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Big Ticket Items, Is it Better to Rent or Buy?

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I hate waste. I don’t like wasting time, resources, or money. In looking for ways to save money, I often try to determine if something is worthy buying instead of renting. (Note: I am not talking about houses in this discussion; very different set of rules). Most recently this came into play when my wife decided we needed to clean our carpets. After a little research it was evident that buying a quality carpet cleaner was a much better deal that paying someone to clean our carpets or renting a carpet cleaner from the store.

We did a thorough price comparison, and found a Hoover SteamVac at Wal-Mart for $140. Hiring a carpet cleaner to come out to our house would probably cost at least $70, and renting a machine and buying cleaning solution would cost between $40-50.  We will pay for the carpet cleaner after about 3 uses, plus we will have the added benefit of being able to use the cleaner whenever we want, and it will probably last several years.

How to determine if you should rent or buy

When you are deciding on whether or not to buy or rent an item there are several questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How often will you use the item? We knew we would use the carpet cleaner before family or guests visited and for spot cleaning. We are also thinking about having children and I know it will come in handy if we do.
  • How long to pay it off (ROI)? The carpet cleaner will pay for itself after several uses.
  • Do you need the item? Our carpets needed cleaning, so yes.
  • Can you resell it? Not worried about reselling the carpet cleaner, but this question is applicable for other items (see the car below).

Works best for big ticket items. Buying can give you a better overall deal for big ticket items like carpet cleaners, musical instruments, sporting equipment, power tools, etc. But even if buying comes out better financially, that doesn’t mean it is always the best option.

Downside to buying. It is better to rent some items instead of buying them. Some things are expensive to maintain and store – like boats. Renting also makes sense when you just want to try something out, like an instrument for yourself or a student.

Other times I purchased instead of renting

Buying a car. I once bought a car instead of renting. I know, this is a fairly extreme move and won’t work for everyone, but it saved me several hundred dollars. I was still in the USAF and relocated to the US from overseas. My truck wasn’t supposed to arrive for about 3 weeks, so my options were limited – try and bum rides, rent a car, or buy a car. I spent $1975 on an older Saturn drove it for awhile to put miles on it instead of my truck, then sold it a couple months later for $1901. This easily saved me a few hundred dollars.

Movies. I used to buy movies instead of renting them until I moved to a location with a good library system. Now I prefer to borrow them. It is easy to find movies for around $5 each, so if you watch it twice it is paid for. The disadvantages are a limited selection and the occasional dud. Another alternative is online rentals via Blockbuster or Netflix, or borrow from your library system if you have the option. You can get a Netflix free trial through the link.

Do you have tips, ideas, or items you would recommend buying instead of renting?


Published or updated March 30, 2011.
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Craig

Like you mentioned it all depends on the scale of the item. I think its very easy to justify buying a vacuum cleaner you will use weekly opposed to a boat you will use a few times a year. I have become better with using Netflix opposed to buying DVD’s but to be honest that is one of my vices. For some reason I enjoy collecting DVD’s.

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2 SingleGuyMoney

I think buying movies is a big waste of money. Why spend $20 to buy a movie you may only watch once or twice?

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3 deepali

Space can be another factor – if you don’t have the room for a hoover steamvac, it doesn’t make sense to buy, and then rent storage. :)

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