The People's Guide to Disownership

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the people’s guide to


the people’s guide to


I am the CEO of a growing, mid-sized company in San Francisco and I don’t have a car. I get around town just fine, usually on public transportation. When I need a car, I use my membership with Zipcar, a car-sharing service that lets each member simply access the cars when we need them. I’m not alone. In fact, there is a movement gaining momentum across the country called “disownership”: sharing, renting and borrowing traditionally-owned items to get the benefits without the expense and hassle of ownership. My company Sunrun just released a new survey showing that over half (52 percent) of Americans say they are already engaging in disownership, and many more plan to do so in the near future. Sunrun is one of a number of companies that have harnessed the power of technology to help people access things safely without owning them, and save money doing it. Disownership represents a major cultural shift in consumer behavior—a shift that benefits our wallets, our planet and our communities. So we at Sunrun, and our peers at other disownership and sharing companies, want to make sure you have the insider insights, tips and best practices to get the most out of disownership. I hope you’ll enjoy our People’s Guide to Disownership as you explore and take advantage of this new era of access. Today’s status symbol isn’t what you own. It’s what you’re smart enough not to own. As we say at Sunrun: Power Forward, Lynn Jurich, Sunrun co-Founder and co-CEO 2

DISOWNERSHIP MANIFESTO The new status symbol isn’t what we own. It’s what we’re smart enough not to own: Many of the things we want and need—daily or occasionally— are best borrowed, rented or shared.


So before we buy something, we see if there’s another way to access it. Because the true cost of ownership is far greater than the purchase price. And the money we save on things we don’t need to own can fund our dreams.

1. Do I need to own this or just use it?

Smart disowners don’t consume. We access. And we access only what we need—no more, no less. We read (and write) reviews. We study terms of use. We get the most for our money and time. We believe that paying for storage is nuts, so we don’t. And parking tickets are for owners. More is more—more headaches, more cost, more trouble.

2. How often will I use it? 3. How much time and money will it cost to maintain this over time? 4. Is there an easy, reliable way to just get access to this?

To acquire is human. To disown is divine.


the disownership

dictionary Access Economy. Platforms, companies and online marketplaces that empower individuals to use and access products without owning them. This includes Peer-to-Peer Marketplaces (see next page) and companies that own and maintain traditionally-owned items while offering rental or other forms of access to users (e.g., Zipcar, Sunrun).

Sharing Economy. A subset of the Access Economy, defined by the Wall Street Journal as “niche marketplaces for things that get cheaper when people use them together, (e.g., pet care, wedding gowns, child rearing and more.)”

Collaborative Consumption. Another subset of the Access Economy. Collaborative Consumption indicates multiple consumers having access to the same product or service via sharing, swapping or renting. This does not include certain forms of disownership in which one consumer has sole access to an item but does not have to own it (e.g., paying for solar power without owning the panels on one’s roof).


Disownership Sharing, renting, borrowing or making similar alternative arrangements to gain access to traditionally-owned items without the expense or hassle of ownership. Apps and Platforms. Technology companies and applications (web and mobile) that facilitate the access economy.

Peer-to-Peer Marketplace. Online platforms and companies that facilitate the renting and trading of individually-owned homes, cars and other goods by individuals (e.g., Airbnb, Getaround).

Social Identity Verification. The use of social media profiles, connected to an app or platform via password permission, to verify a disowner’s identity and identify common ‘friends’ with other members/users.

Terms of Service. (aka Terms of Use, Terms and Conditions, etc.) The legally-binding rules that disowners and other sharing app or platform users must abide by in order to use the technological app or platform and access products or property.


8 things to disown

in 2013

Cars. You might not realize it, but

car ownership is optional. There are many options available for sharing and borrowing cars, for as little as an hour. If your need is occasional use, RelayRides and Wheelz allow you to rent by the hour from other individuals. If you need a car all over town—or the country—on a fairly frequent basis, it might make sense to invest in a Zipcar membership.

Trucks. Even if you do own a car,

there come those times when you need something bigger to move a piece of furniture or handle a gardening project. If you have a need for something smaller than a moving van, try Getaround—one of your neighbors might have a truck you can rent for less than $20 an hour.


Vacation Accommodations.

If you like to take vacations in a home, versus a hotel, but you want to be able to take your pick of cities, platforms like and allow you to rent a room, a floor or a whole property for as little as a day at a time—all over the world.

Wedding Wear. The average price

of a wedding dress in the United States is right around $1,100. This is for an item of clothing you will probably never wear again! Men have rented wedding tuxedos for ages. Why not rent a dress, jewelry or even threads for fancy, pre-wedding events like rehearsal dinners? has a wedding boutique dedicated to these occasions.

Luxury Clothes and Goods.

Celebrities go to black-tie events all the time, and even they borrow their clothes, shoes and accessories. If you only go to a couple such functions every year, renting your fashion makes sense—especially since you probably won’t want to repeat. Sites like (apparel and accessories) and (handbags, shoes and other accessories) allow you to dress like the stars without zapping your bank account or cluttering your closet with things you won’t wear again.

Bikes. An increasing number of cities

have municipal bike-rental programs that let you just pick up and drop off bikes as you need to, all over town. Even if your town (or the town you’re visiting) doesn’t have a city-run program, just Google “bike rental” and the name of the town you’re visiting. Most major cities have a number of hotels and other companies that will rent you a bike for an hour or a week.

