Discover surprising items you can lease and why it doesn't pay to buy them.
With a tough economy bringing about alternatives to buying, savvy retailers now offer rental services for almost everything, from fancy dresses to funeral caskets (yes, really).
So how should you decide whether to rent or buy? Liz Weston, author of The 10 Commandments of Money, suggests asking yourself, “How often am I going to use this thing?” When you’ll get only a single use out of an item, it obviously makes more sense to rent. But for things you’d need to lease multiple times—or for a single extended period of time—the rental fees may add up to the cost of buying the item, so renting isn’t a better deal in those cases, says Weston. Now read on for ten surprising things you just may want to rent.
If you’re fretting about what to wear to your high school reunion or another special event, why not rent a drool-worthy dress at a fraction of the retail price?
RenttheRunway.com leases dozens of designer frocks for under $100, including some as low as $40. The best part: Every order includes a free backup size, and you can hold onto the dresses for four or eight days. If neither dress fits, send them back for a credit, less shipping costs. Dry cleaning and damage insurance are included in the rental fee. If the dress is totally destroyed, though, you pay its full retail price.
Gia Crecelius of Los Angeles first used the site for a holiday party several years ago and has used it six times since. “I tend to see the same people at every event, so whenever I have an occasion, I look at Rent the Runway,” she says.
After you get the fantastic dress, you can lease some baubles too.
At Adorn.com rentals start at $85 for a piece worth $1,165, while BagBorroworSteal.com has more than 200 pieces of jewelry that rent for under $40.
BagBorroworSteal.com, which also rents handbags, includes $150 worth of insurance coverage in your rental fee; you can pay more for full insurance. Adorn also insures its jewelry, but you may be charged 33% of the full retail price if the piece is lost or damaged and there will be a reserve on your credit card of 5% of the jewelry’s retail value until you return what you rented. Cathy Crecco of Woodbury, NY, never could have afforded to buy the sapphire necklace she rented from Adorn for her son’s wedding.
“I got this magnificent thing in the mail, put it on with the gown and felt like a queen for a day,” she says.
How often will you use a tile cutter after you finish that bathroom renovation?
Renting expensive tools—instead of buying them—can save you hundreds of dollars. Plus, you don’t have to worry about maintaining and storing them in between uses. Luckily, tool-lending libraries are becoming increasingly popular; search for one in your area at LocalTools.org/Find/.
You can also call a home improvement store: At most Home Depots, you can rent more than two dozen items, including pressure washers, aerators, carpet cleaners and more. Rates vary, but most tools rent for $20 to $50 a day, with large equipment such as two-man augers or power washers costing closer to $70 per day.
Visit SnapGoods.com, a lending service that connects you with friends and neighbors (and anyone else you add to your network through the site) who will let you rent the latest gizmo before you buy it.
The concept is simple: For a small fee set by the lender, typically $10 to $20 a day, you reserve the item. After you pay the fee, you work out where and when to meet the lender to pick up and return the item. SnapGoods covers insurance with the cut it takes per transaction—50 cents plus 7 to 10% of the rental price. The site is fairly new, but in areas where it’s caught on, you can rent everything from a Wii to a digital projector for a day or a week at a time. Don’t forget to list your own stuff; it’s an easy way to earn extra spending money.
High-quality equipment makes you more comfortable in the great outdoors, but if you don’t know when (or if) you’ll go camping again, it’s not wise to spend a small fortune on good gear. Plus, renting items at your destination can help you avoid airline luggage fees if you’re flying to your camping spot.
LowerGear.com, one of the largest outdoor equipment rental sites, offers everything from water filters to backpacks, tents to sleeping bags. And the savings are sizable: You’ll pay $28, plus shipping, to rent a two-person Sierra Light tent for three days—compared to $250 to buy it. Outdoor gear retailers, like REI, also usually rent tents, camping stoves and other basic equipment, though the selection varies by store.
Got a green thumb but no space for a garden? You’re in luck.
Community gardens are popping up across the country in parks, alongside churches and even on rooftops. Many city park departments rent plots for a small annual fee, say $50 for 400 square feet; other community gardens don’t charge rent but require you to put in a certain number of hours maintaining the garden. Either way, you’ll have a place to dig and get to take home healthy fruits and vegetables. To find a garden near you, do an internet search for your town’s name and “community garden” or check out the American Community Garden Association’s database.
Sure, renting sounds creepy in this case, but consider this scary stat: Buying a casket costs about $2,000 on average, and some mahogany, bronze and copper ones sell for as much as $10,000, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Many funeral homes will rent caskets for $500 to $900 a day, so renting may be worth it if you want a nice casket to display at the funeral but are fine with something simpler to go into the ground or crematory—and the total rental price for the number of days you need the casket is less than the purchase price.
Typically, the body stays inside the casket in a thick cardboard container, which is then removed for burial or cremation, explains Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance. Since you can rent a casket only from the funeral home where you’re having the service, some funeral homes hike up their rental prices significantly. Make sure you compare rental and purchase prices before you commit to a funeral home, advises Slocum.
The average college student ponies up about $1,100 for textbooks every year, according to The College Board. That’s a lot of dough for books your student won’t open after a semester.
Check out Chegg.com, which rents more than 4 million textbooks in various formats for a fraction of what campus bookstores charge. For instance, Human Biology, a popular biology textbook, sells new for $170, but Chegg rents it for $49.49 a semester. Your student can even do a little highlighting without paying extra for the rental. “We’re pretty lenient,” says spokeswoman Angela Pontarolo. And if your child doesn’t need a book she’s ordered, return it within 21 days for a refund, minus shipping costs.
Don’t worry about packing your baby’s beloved (and bulky) bouncy seat for your next family vacation. In many popular vacation destinations, you can have rented baby gear—from jogging strollers to safety gates, full-size cribs to infant bathtubs—delivered for reasonable fees.
Bouncy seats go for about $3 to $5 a day, while a full-size crib will set you back about $10 to $15 a day, with discounts for weeklong rentals. Find rental shops by state at Baby-Equipment-Rental.com or try Baby’s Away, which has locations in 30 states. (But visit Recalls.gov first to check that the item you wish to rent hasn’t been recalled.)
In most cases, leasing baby gear for longer than a few weeks doesn’t pay, since rental costs for a few months typically add up to the price of buying the item. An Exersaucer, for example, rents for $20 a month, but you can buy one for $50.
Despite spending plenty on playthings, most end up at the bottom of the toy box.
Through BabyPlays.com, you can rent a single toy for $2.99 to $8.99 a month, plus shipping, and send it back when your child or grandchild gets bored with it. Or try a monthly membership: For $19.99 a month, you get four new toys every other month. All playthings are sanitized, says company founder Stephanie Weber, and if the toy breaks or you lose a piece, you can return it without penalty.
What if your little one falls in love with a particular toy? Then you can buy it for 30 to 50% off the retail price. Eileen Matthews of Brooklyn, NY, has been renting toys for her 3-year-old son through BabyPlays.com since he was an infant. “Our house is small, so I didn’t want stuff to keep accumulating,” she says. “This has been great because I switch out the toys he doesn’t play with anymore for toys that are age-appropriate.”
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