yanmar buying a majority stake in the company. 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 during that time the service has surpassed 150,000 active boats in the app, including more than 115 in Central Florida. The service allows users to rent the boats directly, providing a source of income for boat owners while their boats would otherwise sit idle. But it wasn’t until the pandemic that the app really took off. 2021 saw a 3,900% growth in activity on the GetMyBoat app, with Miami being the most popular in the world on the app. It’s not just GetMyBoat that has seen the increase. A similar Boatsetter concept also saw growth in 2021. This growing interest in boating can be seen in Florida, where double-digit growth in boat sales has continued since before the pandemic.
The influx of $21 million in growth capital that Yanmar is injecting into GetMyBoat is expected to drive even more expansion for the company, resulting in around two million users by the end of the year. In Central Florida, that means more than just improved weekend options for locals.
With over 110 boats in the area and more added every day, GetMyBoat is rapidly changing the way locals enjoy the area’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 primarily focused on day trips, but at least one houseboat in the service offers a monthly rental option. Despite the area’s extensive waterways, houseboats are still rare in many central Florida communities.
In other areas 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 improving access to boats in general, such as through GetMyBoat, can help solve this problem. At least one Florida-based startup is considering “floating homes” 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 extreme weather conditions of the region.
Still, GetMyBoat primarily focuses on smaller boat options, with kayaks, ski boats, fishing boats, and pontoon boats making up the majority of Central Florida listings. Of the more than 100 listed locally, the majority are also concentrated along coastal communities where marinas are more common and boat rentals do not require access to the owner’s backyard.
Although many are returning to the office and finally feeling comfortable eating inside a restaurant, the joys of nature rediscovered in the past two years will hopefully remain. For Central Floridians, enjoying the beauty the area has been so blessed with is now easier than ever, and in doing so, can help alleviate the critical shortage of affordable housing in the area.