Solar. Most homeowners assume

they can’t afford to pay for pricey panels, so they dismiss the concept of going solar as a nice, but unrealistic, idea. Here’s some myth-busting: solar power service companies like Sunrun will install and maintain solar panels on your home for little to no upfront fee. You pay them for energy, but the rate is cheaper than traditional utility rates.

Tools. How often will you use a floor

sander, or even a power drill? If you are working around the house, but need an expensive tool for a one-off project, check out or ask your home improvement store to see if they have a tool rental counter. Contractors also often rent tools they don’t use regularly, so even many traditional stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s offer tool rental programs you can take advantage of.


the thinking person’s guide to making smart

disownership decisions Disownership is freeing. To some, it’s a lifestyle choice that makes a value statement: that owning stuff is less important than relationships and experiences. But it’s also just plain smart. As a practice, choosing to rent, borrow, lease or otherwise access things you don’t need to own is efficient, eco-friendly and saves time, money and energy. That said, disownership reflects a shift away from the status quo, a change in direction from the era of Conspicuous Consumption. So, while all of us know how to buy and sell stuff, many of us don’t know the ins and outs of navigating the access economy and participating in disownership while protecting our own interests.

Here are some best practices for making wise disownership decisions:

1. DECIDE WHAT MATTERS THE MOST. Get clear on your values and get real about how much you really will use something before you buy it. Cultivate clarity on what your “why” is for wanting the item and stay focused on that throughout your decision-making process. On the flip side, stay clear about your priorities and the experiences you can fund (from vacations to debt elimination) with the savings from disownership.

2. DON’T BE SO EMOTIONAL. Or rather, don’t let emotions drive your decision. Over the ages, the rush of acquiring and possessing things has become a primal, addictive force. In real estate they call it: “pride of ownership.” But in fact, the freedom of disownership can be more powerful than the possessive emotions we have about our belongings. Having the time and money for life-defining experiences freed up by the things we disown can be a much bigger rush than holding the title to a car.




Take TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) into account when deciding whether to disown or buy something. TCO likely includes taxes, time and financial cost of maintenance, and costs for storing, insuring and repairing items. These are all costs that disownership removes in a TKO (Total Knock Out) kind of way.

Ask every question—and then ask a few more! Most disownership platforms, apps and marketplaces offer a Frequently Asked Question section that can address most common questions and issues. Beyond that, though, ask the individual or corporate owner of the items you hope to disown every single question you have, before you decide to disown, even if those questions are specific to your personal fact scenario, trip or home.

4. KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING INTO. Read the agreement/terms of use carefully to look for: – Limitations on the use of whatever it is you are borrowing – Payments, deposits and other financial terms – Support/help resources – Problem resolution Make sure you understand what help is available if the product or system you are disowning breaks down or turns out not to be what you expected. Also, be sure you understand what the complaint and dispute resolution policy is in the event a disagreement arises with the owner.

As anything from “what happens if you sell your home with a solar power service agreement on it?” to “What’s the best way to get to your disowned house from the airport?” to “Is it okay to take long-distance trips in your dis-owned car?” If you wonder, ask.

6. GET YOUR EBERT ON. Write reviews. Good ones, meaning thorough. Don’t write glowing reviews over a mediocre experience. Be honest. If something was average, say so. It helps future disowners know whether the product will be a good fit for their needs. It also helps owners know how to improve. 9

how to be a

smart disowner YOUR DISOWNER PROFILE MATTERS. Fill it out completely. Disownership doesn’t happen without trust, and the quickest way to help owners know you are trustworthy is to tell them about yourself. Include your photo and connect your social media profiles. If you’re renting a house for a vacation with your family or a work trip, let owners know who you’re traveling with, and why. People are more comfortable engaging in the transaction when they know the person on the other end is a fully-formed human being.

UNDERSTAND YOUR RIGHTS—AND YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES. To access and use a car, solar panels or power tools safely and smartly requires a complete legal contract articulating the various parties’ rights and responsibilities. Whether this contract is on paper or online, it is legally binding, so read it and know it. Make sure you understand who is responsible for maintaining the items, what happens in cases of malfunctions or disputes, and what costs and deposits you are responsible for—at all points of the transaction.


CLARITY IS GOLDEN. “Close to Downtown” might mean 5-minute walk to one person and a 15-minute car ride to another. A solar system might stop saving you money if you increase the energy you use once you have it installed. Review notes, descriptions, user guides, comments by reviewers and maps carefully during your decision-making process. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you can expect—and what is expected of you.

CALENDAR FOR COLLABORATION. Disownership requires collaboration. You will usually need to meet with an owner at the top and the bottom of the transaction, to pick up keys, have goods delivered or installed or drop off tools. Make sure you have time in your schedule for this. They will likely have helpful tips and answers to your questions that you might miss out on if you are distracted by a ticking clock or looming deadline.

TAKE CARE. You may not be responsible for the maintenance of what you borrow, but you are responsible for its careful use. You’ll want to use what you are borrowing with as much care as you would if it were your own. That means keeping a power tool well-oiled, your rental home locked up when you’re out, or your borrowed bike secured in a safe place. By being a good steward of the objects you rent, lease or borrow, you maximize the use you get out of them, while registering some deposits in your own karmic accounts.

The People’s Guide to Disownership (the Guide) is not intended to be and does not constitute financial or investment advice. The products and services recommended in this Guide may not be available to, or suitable for, everyone, and may change. Nothing contained in this Guide shall constitute the provision of investment advice or a recommendation to buy or sell any product or services. Independent professional advice, including tax advice, should be sought before making a financial or investment decision.