When You’re Not Sure the Purchase Will Fit Your Needs
Splurging on a new treadmill might not make you work out every day. And a quick test-drive won’t tell you if your groceries fit into that cute convertible. "Rent if you are wavering on an expensive item and feel the need to try it out first," says Cheryl Sherrard, director of financial planning at Rinehart & Associates, an asset-management firm in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here, some items that may require a spin around the block.
What's available: Digital cameras, cam-corders, computers, projectors, GPS devices, PDAs, cell phones, speakers, video-game equipment, and more.
Keep in mind: If you are renting a piece of equipment that requires assembly, like a bouncing castle, make sure the three-hour rental time does not include the hour to set it up and the hour to dismantle it.
Cost Comparison: Jukebox To rent: $900 a day. To buy: $2,500.
Cotton-Candy Machine To rent: $85 a day. To buy: $480.
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When You Don’t Intend to Use the Item Often or for Long
Fixing things up around the house? Traveling? Hosting houseguests? Don’t buy something that will only gather dust after one use. And don’t schlep something that will cost you extra luggage fees.
Tools and Appliances
What's available: Power washers, generators, lawn aerators, carpet steam cleaners, electric saws and drills, washing machines and dryers, refrigerators, etc.
Keep in mind: For information on how to use rental tools in various projects, go to the Know-How Center at homedepot.com. These instructional pages feature buying guides, how- to videos, and safety tips.
Cost Comparison: Makita Chain Saw To rent: $60 a day. To buy: $980.
Kenmore Washer-Dryer To rent: $35 a month. To buy: $400 for each appliance.
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What's available: High chairs, booster seats, strollers, car seats, cribs, changing tables, safety gates, baby monitors, toys, nursing equipment.
Keep in mind: Renting makes the most sense for cribs, playpens, and high chairs when traveling; less sense for light strollers, which can be checked at the gate for no additional fee.
Cost Comparison: Bob Jogging Stroller To rent: $60 a week. To buy: $150.
Papasan Swing To rent: $40 a week. To buy: $150.
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When You Want to Live Large...for a Little While
If you must tighten your belt―but wish it could be a Gucci―this category is for you. "Renting luxury items is worth it when you want a delicious indulgence that you could never pay for otherwise," says Schatsky. And remember―reading about them here ( just to satisfy your curiosity) is absolutely free.
WardrobeWhat's available: Designer bags and sunglasses (Chanel, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Prada); clothing (Carolina Herrera, See by Chloé, Herve Leger); jewelry (David Yurman, Tiffany & Co.).
Keep in mind: At weartodaygonetomorrow.com, use the size chart to determine what’s available in your size in multiple labels. If you’re unhappy with the fit, you will get a refund for the item, minus shipping.
Cost Comparison: Vintage Birkin Bag To rent: $615 a week. To buy: $17,000.
Judith Ripka Ring To rent: $70 a week. To buy: $600.
Keep in mind: Before renting a home, a plane, or a yacht (one can dream!), read the fine print. A villa’s owners may require you to use their cleaning service. And the cost of fuel for a plane, say, can make this indulgence (even more) unaffordable.
Cost Comparison: Villa in Tuscany To rent: $1,500 a week. To buy: $92.5 million.
Aston Martin To rent: $1,250 a day. To buy: $182,500.
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3 Steps to Renting Anything
Step 1:Calculate the item’s cost per use. There are many good reasons for renting. But if the bottom line is your bottom line, knowing an item’s cost per use will help you to decide whether to rent it in the first place―and help you compare rates if you do. The formula is quite simple: Just divide the purchase cost of the item by the number of times that you expect to use it in a given time period, says Marshall Brain, founder of HowStuffWorks.com, an educational site offering product advice. For example, a carpet steam cleaner might cost $400 and last for five years. If you use it only once in five years, your cost per use is $400, so it’s definitely cheaper to rent. But if you use it monthly, the cost per use is less than $7, making it a worthy purchase.
Step 2:Locate the item. The websites listed in this story rent nationally, but when an item is heavy and expensive to ship (read: jukebox) or you’re in a rush, it makes sense to rent locally. Check out the American Rental Association’s "Rental Store Quick Locator," at RentalHQ.com. Or search for the item along with your ZIP code at iLetYou.com or a peer-to-peer rental site, like Zilok.com. And you might even find the thing you need in the good old Yellow Pages.
Step 3:Ask these questions before you swipe your credit card.
"Does the rental price include everything?" Watch out for additional costs related to setup and use.
"Can I see and/or test the item before I rent it?" Case in point: It’s a smart move to make sure there are no stains on those party linens.
"What happens if I lose or damage the rental?" If insurance isn’t offered, call your credit-card company, which may automatically cover something that you rent with a gold card or some other enhanced card, says Liz Pulliam Weston, author of Your Credit Score (FT Press, $19). Also check to see if it is covered under your home owner’s or renter’s insurance policy.
"Can I buy the item at a discount after I’ve rented it?"
"If I finish using the item earlier than expected, can I get back the remaining portion of the rental cost?"