'I’ve made over $12,000 renting out my car'

“I’ve made over $12,000 renting out my car and it’s allowed me to live in San Francisco,” says Caterina Rindi, 45.

In 2010, Rindi was the first in the Bay Area to list her Toyota Prius on RelayRides, an online service for peer-to-peer car-sharing. Her hybrid, which rents for about $40 a day, has been a popular choice for borrowers, who have rented her wheels more than 300 times.  

For Rindi, listing her car was a no-brainer. She was out of work at the time and on the fence about selling her car for cash. “When you don’t have a job, you look frantically for ways to quickly make money,” she told Yahoo Finance. She does have to pay extra for maintenance due to increased mileage and use,  but RelayRides covers insurance for owners up to $1 million for every rental.

The competitive job market, coupled with rising housing costs, have forced folks like Rindi to get creative with their skills and resources. Many have turned to renting out their property, goods and time to make ends meet, generate extra income and in some cases, build a lucrative career. From renting bikes on Spinlister, parking spots on ParkatmyHouse, tools on 1000tools, or even your skills on Skillshare, consumers are increasingly reaping the financial benefits of sharing underutilized resources.

Rindi, now an expert at peer-to-peer (p2p) transactions, has rented everything from her rollerskates, ladder and drill, to her lemon juicer, bicycle, and even her label maker. It’s not always for money, but the combination of renting out a few items and being able to borrow from her neighbors on sites like Neighborgoods has saved her both money and space.

The sharing economy not only benefits owners who make some extra cash. It can also mean lower prices for people who look to rent from others. For example, FlightCar lets people parking at the airport rent out their vehicles while they’re traveling. While the owners get free airport parking and get paid 10 to 20 cents per mile driven, renters pay super-low rates on vehicles that would typically cost twice as much to rent from traditional car rental companies.  

Sharing is surprisingly profitable

For some, there’s real money to be had in collaborative consumption. Through Airbnb, Mikey Rox, a super-sharer from New York, made $37,000 last year. He took the profits from renting out the extra room in his Manhattan condo to purchase a beach house on the Jersey Shore, which he has also decided to rent.

“Anything that I have, that I think is a commodity for other people, I would totally rent it out,” says Rox. For fun, Rox rented out his friendship on RentaFriend for $30 an hour and his dog on Craiglist for $10 a day.

For others, the sharing economy can unlock an unexpected jackpot.

Tim Mulley, 32, a musician in Hollywood, had to buy another car when his first two sedans were consistently being rented through RelayRides. Seeing the lucrative opportunity to rent out more cars, he decided to invest $200,000 of his own money to buy luxury SUVs and offer them at competitive daily rates. For his most high-end SUV, a 2008 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, he charges $499 per day.

Now with a total of eight vehicles, renting them out has turned into a full-time job. And he’s had to move apartments in order to have enough parking spaces. It’s only on weekends that Mulley is able to focus on his music. But he is willing to work hard because he expects to earn over six figures with this business model. “I’m not going to lie, it’s been taxing. I’ve been running around, but it’s getting to a point where everything is going to settle down,” he says. Hiring two assistants for $12 an hour through TaskRabbit, an outsourced peer-to-peer help service, has helped his workload become more manageable.

In Barcelona, Spain, Guillaume Jaques, 26, and his girlfriend, Cristina Gil, 28, also used their experience in the sharing economy to quit their jobs and start their own business. Jaques was working as a hostel manager while Gil worked as an engineer. On the side, through a site called EatWith, the couple began to teach tourists how to make paella in their own home.

The chance to eat at the home of locals makes an Eatwith experience feel like a cross between an episode of “House Hunters International” and “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.” As the dinners grew in popularity, it inspired the couple to launch their own travel site called Barcelona Slow Travel. The two have only been in business for a few months, but are already earning enough to cover their rent, utilities and food.

Sharing is not always for profit. Sharing is caring.

Marta Perez does not know how much money she’s earned through hosting on EatWith. Perez, 55, considers the experience a hobby, not work. “I do it more for fun, I never did it for money,” she tells Yahoo Finance. Taking a break from her teaching career, hosting cooking sessions has kept her busy, but relaxed.

The sharing economy creates communities on both global and local levels. For Rindi, it’s helped her get to know her neighbors. “When you hand your keys off or when you hand your drill off, it’s much more human and people are really valuing and craving those kinds of interactions,” says Rindi.

For the next few months, she is traveling through Europe and plans to couch-surf in hope of connecting with other “sharing evangelists” like herself. “It's a fantastic way to save money and to connect with people. I don't want to be on a tour bus looking at the Eiffel Tower, I want to actually know what it's like to live in Paris,” she says.