Just rent and save

Why buy? These days, consumers are renting and sharing items instead.

From household tools to cars, toys to maternity clothes, chances are someone out there is willing to rent, or even give away, the item you need.

Owners say they want to get rid of pre-loved items or make some cash from them, and there are plenty of takers who want to save money.

Of course, it reduces wastage and helps save the environment too.

This "sharing economy" is said to have started in the mid-2000s and Airbnb, an online accommodation rental service, is a prime success story.

The Economist reported last year that more than 4 million people have used Airbnb since its launch in 2008.

The service sees home owners renting out their spare rooms or homes for a fee that is often considerably less than the cost of a hotel stay.

In Singapore, at least four new platforms that facilitate the sharing and renting of items have started in recent years. For example, Leendy is a mobile app that helps users exchange items with one another. It was launched in May last year with 100 users. The figure has since grown to about 1,500 people, who trade items such as books and computer games.

Its creator, Mr Ryan Tan, 27, says: "I wanted to give unused things around the house a second life. For instance, a person uses an electric drill for only about 15 minutes in his lifetime, so why not share it with others?"

Rent Tycoons, an online portal that lets people rent their items, has seen its number of users grow from 10 in 2012 to more than 2,500 now.

Ms Fenni Wang, 28, its co-founder, says: "Many of our owners have rented out their items so often that they've covered the cost of these items."

iCarsclub, a peer-to-peer car sharing scheme, started in December 2012. It has a pool of 250 active car owners who have registered their vehicles for rental.

One owner, Ms Jean Ling, 37, has been putting her nine-year-old Mitsubishi Lancer up for rent on weekends since last December. The project administrator in a bank makes $100 to $400 a month in rental fees.

She says: "My husband has another car which we use on weekends. Instead of leaving this car unused, we thought why not rent it out and make some money?"

Her only complaint so far is that some people dirty her car, leaving footprints and popcorn on the seats.

"But I also get nice text messages from some saying I have a 'good car'," she adds. "These always make my day."

Mr Chiyyarath Chandran Sajeevkumar, 43, an enterprise architect who does not own a car, has rented Ms Ling's car twice - in March and last month.

He uses it to drive his 10-year-old daughter to school for her co-curricular activities and to go grocery shopping in Little India. He pays up to $80each time for renting the car for a full day.

"Some vegetables are sold only in Little India and I need a way to transport them home," says the father of two, who lives in Sengkang. "Cabs are expensive and you can never get one when you need it. Renting a car makes sense since I don't need it on weekdays."

Ms Cindy Tan, 33, has been renting toys from toy rental store Singapore Toy Rental for the last 11/2 years.

The assistant marketing manager, who has a two-year-old daughter Kylie and a two-month-old son Jonas, says: "Our four-room flat is only 90 sq m. We don't want to have toys lying around after our kids grow up."

Her husband, businessman Jason Lim, 33, adds: "You'd be surprised how quickly kids get bored and dump their toys. When this happens, we just rent a new one."

Renting toys saves them money too. The Scramble N Slide Play Center by Grow'n up, which the family has rented since March for $68 a month, would have cost $299.95.

The play set features a slide, swing and crawling spaces.

"As we rent each toy for at most two months, it's cheaper than buying," Ms Tan says. She spends about $130 on toy rentals each month.

Hygiene is not an issue, she adds, as all the toys are disinfected by the store before they are delivered.

"I'll just avoid renting items with cushions as bacteria can grow easily in fabrics."

If you are lucky, you might even meet kind souls who will happily give you their used items.

Ms Thng Wen You, 27, a senior executive at a local university, is looking to give away a Vivitar digital camera and a clothes steamer which she bought a few years ago for $230 and $129 respectively.

She offered the items last week on the Singapore Freecycle Network, an online group hosted on Yahoo! Groups. So far, no one has asked to collect the items.

Ms Thng, who has also given away clothes, books and a chair, says: "I do not need the items anymore but they are still in good condition. It'd be a pity to throw them away.

"It's also nice to know that someone out there will benefit from items which I no longer have use for."


Have an item to spare? Some groups here can help you swop or circulate it

1. Rent Tycoons (www.renttycoons.com)

Launched officially in January last year, this portal lets users list their items for rent.

The most popular items include electronic gadgets, household appliances and tools and equipment.

The rental fees are stated on the portal and range from 50 cents a day for a book to $500 a day for a Classic Volkswagen Beetle.

The party who wants to rent the items pays Rent Tycoons, which then pays the owner and takes a 10 per cent cut of the rental fee. About 20 items are rented out each month. Some recent examples include an Xbox 360 ($15 a day) and vacuum cleaner ($25 a day).

2. Leendy (available free on iOS)

This mobile app, launched in May last year, has a community of almost 1,500 people who list items they want to exchange. Users post items they do not need and swop these for something owned by another user. After a few weeks, they switch the items back or the swop can be made permanent.

Some of the items listed for exchange include watches, laptops and books.

3. YouSwop (www.youswop.com)

This home-grown website, which was set up in 2007, lets people swop items using an internal currency called YouSwop Dollars (YS$).

Users earn YS$ by "swop selling" their items or inviting friends to sign up with the website. YS$ can then be used to "swop buy" items from other users.

It has more than 18,000 members, who have offered items such as clothes priced at YS$29.

4. Singapore Freecycle Network (groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ SgFreecycle/info)

An online group hosted on Yahoo! Groups since 2003, this network has more than 13,000 members.

All items are free and cannot be sold or exchanged.


What to rent an item? Try these groups or stores:

1. iCarsclub (www.icarsclub.com)

The service, launched in December 2012, has a pool of 250 active car owners who have registered their vehicles for rental.

It also has an approved group of people who rent these cars and can unlock them via a smartphone app. Those looking to rent can also locate available cars nearest to them.

Different cars fetch different rates. A Hyundai, for example, costs $4 an hour or $30 a day to rent and a BMW can be rented for $25 an hour or $200 a day.

2. LifeCycle (tel: 6289-0176, 986 Upper Serangoon Road)

This bicycle shop started a bicycle- sharing system in January, partnering two cafes - Cafe Loysel's Toy in Kampong Bugis and Chye Seng Huat Hardware in Jalan Besar.

Eight of LifeCycle's bicycles are available for rental at $7 an hour. The bikes can be dropped off at the shop or at either cafe.

3. Maternity Exchange (tel: 6100-3924, 6 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square, 03-108)

The multi-label maternity and nursing wear boutique, which was set up in 2005, allows mums-to-be to rent individual pieces of maternity wear for four weeks each time.

There is also a range of rental packages, which are priced from $179 for four pieces to $659 for 20 pieces.

Customers may buy the clothes.

4. Singapore Toy Rental (tel: 6555-1849, Block 540 Serangoon North Avenue 4 B1-109, no walk-ins, by appointment only)

This toy rental store, which opened in 2011, has about 100 toys that it rents out for at least a month. The items include walkers, playhouses, infant and educational toys. A Schoenhut toy piano, for example, can be rented for $78 a month and a Little Tikes Rocking Horse goes for $18 a month.

This article was published on May 4 in The Straits Times.

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