I want to rent out a video camera. How do I insure it, and enforce it?

I am planning to purchase a Panasonic DVX100B digital camcorder. This particular model is wildly popular among independent/low-budget/student filmmakers et al. and is frequently sought out in my area (Los Angeles) as a professional-quality camera for an affordable price. (It is not on the level of what a major studio multi-million dollar production usually uses, but there are plenty of smaller productions who love it)

To help pay for it, I want to rent it out by the day to these productions. What I need is a way to insure that in the event of damage/loss/theft while in possession of the rentee, I can enforce the rentee’s liability for the cost of the camera.

I have been reviewing the rental contracts from some of the rental houses around here (as with all film equipment, their day rates are very high and I would be able to undercut them a bit thus making this a viable venture for me as an individual), and they often will keep a credit card on file, and the terms of the contract say that if the camera isn’t returned in satisfactory condition, they will charge its cost on the credit card.

There does exist what is known as production insurance, but many of the low-budget kind of productions I’ll be dealing with won’t have it. Even if they do though, there is a deductible, and I still need a guarantee that they will be able to cover that deductible.

I know I can accept credit card payments through Paypal, but after a good bit of browsing on the Paypal site I am coming up empty on a way to “hold” or “guarantee” the full cost of the camera. Is there another way I can do this? Do I have to create a business for the purpose of accepting credit cards? What about an escrow service? Any thoughts?

I’ll be waiting to hear the answer to this. I have a DVX100A and an Aaton LTR-54 that can be making me an extra couple of bucks. (Let me know if you need a second camera on a shoot.)

I just knew that somebody else has the same bright idea and I’d be encouraging competition by posting this. :stuck_out_tongue:

Alas, I have to swallow my pride and admit I need the help of the Dope.

At least now if you need a second camera, you know where to look! :wink:

(Alas, most of my lights are at the other place.)

This is pointless.

If they don’t have the money to buy a camera on their own, why do you think they would have the money to pay for one that is stolen or damaged?

Even if you get their credit card or paypal account, they likely won’t have the credit limit to cover this amount. And they could always dispute the charge anyway, and the credit company/paypal will just reverse it and tell you to fight it out with them in court.

If they don’t have the money, there is no sure way for you to collect what isn’t there.

Just buy your own insurance on the equipment, to protect you if it’s damaged or stolen. The cost of this insurance is part of your cost of doing business. (Now you see why those rental houses charge so much.)

I agree. One of the reasons I decided to retire and quit my business was competition by people who kept undercutting prices. They would get away w/ it for a few years before facing reality, and then there would be another one to take their place. There are always customers who will take advantage of this situation and it hurts the people who are legitimately pricing based on the actual costs involved. You want to loball your competitors and still have guarantees against risk, sorry charlie. You have to know the cost of doing business and price your goods or services accordingly.

Because it’s cheaper to rent, and the chances are it probably will not be stolen or damaged - but in case it does, they pay even if it means going into debt.

Of course I considered this but the rental houses seem to get away with it on a regular basis. At least, that’s what’s in their contracts so they must be good for something, no?

True, but a real threat which can be backed up should be enough to deter anyone with possibly fradulent intentions.

How would I go about this? (I’ve never purchased insurance before for an electronic device)

Except an all-out rental house has plenty of costs that I wouldn’t have to worry about as an individual. Mainly, employees and overhead. I’m not trying to start a business, just earn a little cash on the side.

Credit card liability is not this bulletproof. The zero liability guarentees are for unauthorized use. Credit card companies are not about covering warranty and or service problems or enabling people to steal from the businesses they deal with.

Take a page from the car rental places, find an insurance agent willing to create loss policies where the customer can either:

A: leave a deposit of say $3000 to cover the camera
B: pay an extra amount per day for insurance on the camera
C: Only rent to Opal
D: show proof of insurance of their own and a deposit to cover the deductible.

You’re not getting it. You see it as picking up a little extra cash. The business that you’re competing w/ sees it as unfair competition.
You’re either in business, or you’re not. If you are then figure out your costs, which includes maintenance, repair and replacement of equipment, and set your prices accordingly.
If you want this camera and can afford it, then buy it and enjoy. Forget about trying to make a buck.

