Twenty-something years ago, our parents humorlessly drilled into us a critical principle of childhood survival:

“Never, ever get in a stranger’s car.”

However, in a time when you can pay to sleep in a stranger’s home and use their fridge, and “Lyft for kids” is gaining steam in California, I can’t help but wonder what I’d tell my hypothetical children in 2018:

“Never, ever get in a stranger’s car if they have less than 4.3 stars.”

Indeed, PR for strangers has never been stronger as we continue to sustain the sharing economy renaissance. AirBnB, Uber, and Lyft

are worth a combined $110 billion (or one Jeff Bezos), and coworking spaces like Convene and WeWork are collecting investment funds faster than a caffeine-addled kid collects Halloween candy.

In short, “democratic capitalism”, as some economists call it, is working.

But what can the sharing economy do for you?

Hopping on the bandwagon to borrow strangers’ things is undoubtedly trendy, but is it fiscally responsible? To find out, we’ll examine your options for “borrowing” your ride, lodging, and even office space, and compare their costs to renting them the old-fashioned way.

We start with our take on a favorited dinner topic of our world-traveling married friends: is AirBnB cheaper than a hotel?

Should you stay in an AirBnB or hotel?

Drawing from extensive personal experiences and the anecdotes of others, AirBnBs and hotels offer wildly different lodging experiences.

Save for some recent, cringeworthy attempts to be trendy and hip, hotels are generally clinical, curated, and corporate, hence their appeal to the older traveler who values predictability.

AirBnBs stays, on the other hand, are little adventures involving some risk. Your host is not a trained hospitality professional, but a human being. Your experience with them may be wonderful (life-changing, even), or horrifying.

Though the company’s devoted customer satisfaction team helps skew your odds towards the former, “Scotty’s Cozy Cabin” will never provide as predictable of an experience as Room 303 in the airport Ramada Inn.

In short, if you’re risk- and adventure-averse, the cost difference between AirBnBs and hotel stays may not make up for the former’s unpredictability.

Still, if you can stomach a small gamble for big savings, AirBnB is your best bet for lodging in most cities.

A highly over-referenced “study” by Bus Bud concludes that it’s significantly cheaper to get a hotel in certain tourist-y cities, but bases its conclusion on cost per booking, not cost per person.

For example, $600/night sounds wildly expensive for an AirBnB, even in downtown Barcelona, until you realize that it sleeps 10 people and is a five-minute walk from the beach (check it out).

If you decide that you and your fellow travelers’ lifestyles may mesh with the AirBnB experience, you can generally expect to save a pretty penny over a hotel (and potentially score some homemade waffles in the process).

Rather than ridesharing, this section is about the cheapest way to rent a quality car. Traditionally, upon emerging from a foreign airport, your only option has been to hoof it to Avis or Enterprise and pick out a blasé sedan (or treat yourself to a less blasé V6 Mustang).

Now, however, there’s the lesser-known but rapidly-growing Turo app. Effectively AirBnB for cars, Turo allows you to rent others’ privately-owned vehicles and buy all the supplemental insurance you’ll need in just a few clicks. Though Turo is currently only available in the U.S. and Canada, most cities over 100,000 people feature dozens of listings. In major cities like Miami or New York, you’ll even be able to rent ultra-luxury and exotic cars like Rolls-Royces and Ferraris.

Through the Turo app I’ve personally rented a Mustang convertible in Hawaii, a Mini Cooper in Quebec, and a three-row Mazda CX-9 to haul friends to a wedding in Sacramento. In each case I saved tens, even hundreds over renting with a traditional service. The widest price gap was in Honolulu, where Enterprise quoted me $420 for the keys to a 2017 Mustang for three days, whereas a nice guy on Turo charged me a third of that for his 2010 Mustang (here’s the listing).

Even accounting for insurance and airport delivery, Turo rentals are almost always less expensive than renting from the airport counter.

Should you work at home or join a coworking space?

Coworking spaces aren’t unlike the coed dorms of the business world. They offer a mix of private and shared space at a huge discount and facilitate more interpersonal interactions than traditional, separated spaces. A typical, monthly membership fee of roughly $300 usually nets you a parking space, keycard access to the shared space, and the ability to book private conference rooms and larger meeting spaces.

In tandem with the growing gig economy, available coworking spaces have doubled every year since 2005. Favorited by freelancers looking to escape the isolation of a home office, coworking spaces have also attracted small or online businesses who can’t afford or find little need for permanent office space.

Will joining a coworking space save you money? Depends who you are. $300 to share office space may be a godsend or a head-scratcher.

If you’re a small business owner, its likely the former. Migrating from traditional office space to a coworking space is a significant culture shift that will require discussion and buy-in from your team, but on a purely cost basis, coworking spaces are almost universally cheaper than traditional office space. Alongside perks like state-of-the-art tech and top-quality furnishings, shifting your business to a coworking space also places your HQ in a more trendy location.

If you’re currently working out of home or Starbucks, however, you may be wondering why you’d pay $300/mo. to access slightly faster Wi-Fi from a slightly comfier chair. Here are some perks for the solo-preneur: Coworking spaces legitimize your practice by adding a business address, a space to meet clients, and a concierge who greets you by name when you walk them in. But above all, some just feel more productive in an office-like environment. If a coworking space can amp your productivity by, say, 20 percent, $15/day becomes more digestible.

Will you be more productive in a coworking space? Find out for yourself! Most spaces offer free tours and $20 daily passes.

Summary

The fundamentals of the sharing economy may work against the stranger-danger warnings of our youth, but those who partake are saving big on lodging, car rentals, and even office space.

However, sharing and borrowing isn’t for everyone. AirBnB, Turo, and coworking spaces require a pinch of extroversion to truly enjoy.

Read more

  • Is This The Secret To Earning More As A Rideshare Driver?
  • Airbnb Alternatives: How Other Short-Term Rental Sites Compare