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Beyond The Sharing Economy Hype: Most People Would Still Rather Own Than Share

Only 1 in 20 U.S. adults has even used Airbnb, Uber, or Zipcar in the past year

Beyond The Sharing Economy Hype: Most People Would Still Rather Own Than Share
[Top photo: Flickr user Marcin Wichary]

Over the past few years, the number of companies that want to help you share items like cars and lodging has grown, along with their valuations. These companies in the “sharing economy,” like Uber, Airbnb, and Zipcar, seem to be ubiquitous in cities. But according to a new report, they aren’t widely popular–at least not yet.

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In “The Sharing Economy: Where We Go From Here,” advertising agency Leo Burnett surveyed 4,000 U.S. adults and found that 52% of Americans would still rather own items than share them if they could afford it. Nearly half of respondents are concerned about whether these services are safe and hygienic (a fair point, considering some of the messes that Uber has gotten itself into). Fewer respondents would admit that they were held back by a love of consumerism or desire to have status items–but 43% said they simply have an attachment to owning.

Another issue: These newer startup brands aren’t as well known as you might think. Just a third of the country has heard of Airbnb, and only one in 20 people has used Airbnb, Uber, or Zipcar in the past year. The people who have used sharing economy services make up a diverse group. Leo Burnett split them up into six fairly self-explanatory archetypes: Fearless Trailblazers, Natural Do-Gooders, Reluctant Pragmatists (they do it purely to make money), Supportive Sideliners, Cautious Consumerists (affluent, conservative types who would rather own than share but still like Netflix-like services), and Disengaged Outsiders.

Regardless of archetype, there are certain things that most people are reluctant to share. According to the survey, only 5% of Americans would rent their couch to a stranger, 55% wouldn’t rent their pricey tent on Craigslist, and 40% wouldn’t co-purchase a lawnmower with a neighbor. People are, however, generally willing to share books, as you can see in this video about booksharing on the London Underground.

Check out the full report here.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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