New American Dream: Rent, Not Own?

More people are renting cars, houses, furniture, even baby clothes, but is it smarter than buying?
3:00 | 07/26/12

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Transcript for New American Dream: Rent, Not Own?
Tonight is renting the new reality? Even with more r mortgage rates at his tor tick loes more and more americans are choosing to rent instead of buy and it's not just homes. Car ownership rates have plummeted in recent years. And new and create iways to rent everything from fu on thes to baby clothes are cropping up everywhere. But does it really make economic sense not to buy? Here is abc's melody hof. Well, this is cool meet brian, the 30-year-old chief executive of air b-n-b. It pairs people seeking temporary rental with those with room to spare. In the wake of this economic environment, people are realizing that access is more powerful than ownership. Air b-n-b started less than five years ago and issest baited to be worth man a billion. She rents out a room in this modest victorian for $35 a night. A luxury tree house goes for $175 a night. And for the luck kwi few who can afford it a 6,500 square foot ski house rents for $5,000 a night. While the new american dream may include a white picket fence, it's not homeowner ship. We used to be defined by things we owned. Now it's like this idea of sharing with the joness. It's called the share economy. It sounds more like rental nation. The treadmill in your bedroom, and the nice suit. It seems that everything is for rent these days. Household goods, parking spots, clothes even baby toys. How did we get here? Foreclosures, americans are flocking in record numbers to rental. In april, homeowner ship fell to its lowest level in 15 years. Even many who can afford to buy these days would rather rent. We've been rentding for the past two days. Would you like to own it one day? No. I save money renting instead of buying, especially obviously the real estate bubble that burst. This is your bathroom. And now robin is renting out hr rental. Carson is visiting from albuquerque for the weekend. Is this everything that you were expecting? Carson says it's better than a motel room and robin says she can make enough to cover her own monthly rent. Does your landlord know you were renting o ut a room. They do now. Seal ya rents her house with furniture. Having less is more. For me, I have more freedom. I can pick up tomorrow and have two suitcases. Well, maybe three. I have a lot of shoes. And the prius she drives to pick her her sister at the airport is rented too. Does it feel like your car? Absolutely. I love this car. She rented it with rely ride. Zip car gives rent erts access to a fleet in their own neighborhood. You can rent your neighbor's car. I don't use the car everyday, so it feels like a waist to have this resource. In this case t prius belongs to cat reena who lives just a block and a half up the street. Financially it doesn't make sense to sell it either because I do use it enough. Relay ride es founder set she is the typical owner. 92% of the time the car sits idol. Somebody can be using that car. 30 years ago, you never would have imagined renting out your car. What do you think shifts for people that something that before was such a status symbol is now nothing rent out by the hour? Social media is creating new ways to express yourself. As opposed by being defined by the things you own, you can express yourself in lots of other ways. But for the customers the bill ads up, whether renting is always best. Sue become such an active rely rides user her rental bill is running around $200 a month. That's pretty close to what it would cost you if you owned a car. But I'm not paying for gas. Do you worry about the amount of renting that you're doing in terms of the wear and tear on the car? No. I know it's a risk that there will be more wear and tear on the car, but the money that I'm making from the renting is paying for maintenance. Everybody who signs up can get rated by their peers. With results showing is up in an online profile. She said she was a blacklist for renter. I don't know who this guy is, but I said no I don't want him renting the car again. He got low stars and I was really irritated. I can start renting immediately. Whether rental nation is bad or something that is here to stay, may hinge on how renting problems are resolved. Someone has a terrible accident with my car I rented out, should I be worried. We don't believe car owners should be liable when incidents drivers. The renters we met do not seem overly worried. Life is messy. If something happened, we would clean it up. For "nightline" in san francisco.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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