NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Renting items is becoming commonplace as more shoppers are drawn to the ease and flexibility of owing an item for only a few days. Luxury items such as professional camera equipment and diamond necklaces are no longer reserved only for people who are willing to shell out the extra bucks.
While renting is not always cheaper than buying the item you have been coveting, it gives you a chance to try out the latest gadget and figure out whether you are a fan of it. One sign that you should rent before you buy is if you’re not fully committed to the purchase, said Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education for Credit.com.
“Whether it’s a home in a neighborhood or city where you aren’t sure you will stay put or a ball gown you may only wear once, renting allows you to try something out while you make up your mind about whether that’s what you really want,” she said.
When your credit score is weak or below where you can get a good interest rate, renting can be a good option, she said.
“A poor credit score can lock you into an expensive mortgage that can cost you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan,” Detweiler said. “Although renting may feel like you are ‘throwing away’ money, it can actually end up protecting your credit if it turns out you can’t afford the home, car or other major purchase you’ve made.”
Renting comes with its caveats – some items require a deposit and a large deductible if the item is lost or stolen, so make sure you can pay for the item. Renting can also add up quickly for items you lease for several months such as electronics, appliances or furniture. A better option is to save up money for the items that you can live without.
Here is a list of 20 things you can rent to impress your friends, host your next party, stay green, spend your next holiday and still save money by limiting the amount of your purchases.
Professional camera equipment Professional camera equipment is expensive and one single lens can easily cost over $1,000. If you are just beginning to try your hand at photography, you may not know if you want a GoPro action camera or which lenses will be the best fit. Lumoid, a San Francisco startup, lets you rent the cameras and lenses for $15 to $25 a day. If you decide to buy the item, you can credit 30% of the rental price from that year for the purchase. You can even have it shipped to your hotel so you don’t have to worry about it breaking. Another company to check out is lensrentals.com.
EReaders You probably have loads of gadgets and electronics at home stored in the back of your closet becoming obsolete. If your reading habits are sporadic, you might not need an ereader. Borrow one from your library for a week or two and see if you are actually reading more or like the smaller pages. The library in Dover Town, Mass. is a treasure trove of electronics and you can borrow a Kindle, Nook, iPads and iPod Touches as well as Blu-Ray and DVD players, XBox 360, Wii and PlayStation 3 gaming consoles and games. All you need is proof of residence to receive a library card.
Smartphone If your data plan does not extend to Europe or other places when you are traveling, several companies rent out smartphones so you can use the apps for maps or restaurant reviews and avoid the data roaming fees. If you have family visiting you in the U.S., they can rent one from Rent-A-Center which does not require a deposit or credit check.
Car parts If the last thing you want to spend your money on is replacing your dinged up hub caps or wheels, you can improve the look of your car by renting custom ones. You can rent wheels and fancy tires for just a week or by the month from Rent-N-Go.com and they even install them for you.
Home improvement tools and gadgets As people downsize their homes, storage becomes more of an issue, so it can a good idea to rent things that you seldom use, said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, a Washington, D.C. non-profit. There is probably no need for you to own and store that chain saw or rototiller that you use once per year or the punch bowl that’s taking up two square feet in your pantry. “Sure, you may need those items for the holidays, but the rental center will be all too happy to rent them to you then,” she said. You can rent everything from a pressure washer to specialty items like concrete saws to complete your home improvement project. Tool rentals can start at $25 a day from Home Depot, Lowe’s, United Rentals or Sunbelt Rentals.
Chickens Fresh eggs are gaining in popularity and if trekking to your local farmer’s market seems like a chore, you can grab your eggs from the backyard. If the prospect of being a farmer is daunting, the chicken rental business is booming and gives you options. Rent a Coop has a starter option so you can rent a friendly hen and a mobile chicken coop for $180 for a month in several states along the East Coast, from northern Virginia up to New York. Other companies such as Coop and Caboodle and Rent the Chicken have similar plans and fees.
Goats Goats are an eco-friendly solution to getting rid of all the weeds on your property without using chemicals. Goats really do like eating weeds. You can rent the animals to clear land, supervised by employees from Rent a Goat or We Rent Goats.
LEGOs Kids have short attentions spans and often get tired of their toys quickly. LEGOs come in expensive sets to construct a particular car or building. If you want to spark more creativity, you can rent them sets of LEGOs instead of buying ones. Pley.com offers a subscription service and has 275 sets – the first set is even free, then $15 a month thereafter. The company is generous and does not charge you even if a piece or two are lost.
