boy holding a phone and a touch screen for finger against a wallThe sharing economy, also known as the “peer-to-peer” economy, is taking over. Commerce directly between consumers is a growing trend, enabled by technology that connects users to a network of potential buyers. Craigslist, Ebay, Kijiji and others have been doing this for years, but now there is a new wave of companies that allow users to conveniently share and rent out excess goods, services, and space.

AirBnB allows homeowners to rent out their extra rooms short term, charging a nightly or weekly rate. A review and rating system lets users comment on their experience and give recommendations to other potential users.

Car sharing service car2go lets you pick up and drop off a car anywhere in your city. After an initial sign up fee, users pay cents per minute to drive one of the company’s smart cars, using a smartphone app to track and reserve the nearest available vehicle.

Tabl lets you make your home kitchen a pop-up restaurant, Uber will pick you up, TaskRabbit outsources your everyday errands, and if you’ve got extra driveway space sell it off at ParkatmyHouse.

These new business models that focus on sharing assets are shifting the buying patterns of people around the globe as more consumers opt to share instead of buy. For users of the sharing economy there are obvious benefits: it’s a cheaper alternative to a hotel or new car, using space and goods more efficiently is good for the environment, and it offers a new flexibility and convenience.

Peer-to-peer services like these have been met with resistance for legal and safety concerns, but the growing pervasiveness of these services is undeniable. AirBnB now operates in 190 countries, and has had more than 15 million nights booked worldwide. car2go operates in 16 major cities in Europe and North America and Uber was recently valued at 18.2 billion USD.

So what about you? How do you participate in the sharing economy? Comment your experience below or tweet me @dotysarah.

– Sarah Doty, Junior Consultant