My friend’s parents were recently locked in a marital battle.
They wanted to travel from Michigan to Florida for a wedding, and she wanted to fly for free using frequent flier miles they had accrued. The transportation cost for the trip would be limited to the car they would rent for three days when in Florida.
He, on the other hand, thought it was silly to rent a car when theirs worked perfectly fine. He wanted to make the 24 hour drive down to Florida for their three day trip. He was sure this was the cheaper way to travel, even though they would have to pay for gas and put wear and tear on the car.
Ah, the rental battle.
Is it worthwhile to pay for a rental? The answer, in all honesty, is often that it depends. However, in this case, simple math would have shown him that her plan would have been the cost saver.
Marital battle aside, we Americans don’t often think of renting outside of cars and apartments. Instead, our first thought tends to go to ownership.
There are just a few things we automatically think of renting–of course, cars when we are traveling, tuxedos when our children are going to prom or when men get married, apartments, sure. But for most other temporary needs, we tend to buy instead of rent.
However, if we could let go of this mindset, we may save a substantial amount of money.
How to Determine If It Is Better to Rent or Buy
There are some calculations you can do to determine if it is best to rent or buy.
1. How often will you use this item?
If you will use the item frequently, it will often be a better financial move to buy rather than rent.
When I was breastfeeding my son, I chose to buy a breast pump rather than renting. (Did you even know you can rent breast pumps? You can, often from a hospital.) Renting one cost $20 per month, and buying one cost $250. Considering that I breastfed my son for 12 months and had to pump at work, this purchase looks on the surface to be a wash. However, I used the pump, though not as much, for my two other children. In addition, when I was finished, I sold the pump for $60.
I definitely saved money buying instead of renting.
2. Have you used this item before?
If you haven’t used the item before, you may want to rent just to try it out rather than making a purchase only to discover that you won’t likely use it again.
My husband made our wooden bed frame, and we thought he would use a circular saw for many other homemade projects. Rather than renting the tool for $50, we elected to purchase it for $100. He only used it once and now it is in my pile of items to sell on Craigslist. If we are lucky, we will earn $50 for it and the purchase will be a wash compared to the price of renting. However, we should have rented.
3. Is this a once in a lifetime item?
Many items that we only use once are pricy. Think of wedding dresses, for instance. You wear them once, pay an expensive fee for the dry cleaner to clean and preserve it, and then it sits in the closet. Why not buck the trend and rent a wedding dress instead?
Did you know that girls can rent their prom dresses? Why not? Boys rent their tuxedos. According to MainStreet, “Wear Today Gone Tomorrow rents out dresses and accessories by top designers, many for 90% off the retail price, such as Kay Unger strapless silk ruched dress for $57 for a seven-day rental (retails for $570).”
You may be surprised by other things you can rent:
- Caskets (Yes, caskets–pay $800 to rent vs. $2,500+ to buy. This is typically an option for those who have a funeral, but then plan to cremate the deceased.)
- Textbooks [See our article about saving on textbooks.]
- Camping gear
- Musical instruments
Another Way to Save
While renting can save you a great deal of money, don’t forget the other option–buying used.
Sometimes you can buy things used for less than you may pay to rent them. A case in point may be a musical instrument, especially if your child will be playing the instrument for several years.
We live in an expensive world, but you can save yourself a bundle by strategically renting what you need or buying used.