Textbooks If you are taking a class that is mandatory for your degree, renting a textbook is definitely a good idea since prices continue to rise and especially if you have no intention of ever opening it again. There are dozens of companies to choose from ranging from Chegg to Barnes and Noble.
Artwork Buying artwork is costly and after awhile you can get tired of looking at them. Blank walls are not appealing. Renting art is the answer, especially if your style is to redecorate often or you do not know if you are a fan of Impressionism or Modern art. Companies such as Art.com and Hangart.com let you rent even original artwork from local artists.
Christmas trees Everyone loves the smell of real Christmas trees, but if you own a small car or take public transportation, getting one to your home can be an inconvenience. Throwing them away after the holidays is not a solution either. You can save a tree from being destroyed and help the environment at the same time by renting a fir, spruce, cedar or redwood from Rent a Living Christmas Tree in various California cities for $65 to $350. They will even pick up the trees in January so they can go back to the company’s nursery in the forest.
Wine glasses and margarita machines If you live in a small apartment or rarely entertain but decide you want to host an eight course dinner since you just finished a cooking class, renting wine glasses can help set the atmosphere. Event and party planning companies have a wide range of glasses ranging from simple red wine glasses to crystal ones for your next soiree. They also have china and even chairs for your extra guests. If you are opting for a more casual get together, margarita machines can also be rented for a pool party starting at $115.
Hotels Staying in hotels run by corporations can be unexciting so companies like HomeAway or Booking.com give you other options. If you are looking for a bit of adventure or have a group of friends heading to the same destination, renting lets you stay in a hostel, capsule hotel, a lighthouse or a treehouse. “Vacation rentals are a great option since they offer twice the space at half the price of a hotel room,” said Jon Gray, senior vice president of HomeAway, an Austin, Texas-based vacation rental marketplace. “They also come with cost saving amenities like a kitchen to cook in and extra bedrooms that allow groups to split costs.” HomeAway offers unique homes such as a house shaped like a giant shell in Isla Mujere, Mexico; a bubble tent in Chailland, France; a post office; in Maine or a greenhouse in Silverton, Ore. for less than $200 a night.Wedding and formal dresses Wedding gowns cost a fortune and formal dresses are usually only worn once. Instead of spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars, you can rent the latest designer dress from RentTheRunway.com or Borrowing Magnolia. Some of them start as low as $30 or go as high as hundreds of dollars, but still a fraction of the cost of a brand new one that will take up room in your closet.
Jewelry You can’t be the belle of the ball without fine jewelry. If you want the real thing, Adorn has real diamond and not cheap knockoffs. You can rent a diamond chandelier necklace with a value of $27,000 for $270. Bag Borrow or Steal has hundreds of designer sunglasses and purses.
Hair accessories It takes a lot to get ready for a formal event. Hair accessories can add an elegant touch but are items you are not likely to use often. This is your time to shine – a headband with Swarovski crystals can be rented for $45 to $100 from Adorn.
Designer purses To complete the entire look, a formal evening purse is a must. If you need a purse to match your dress, you can rent a designer purse from Bag Borrow or Steal. It’s still a steep price to tote an authentic designer bag – prices ranges from $45 a month up to $500. If you really love the style, buying one that is slightly used from a consignment shop might be a better deal.
Wedding cakes Many guests leave weddings early or too busy socializing to eat cake. Many people just want a nice one for their photo album. You can save more on your wedding by renting one from CakeRental.com. Their cakes are covered in real fondant and gumpaste, the same ingredients used on a real one. The inside of it is made out of Styrofoam, but the bottom tier in the back of the cake allows them to put real cake so you can cut it for your requisite photo opp.
Crowds It would be nice if everyone got their 15 minutes of fame in their lifetime. You can solve that problem by renting a crowd to cheer you on as you go about your day from Crowds on Demand. The list of options is endless – you can be paparazzi at the airport, shop like a celebrity with security detail or walk around town like someone famous. If you prefer annoying cameramen to watch your every move, you can rent your own hoard of photographers from Celeb4ADay.com.
Caskets Funeral homes are now giving families the option to rent a casket for less than half the price of casket, which can range from $2,000 to $10,000, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Since a cardboard insert is placed into the casket, none of the mourners can tell it is not an expensive one, lowering the rental fee to $750 to $900, according to Cremation.com.
--Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet