Leasing your life off the Web

Drew Volpe just sold his car and signed up for Zipcar. “A lot of people like me just realized the downside of owning,” said the South Boston software engineer, who also dumped cable in favor of Netflix. “You get the benefits of owning without dealing with any of the headaches.”

These days you can lease everything from handbags and designer dresses to power tools and snow blowers online. Companies such as Cambridge-based Zipcar have paved the way for other local online rental companies starting to sprout.

At TurningArt, which has been called the Netflix of art, customers can rent-to-own original artwork from emerging artists nationwide, including Josh Falk and 24 other local artists.

“Sometimes I like things at first and a month later I dislike it,” Falk said. “It’s a way to get into art and see if you like it rather than having the tattoo for the rest of your life.”

Last?month, RelayRides, which allows people to rent their car to their neighbors, won $50,000 as a finalist in the MassChallenge startup competition.

Rentabilities, another finalist, was founded by Alex Cook, 24. “We’re trying to create an Amazon.com for renting,” Cook said. “Right now we’re focusing on party equipment, but you can rent anything from a wedding tent to a backhoe.”

Why buy when you can rent?

WALTHAM – Bentley University marketing professor Ian Cross said entrepreneurs could adapt the Zipcar and Netflix business model to just about any product.

“In the 90s, everyone wanted loads of money,” he said. “To prove you made it you had to own it. Now people say ‘I don’t need to own it, I just need access to it, I just need to be able to use it when I want it.’

“I think it’s only going to increase.”


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