It wasn't too long ago that renting was confined to videotapes (remember them?) and boring white cars you'd pick up from the airport during an overseas holiday.
These days there isn't much that can't be loaned or used for the right price, although luxury items have usually tended to sit in a class above the rental riff-raff. Until now, that is.
London-based futurologist – yes, there is such a thing – Chris Sanderson, founder of The Future Laboratory, told Executive Style that renting is being adopted by lovers of luxury as part of a trend he calls “leased living”.
“As we look down-age at the Gen-Y consumer, we see less of a focus on this notion of acquisition and purchase,” Sanderson says. “Increasingly we're seeing with big ticket items, whether it be a house or a car, Gen Y's focus and mentality around purchase is very, very different from generations that came before.
“It goes to the heart of a trend we're seeing in the shift of luxury towards experience, where it's no longer about the ownership of a product, but about the enjoyment of it, even if it's only for a short period of time; for example, I want to experience this beautiful watch, or this beautiful car, but I don't need to tangibly own it.”
Sanderson says the trend has been bubbling away for the last couple of years, especially in the US; however it is only now slipping into the public consciousness.
One of the most successful examples of the trend is Rent the Runway, a membership-based website for women that works on the premise that you don't need to buy the latest high-end designer pieces, you can just rent them on a four- or eight-day basis. You may not have $5000 to spend on a handbag, goes the theory, but you still want to look brilliant for a significant event, or party, and would be willing to stump up a more modest price for the privilege.
Fancy wearing a Patek Phillipe watch but can't quite justify the $50,000 pricetag? A new start-up called Eleven James would be the answer if you lived in the US. For between $USD249 and $USD1599 a month, subscribers receive a selection of three to six uber-luxury watches to wear for two months at a time, after which they are returned and cleaned. The watches are worth an average of $10,000 and include the likes of IWC, Panerai, Girard-Perregaux and Rolex. New York City residents can even have the watches delivered by an (apparently) attractive brunette carrying an unmarked suitcase.
Ever wanted to travel between business meetings in your own private jet? You wouldn't be alone. Both Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg travel in a Bombadier Global Express. And Tom Cruise gets from the movie set to Scientology expos in a Gulfstream IV. However, even a small Lear Jet will set you back anything from $3 million to $8 million, not to mention $200,000-plus a year to maintain and run it.
Or you can rent a jet for far less. Jet Corp Australia can provide you with a 13-seat Gulfstream G450, allowing you to take the extended family from Melbourne to Sydney return for around $23,000. They'll even throw in the food and wine en-route.
Unless you're Jay Leno or Lindsay Fox, you probably can't afford a multi-million dollar collection of exotic autos. However, as you may have guessed, there's also a thriving rental business in luxury and sports cars. One of the biggest fleets in Australia is owned by Sydney Sports Car Rentals and currently includes a 2009 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster, a 2011 BMW M3 convertible, a 2010 Porsche 911 Cabriolet, a 2005 Ferrari 360 Spyder, and a 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.
The Benz alone would set you back a hefty $150,000-plus - or you could rent it for $600 a day. The company also offers a timeshare/fractional membership program, where for an annual fee you have discounted access to the entire collection. The highest level of membership (Diamond) will set you back $49,950 per annum.
High-end bicycles – the type that can cost as much as some small cars – can also be rented by the hour or by the day. Livelo rents road bikes in Sydney and Melbourne for as little as $110 a day (or $25 an hour), while a range-topping $16,000 Bianchi Oltre XR with a carbon fibre frame and Campagnolo electronic shifting is an attention-grabbing $280 per day. And if you do happen to fall in love (and decide you can live without that non-vital organ), Livelo will subtract your rental amount if you purchase from its local distributor.
Fact: tycoons own motor cruisers, which are some of the most expensive toys on the planet. Want to moor alongside the likes of Solomon Lew, Lindsay Fox or James Packer, yet avoid the price-tag, maintenance, and fuel bills? Of course you can. Sydney Harbour Yacht Charters has a 92-foot Warren Superyacht for charter that has hosted the likes of Tom Cruise, Rihanna and three US presidents. It comes with a captain, engineer and deckhand. And you can have a chef arrive on board and cook a gourmet meal in the galley. With a sticker price of more than five million dollars, it's cheap at $1750 an hour.
You've probably rented a holiday home or two in your time, since not everyone can afford the buy-in and upkeep on a luxury holiday pad, let alone an iconic one designed by the likes of eminent architect Harry Seidler.
Contemporary Hotels has a portfolio of world-class properties that you can rent for anything from two nights (minimum) to as long as your budget will allow. For a unique experience, trying renting Seidler's famous Bermann House from $1400 per night, including a free bottle of champers on arrival.