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What is the Peer-to-Peer Sharing Economy and How is it Beneficial for Today’s Middle America

We were all taught to share with others from an early age. Share your Dunkaroos with your lunch mates if you’re not going to finish them; give your friend a turn on your new bike; let your buddy borrow your favorite CD for a day or two – you know the drill. But somewhere along the way, capitalism got involved, and sharing became less common.

As our generation started to grow up, companies urged us to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on shiny new toys – toys that we didn’t need to share with anyone else. Eventually, the economy took a downturn, and paying for those shiny new toys wasn’t as easy as it once was. This was the moment the sharing economy was born, resurrecting an old ideology that if you have extra of something, why not share it with others?

The Sharing Economy: A New Phrase for an Old Tradition

Sharing isn’t anything new. Humans have been sharing things since the dawn of time. So, what makes the words “Peer-to-peer” and “sharing economy” seem like such novel concepts? The answer is the internet. As technology has evolved, social media and other platforms have made it easier for people all over the world to connect with one another. The internet became the perfect tool for individuals to share their excess with others, and possibly make a little bit of money out of the deal.

The Benefits of Peer to Peer Networks

P2P platforms empower individuals, giving the sharees access to goods and services they might not otherwise be able to afford, and turning the sharer into a small business owner. There are P2P sites for almost anything you can think of, whether it’s renting out a room in your home, letting someone take your car to get to work, or renting out your old camper. The sharing economy helps to offset costs of ownership and make supplemental income while offering affordable opportunities to potential renters. Let’s look at the P2P RV rental site RVshare for example:

  • Roughly 9 million families in the United States own RVs, yet most RVs sit unused for 90% of the year! If you consider that brand-new RVs can cost almost as much as a house, you can imagine how much the monthly payment might cost. On top of that, owners have to pay for storage and maintenance, just to keep the unused RV in good shape. Using RVshare, owners can rent out their RVs when they’re not using them, covering the costs of payments and maintenance.
  • RV renters benefit from the service, too. Before P2P sites, consumers had limited options for renting an RV. Large, commercial companies and small local businesses were the only ways to rent. The biggest drawbacks to this were high prices and poorly maintained vehicles. Most companies only keep current model years in their inventory, which drives the rental prices up. However, the RVs are rented out constantly, racking up mileage and wear and tear with each rental. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of commercial RV rentals with failing appliances, mechanical problems, and unclean interiors. RVshare rigs are rented much less frequently and are usually lovingly cared for by their owners.
  • Aside from the benefits that RV owners and renters offer one another, RVshare itself offers benefits to both parties. They provide up to $1 million in liability coverage and free, 24/7 roadside assistance, so RV owners don’t have to pay for these services out-of-pocket. In many cases, renters can purchase auto insurance directly from the RV owner instead of going through a third-party provider. This makes the rental process smooth and straightforward with no hidden expenses.

How the Sharing Economy is Helping the Midwest Thrive

P2P websites are particularly beneficial to rural communities in the Midwest, and not just those that help you rent RVs. The Midwestern region has always been a major destination for tourists and travelers. From diverse natural beauty to a multitude of cultural hubs, the Midwest attracts outdoorsy types and city-dwellers alike.

Perhaps this is why the P2P marketplace has skyrocketed there. A 2016 study by Airbnb shows that more than 23,000 hosts joined their platform within just one year. The vast majority (82%) of hosts are middle-class families who use the home-sharing platform to rent out their primary residences. The ability to earn supplemental income is critical, especially in an economic climate where the cost-of-living is often higher than the median income.

P2P RV rental networks have significant advantages here, too. The Midwest is the heart of RV country. In fact, Elkhart, Indiana is known as the RV Capital of the World, and more than 80% of RVs are made in the area. Not only is the Midwest a central location for RV manufacturing; it’s also a top travel destination for RVers. Supply and demand is at a healthy balance here, so both RV owners and renters are able to thrive.

Of course, one of the biggest benefits of the P2P sharing economy that’s evidenced in the Midwest is the ability to find such opportunities. In sparsely populated areas, it would be nearly impossible to rent out your RV or your home without the internet. Now, people have even better access to such opportunities through dedicated, centralized platforms. Owners don’t have to pay for marketing and advertising their goods and services, as P2P sites already have built-in nationwide marketing.

What Will You Share?

We’re at a crossroads where consumers are becoming more aware of the importance of shopping locally and supporting small, privately-owned businesses. We’re shying away from faceless corporations with high prices and subpar customer service. The sharing economy connects us with real people in an otherwise disconnected world. And P2P websites play a central role in that economy, allowing consumers and small business owners to find one another, whether in the Midwestern United States or anywhere else in the world.