Access vs Ownership | Why Own Something When You Can Just Borrow?

Did you know Australians have over $6,623 worth of unused items in their households? That’s close to $60 billion nation wide. Just think about that for a moment.

Wouldn’t it have made much more sense to borrow?

Although not a new concept, ‘Access vs Ownership’ is gaining traction in Australia and for good reason, it’s helping individuals declutter and save both on time and costs. 

What is Access vs Ownership?

Put simply, Access vs Ownership is anything that gives you access to something without having to own it  yourself. Some of the biggest companies in the world have Access vs Ownership at their core:

  • Netflix lets you stream movies without having to own a single DVD

  • Spotify gives you access to almost all recorded music, without having to own thousands of records

  • Airbnb gives you access to a holiday home without having to buy a second house

Generally, you pay a fee per use, or sign up to a subscription which generally ends up cheaper. Even putting the savings aside, Access vs Ownership gives you more choice, flexibility and the freedom that comes with not being weighed down by physical things ie. stacks of CD’s & DVD’s.

Timeless Access

Today, millennials are diving into Access vs Ownership head first for lots of reasons. Young people travel more, are less likely to own a home and are more likely to change jobs. As such, they have less motivation to own things they don’t often use, let alone pay full price for. 

There’s also an environmental incentive as well. Owning requires something new to be manufactured, while ‘access’ uses what’s already made.

Despite being embraced by the young, it’s not anything new. Here are some classic examples of Access vs Ownership you might already be familiar with:

  • Libraries: Why purchase a book that sits on the shelf most of the time?

  • Public Transport: You don’t need to buy a car for everyone in your home if you have access to buses, train, and trams

  • Car rental: Whether you’re travelling or need a second car – we’ve been renting cars instead of buying them for decades

  • Renting a house: Owning a home is expensive, but renting gives you a place to live without buying one yourself

  • Local Pools: Having a pool is quite expensive and requires a lot of space & on-going maintenance, so for most, being able to frequent the local pool is much more convenient.

These ideas are simple, but they’re being re-imagined in the 21st century, giving our communities even more access to shared resources:

  • Street Libraries have popped up all over Australia

  • Green Space is now a core element of building design

  • Tool Libraries are common in most modern cities

  • GoGet Car Share makes car ownership completely optional

Do you need to own anything anymore?

We’ll never get to a point where we share everything, but there is a lot you can get away with not owning. Here’s a fictional Friday that shows just how much you can do without:

7am: You wake up to a new music Spotify playlist. It helps you keep up with new music without having to buy crates of records (and without radio ads!).

7.45am: You head to work. It’s a 10 minute walk to the tram, which drops you near the office. En route you fire up Spotify and bust out a rare live album from the Grateful Dead (a vintage LP just sold for $250 on Ebay, but you don’t need to own it to hear it).

12noon: You’ve got a work meeting 15km away. A taxi would be too expensive, so you book a GoGet KIA Sportage for two hours to get you there and back. Your work did away with pool cars last year and is saving tonnes.

4:30pm: You head home early, as you have a fancy dinner tonight. It’s been a long day, so on the way home you watch your favourite episode of Seinfeld on Stan (The Frogger, obviously).

5:00pm: Before you head out you spend some time with a library book, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (you’ve been working through his children’s titles for the last six weeks).

5.15pm: You open the package you received yesterday from GlamCorner, a designer dress you’ve rented for tonight’s dinner. As much as you love wearing a $900 outfit, it’s not a practical purchase, so you just rent one when it’s called for.

6:00pm: The dinner starts at 7pm, so you give yourself plenty of time to get there in the GoGet you booked a few days ago. You’re taking an Audi A3, because you feel like a fancy dinner in a fancy dress deserves a fancy ride.

The cost of the dress, the Grateful Dead album, the Seinfeld box set, the Neil Gaiman books, plus the two cars would cost over $80,000. Instead, this day would rack up about $40 worth of monthly subscriptions, plus $150 off one off costs for the dress, tram tickets, and GoGet cars.

Access vs Ownership is changing the way we live for the better. It gives us more choice for less, and it’s quite a bit nicer on the environment. You’re likely already using at least one Access vs Ownership service, so why not sell some stuff and join one more?

Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC, SBS, and Australian Financial Review.


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