You have the same concerns, for you its just a matter of scale. In theory if you could consistently rent out such cameras you could easily have a booming little rental busines in short order. It does not take a team of employees to manage 5-10 cameras being cycled in and out of a spare bedroom.

The nice thing for you, like me in my business, is that I am not supporting any infrastructure above me either. No regional offices, no management team, no massive facilities.

Hell with a little planning and foresight you could turn into a full on video production support business renting lighting, sound gear, video editing gear, etc. NExt thing we know we see your name on the credits of major movies :D.

Not just unfair but possibly illegal, at least in CA rentals do incur sales tax. If you are not charging or worse, charging but not filing, sales taxes a competitor can rat you out for your little improperly run micro business and let the state take care of you while they go back to charging the same old rates and people breifly lament that nice guy that rented cameras for half that before he went to jail.

I know this is an entirely foreign perspective but maybe these things may help. I used to rent cars from an el cheapo Rent-a-Wreck place. I paid cash whenever I rented but at some point they told me I had to rent on my credit card. This was forced on them by their insurers. The point of using a credit card was not to charge me for costs but to make sure that I could be found at all if I stole or damaged the car. The guy who ran the place also told me that most large rental businesses, although they charge an insurance fee, actually carry no insurance but absorb the risks themselves. Their reasoning is that if the insurer charges, say $20 per day and makes a profit then so would they.

I am planning on renting some equipment in the LA area as well. These are issues we are looking at now. Most houses want a credit card with a limit high enough to pay for the rental equipment’s replacement cost, so you would have to set up a merchant account. Drop me a line if you want to get together and talk abou it, my e-mail is in my bio.

One thing I thought of is to insure the equipment myself. I’ve only brought about $15,000 worth with me, and it’s very unlikely it would all be used at once; so I’m hoping the premium would be low. I’ll check it out.

This is Rigamarole’s gig, so I don’t want to jump in front of him.

Rent a camera from him first!

But I’d like to find the odd weekend project, and I have the super-16 camera with me. Is your email address correct?

I used to work as store manager for a chain video store and for a period of time we rented out video cameras. We required a $250 pre-auth on a credit card in addition to the rental fee, and we held the amount until the camera was returned. Within about 6 months, most of the stores in our district had lost their cameras to customers who just failed to return them, or damaged them, or claimed they were stolen. I think in maybe one case we were able to recover the cost of the camera in full. In most other cases we never made back more than the $250 we were able to pre-auth, as the customers credit cards were either maxed out and declined, or the charges were disputed by the customer and we were not able to recover any charges from the credit card companies.

I’m not sure how a private individual would fare, but the hassles involved weren’t worth it for us and we considered it an expensive lesson, and discontinued the practice. As for renting things in general, unless you have the money to pay for continual repairs or replacements, it doesn’t seem cost effective to me for a private individual to manage. We rented out many things, including VCRs, DVD players, PlayStations, GameCubes, XBoxes, etc. and in most cases I’d say with the money we made renting them out v. the money we spent repairing or replacing we probably broke even. For the most part, they helped encourage more rentals of games or movies, and that’s where we were able to make a profit.

If you value your camera for your own personal use, I’d recommend against renting it out to anyone but people you personally trust. People seem to lose all sense of responsibility when renting things.

People beat the living crap out of rental stuff, and given the cohort you are seeking as customers is often on shaky financial ground, young & careless, and inexperienced with the equipment you’re really just asking for trouble. This is an actuarially insane gamble in terms of risk-reward unless you charge huge rates and can throughly vet your clients.

Oh last but not least…ever consider renting out yourself with the camera? Kinda becoming in effect a freelance cameraman. IIRC we have someone who might be able to shed a little more light on that subject.

Paging Cartooniverse

The first thing to do is to call a commercial insurance broker, explain that you will be renting the camera out to the general public, and ask how much it will cost to insure the camera against loss, theft, damage, etc.

I promise you that the insurer will require an exorbitant premium, if they are willing to write insurance at all. Because they are in business to make money, and they are well aware of the virtual certainty that 1 of your first 20 customers will steal, lose, or break the camera.

Thus the only way to protect yourself is to require a deposit equal to the replacement cost of the camera. The problem with this is that nobody will be willing to put the money up and even if somebody does, you will have endless disputes over damage to the camera.

Bottom line: There’s a reason why nobody is in business renting out expensive, delicate, portable equipment to the general public.