In January, I wrote an in-depth piece about a startup called ShareGrid that is solving many of the inherent pains of renting equipment to and from strangers. And there are certainly many pains, ranging from insurance woes to the psychologically traumatic experience of renting your precious gear to random internet dwellers. Well-received though it was, ShareGrid is still in its private beta in Los Angeles, which means that if you're looking to leverage an online peer-to-peer marketplace, you'll have to look for another option.
As of today, CameraLends is that option, as they just opened up their massive online marketplace to the entirety of the United States. Here are a few quick videos that detail what CameraLends is, how it works, and why it matters.
It works like this: just type in the gear that you're looking for, type in your location and the date that you want to pick up the gear, and CameraLends will show you everything matching that description in your area. It looks like this:
You can then send a request to the owner of your desired rental gear. If they approve your request, you're off to the races and you can then coordinate your pickup, return, and payment options. Once the rental equipment is returned, each party can review and rate their experience, and these reviews and ratings show up on each user's public profile, which helps other users navigate the process of deciding who they should rent to or from.
Speaking of security, here's a brief rundown of how CameraLends tackles the issues of payment processing and ensuring that those who rent out their gear don't get screwed by careless or shady renters:
- Is the community safe? Definitely. The community is made of pre-screened professionals and hobbyists who understand the value of the gear they hold. We verify the identity of every new member before their first rental is approved, requiring mailing address, phone number, and record of professional history to ensure trust and safety for all. After each successful rental, members are peer-reviewed which appear on their public profiles.
- How are payments handled? All payments and transfers to owners are made securely on CameraLends through Stripe, our payment processor. Stripe is certified to PCI Service Provider Level 1, the most stringent level of certification. We hold onto the Renter’s payment and disburse the majority to Owners once the rental is returned and marked complete.
- What happens if my gear is damaged or lost? We understand accidents happen, and we know how much your gear means to you. That’s why we guarantee your gear will be fully replaced and fixed in the case of damage or loss. We offer a damage waiver to Renters’ that reduces their responsibility, but we’ll step in regardless and next-day ship to make things right as soon as possible.
- What prevents the Renter from just keeping the gear? Video and photo equipment is expensive, so the risk of theft is naturally there. That’s why we do our best to ensure our community is peer-reviewed and pre-screened before any rental is accepted and in their hands. In the event of theft, we have the Renter’s credit card information, mailing address, phone number and verified identity to follow-up with the local authorities. Either way, the Owner’s gear will be fully replaced and taken care of.
There are loads of advantages to working within a system like this. First and foremost, it's an inexpensive way to work with gear that you might not otherwise be able to afford, thus providing people with a simple, safe way to "try before you buy." Depending on the density and variety of gear available in your area, it could also become a truly economical alternative to traditional rental houses for larger orders.
On the other hand, it's also a great way for gear owners to make some extra money while their gear isn't in use. We all know that filmmaking can be an unstable way to make a living, and renting out gear can help provide a little bit more income stability.
You can learn more about and sign up for CameraLends right here, and you can start renting gear immediately.