The shared economy has become an affordable way to not only rent gear you don’t have the budget to buy, but also to make a little extra money on the side by renting your gear in kind. There are several different websites for this like CameraLends and ShareGrid and I decided to try out ShareGrid to see just what it is all about. For this review, I rented out my own gear.
The basic premise behind ShareGrid is to be able to rent camera gear from participating locals in your area (which is currently New York and Los Angeles). The process is relatively simple: You sign up for an account, and then choose to search for gear to rent near you or list your own gear to rent.
There’s a wide variety of gear categories, including cinema cameras, still cameras, lenses, accessories, monitors, drones, lighting grip packages, and even live production spaces.
Off the top, I’d say that the rates are extremely affordable, with a Canon C100 Mk. II going for about $110/day, a RED DRAGON fetching $500 a day, and going all the way down to around $20 a day for a GoPro, with everything in between.
Rental fees are assessed full charge during the week, with half day charges on the weekends. Pickup & return days are free, and if you rent for three days, you get a 15% discount. Rent for 4 to 6 days per week, and you get a 3-day rate. It’s a pretty good deal.
I wanted to get the experience of first renting my gear, so I listed a GoPro HERO4 Black to see how things would go. Obviously the more exact you are in your description of your gear, the better, and ShareGrid helps with templates that have a lot of the product details already filled in for you. They make it real easy. So the more value you can include — like additional batteries — the more likely you’ll get your gear rented.
The site even has a gear calculator, which allows you to see just how much you can make in a year renting your gear, so you can see if it’s worth the effort. Once you have everything listed, ShareGrid gives you a page, which shows your feedback rating, response time rating, photograph, and a Google Map of your general location. You then just wait for your rental requests to come streaming in.
I got a hit almost immediately, as a filmmaker named Karin needed to rent GoPros for a confessional booth web series. The way it works is that they select your item, and then submit a request to rent it. One of the requirements is that they have to have insurance, so that if anything goes wrong, the replacement or repair is covered (click here for more on insurance). I received the request for a three-day rental (which included a weekend at a half-day rate per day), and was notified via text message of the request.
From there, I had the option to click the link directly and approve the rental, and the fee is paid. Those renting their gear don’t get the fee right away though, as ShareGrid places the fee in a holding account until the rental is completed. You can also go to the member’s account and view their approval ratings before you decide. You can even decline the request, should you be using your gear at the time. Since the point of this exercise is to rent the gear and see what happens, I said yes to the request and took the next step.
From here, ShareGrid encourages you to contact the member directly via private message in the ShareGrid system. This is how they prefer communication, so as to have a kind of paper trail should things go wrong. But they also provide you with their phone number, so you can contact them via phone or text, as well. You arrange a neutral location and time to meet to give them your gear, and then you get your gear set for rental.
ShareGrid has a series of forms and checklists so that you can get your equipment ready. First thing I did was print these out, including the name and phone number of the person who was renting, inputting the serial numbers of my gear, and itemizing what was coming with it.
For my rental, I included the GoPro, two additional batteries, some cables, a charger and a frame mount, since that was Karin’s request. I also swung by Harbor Freight and picked up an $8 parts carrying case, which I converted into a case to carry everything. On that, I attached a “please return to” label, along with my name and phone number.
We agreed to meet to meet at a local coffee shop in North Hollywood. Karin was on time and very professional and friendly. We exchanged IDs so we could verify we were who we said we were, and then got down to business. Karin examined the carrying case, and we both checked off that everything was as listed. Then we signed the forms together, she got one copy and I got the other. I also took a picture of her with the gear, as proof she received it, as well as her ID. We then shook hands and departed. We would be meeting a few days later to do it all over again, but in reverse.
A few days later, like clockwork, Karin contacted me to arrange a time to meet and we agreed on the same place. The next day I headed back and Karin was there waiting for me. Now here’s where an issue popped up. Everything was there except for the frame mount. It had been misplaced. But while I was waiting, Karin went online to Amazon and ordered me a replacement. It arrived two days later. No harm, no foul.
We both went online to mark the rental completed and to give our member feedback, and I got paid within a few days. Since then, I’ve received several other rental requests, and they seem to come in bursts. Some have been arranged and then cancelled a few hours later, others I couldn’t accept due to scheduling conflicts with my gear.
In one case, where I rented my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, I had to follow the Production Assitant to another camera owner’s location, because they had mixed up my camera with his. Apparently the PA didn’t even know they had serial numbers! But we worked it all out in the end.
The bottom line is this: You want to list everything, including your serial numbers, so it can make it easy for them to be sure they give you back everything you rented to them. But even then, things may happen. That’s what the insurance is for. Be professional, be friendly, be very complete with your paperwork, and odds are, they’ll rent from you again.
All in all though, it’s all very communal. It’s a bit scary at first, meeting to arrange the transfer, etc. But so far, everyone I have worked with has been professional, friendly and they are really into the whole shared economy thing. There have been a few hiccups here and there, but so far, working directly with the renter to address those issues has paid off. And when it doesn’t, you can kick it up to ShareGrid, who reply within a few hours to make sure everything gets addressed.
The thing is, if you have a lot gear that’s just collecting dust, why not let it make you some cash? And of course, it works for those who need gear for a shoot at a price that’s pretty competitive.
Even though ShareGrid’s rates are designed to appeal to the low budget crew, it’s still not only a great value for renting what you need, but also for putting your gear to work.
Check out ShareGrid’s site for more information.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars