While there is a certain lure in the concept of ownership, it’s important to recognize that buying something isn’t always the best choice. The battle of rent vs. buy isn’t restricted to the housing market, either; consumers of all types need to think before they buy and weigh whether renting would make better sense.
There are some items that are perfect candidates for renting—and doing so can save you money over time, allowing to you to use your resources more efficiently.
When you should rent vs. when you should buy
Before you spend money buying an item, look at the situation to determine whether or not it might be a good idea to rent it instead. First of all, you need to honestly evaluate how often you will use the item. If you will only use it once or twice, it doesn’t make sense to buy it.
Another consideration is whether or not you can afford the item. You might expect to use it more in the future, but if you can’t afford the big payment to buy up front, it might make sense to rent for a little while as you save up the money.
Consider, too, what you will do with the purchase when you are done with it. Is it something that is likely to sit, disregarded, in the attic or basement? Is the item ultimately going to lead to more clutter in your home? If you have no clear idea of regular use in the future, and you have no idea what to do with it when you are done, it might be a good idea to rent the item instead of buying it.
Items that lend themselves well to renting
While some items are obviously better as rentals, there are others that might surprise you. Here are a few examples:
- Books: Consider borrowing books instead of buying them and then trying to store them. Not only can you make use of your local library to do this, but there are also websites that allow you to swap books. I used to buy books all the time. Now, though, I’ve slowed the pace, only buying books that I really like and that I know I will read over and over.
- Movies: Unless you plan to watch a certain movie regularly, it might make more sense to rent it than to buy it. One option is to pay a monthly fee for a streaming service that will allow you to watch movies whenever you want. You also can rent movies inexpensively at local stores or through a service such as Redbox. My family has a Netflix subscription that includes disc delivery—it still costs less than buying all the movies we’ve thought of seeing.
- Formal clothing: Got a big event coming up? Rather than spending hundreds on a fancy new dress or tux, rent it. Most of us don’t attend formal events very often, so buying a designer dress or a tuxedo doesn’t make sense. You’ll pay a fraction of the price by renting, and you won’t have to worry about whether or not it will fit a year from now.
- Textbooks: My cousin has been renting textbooks rather than buying them, and it has worked out well for him. By renting, you will pay a smaller fee than you would have if you’d bought the textbook. Indeed, rental prices can even be lower than buying a used textbook. You can’t sell back the rented textbook, though; you just return it. However, if you do the math, you often still come out ahead because you are unlikely to sell back your used textbook for very much anyway.
- Tools: Large tools can be rented rather than bought. Chainsaws, table saws, carpet cleaners, trenchers, commercial dehumidifiers, and other large tools can be rented for a day and then returned. Plan your project so that you use the tool for as little time as possible to save money.
- Children’s toys: An interesting new trend is the renting of toys. Sites such as BabyPlays.com offer you this opportunity. You pay a monthly fee and then every few months you receive a package full of different toys and return what you borrowed previously. It helps keep things fresh for your child, it ensures that you don’t have to keep buying new toys as your child grows, and it helps you avoid clutter.
You might be surprised at how much sense it makes to rent vs. buy. Check the monthly cost of renting and compare it to the average you will pay to buy something new. In many cases, the savings can really add up.
Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the co-author of Community 101: How to Grow an Online Community, and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.