Advantages Of Renting

This year we are planning to expand our square foot garden, but the soil under the raised beds is so compacted I’m concerned no roots will grow beyond the soil in the beds.  I began shopping tillers and found a range of costs depending on the size and power of the machine.  I started considering the advantages of renting a machine, or maybe borrowing one from a friend.  That’s when I remembered my across-the-street neighbors recently tilled their entire side-yard to plant a large garden.  I bet I could borrow the tiller from him, or even pay him to till our planned garden area.

As I looked through my garage for another tool, it occurred to me I sure had accumulated a lot of stuff for once-a-year (or more infrequent) jobs.  For instance, I bought a 12-foot step ladder to paint the higher section of walls in our dining room last year.  I bought an expensive plumber’s/toilet snake to try to unclog our guest bathroom toilet, when it turned out to be one of my son’s toys hung up in the trap. And I nearly bought that new tiller.

Probably lots of examples out there where the advantages of renting or borrowing far outweigh buying outright.  Here are a few I came up with.

Specialized Tools

Just as my tiller would have been used once, cleaned and put away until the next spring, there are many tools we buy for one particular job and then it takes up space the remainder of the time.  Earlier this year I almost bought a paint sprayer to paint our privacy fence.  I’ve decided a brush or roller will work just fine, or I can borrow a sprayer from someone else.


One of our neighbors owns a gigantic RV with all the bells and whistles.  I’ve often wondered if it cost more than his house.  The funniest thing about it is it sits 95% of the year, save the one or two weeks they take it to a football game or a short camping trip.  Why not simply rent an RV or camping trailer for those rare occasions?

Vacation Homes

I suppose if I had tons of money a vacation home would be nice to have.  However, even the nicest second homes have their downside.  There are property management fees, and worries about having it rented to offset the costs (unless you can afford for it to sit empty), etc.  And of course it probably means your vacations will be to the same place every year.  That seems a little boring to me.

When renting a beach house, mountain cabin, or even a basic hotel room, I am not limited to a particular spot.  I can go to the mountains in the winter, the beach in the summer, and somewhere in between any time I want.  I pay for the nights I plan to stay and leave. No annual maintenance fees, association dues, property management costs, additional insurance, second mortgages, etc.

Movies, Games and Books

Netflix cornered the market with the idea of renting DVDs instead of buying.  We’ve all rushed out to buy a new DVD only to watch it once and let it add to our growing collection of never-watched movies.  I’m guilty of doing the same thing with games and books as well.  Why not sign up for a service like GameFly that lets you rent video games via mail and send them back when you are finished.  Why not check out a service like for books (or even the library).  If you find a game, movie, or book you really like, you might decide to buy a copy so you can enjoy it again and again.  But most people read, watch, and play things once and put it on the shelf to collect dust.

Trucks, SUVs, and Minivans

Ever heard someone justify buying a huge pickup truck so they can do something like haul gravel to their property to put down a new driveway, or tow their boat to the lake a couple times each summer?  How about the family of four who buys a huge, expensive minivan so they can take grandma and grandpa with them on their summer vacations. Guess what – it is possible to rent trucks and minivans, and the costs are usually much less than one monthly loan payment.

As a general rule, try to avoid falling into the trap of thinking that you must own one of everything to get the job done.  Sure, there are some costs associated with renting or borrowing equipment, but unless you plan to use something very often, chances are you will come out ahead by opting to rent it or borrow it from a neighbor rather than buying it outright.  And of course there are other hidden costs associated with owning more stuff.  You have to store it, protect it, insure it, and maintain it.  Renting it for a short time means when you are finished you transfer all those worries back to the owner, leaving your life (and garage) as uncluttered as possible.


  1. I think it makes sense to honestly evaluate how often you will use something. For the longest time, my husband just bought stuff when he needed to use something. Finally, though, he decided that borrowing was better than filling up the house with items that were essentially useless after that one time.

  2. A lot of people buy a second car because they know that there will be rare occasions when the first car will be in the shop or something and they will need access to a back-up. It’s far cheaper to rent the second car by making a decision to use a cab whenever a car is needed and the first car is not available.

    Some just cannot bring themselves to take a cab because they think of it as a luxury. But it’s often the cheaper way to go in real terms. If you hate buses and you buy a second car so that you won’t be “forced” to take a bus in some circumstances, you spend a lot more than if you give yourself freedom to take cabs as needed.


  3. As someone who has a garage full of many one-use items I have to agree. One good corollary to this is that if you do buy something, buy quality. Even worse than owning a tiller to use once a year is to own an under-powered tiller that was the cheap model at the big box store and really isn’t up to the job, causing frustration on that one use a year! Owning temporarily is an alternative to renting that makes sense if an item can be purchased used. The price to buy and the price to sell are apt to be in the same range – if a used 12′ stepladder can be bought for $75 on craigslist, chances are it can be sold for nearly $75 on craigslist a month later when you are done with it! This applies to books and DVDs bought used as well, find them on amazon or

  4. I’m always amazed at the things I can borrow from our neighbors! this spring, they let us borrow their tiller and also gave us lime for the garden. We live in an older, established former farm neighborhood and folks here have all they need and more! Because we’re the young ‘uns on the block, they lend tools, advice and all kinds of things. Last year, my neighbors were out of town and allowed me to pick a quart of blueberries a day from their bushes to keep them producing. What a great thing to have a kind community.

  5. Just a note on renting truck for hauling gravel – etc. I looked at the rental agreement at a company that rented trucks once. The rental agreement made you sign stating that you would not haul anything in the bed of the truck! – Which basically rendered it useless to rent in my mind. Even without this clause I would be very hesitant to use a rental truck to haul as this is the best way I know to put sratches and dents in the bed of the truck – and since you are liable for damage . . . .

  6. As for renting a truck or having that second vehicle, my husband & I bought a used utility trailer to tow behind our car. We were fortunate to get one that was in near mint condition for 1/2 the cost of buying new. We use it to tow building supplies, move furniture, tow wood behind the ATV for our woodstove etc. It’s a great alternative to buying a truck.
    We have a Pontiac Vibe and are able to tow our boat with that too. (it’s a smaller boat).

    Renting tools that you won’t use often or borrowing is a great way to go. Also consider renting dishes & buffet servers when having a party. Why store those items you don’t use often?

  7. If I had a nickel for every time my husband said “I want a pick up truck,” or “I want a minivan”– I could probably afford to buy a pickup or a minivan.

    But close friends in our church have both– and the entire reason he keeps his old pickup truck is *to* lend it out. 🙂 His wife said if people weren’t borrowing it, he couldn’t justify the insurance payment (to his frugal heart).

    Thanks Rob Bennett, too– We’ve had that third car syndrome–in case one breaks down so my husband has time to fix it on the weekends. Now a child has that car, but he’ll move out next year, and I will have my rental costs verses insurance calculated by then. Good thinking.

  8. In my neighborhood, we have an email listserv that lets us stay in touch with each other on a variety of topics. One of the things we organized was a “lending library” of tools and other items. Instead of buying, we can check with the neighbors to see if someone is willing to lend the item for a while. A large number of people participate. I was able to borrow a car top luggage carrier for a camping trip last year. Just last week a neighbor borrowed a tall ladder. We also pass on items that we no longer need, share garden plants, and organize a yearly neighborhood garage sale among other things. Frugal neighborhood!

  9. I used to be a die hard everything must be bought type of guy. Then I stopped being stupid. Now I no longer trip over plastic towers of DVD cases I never should have bought in the first place. Netflix is a dream come true that I didn’t even know I had.

  10. Great post! There is no reason everyone on the block needs a snow blower. One caveat, if you borrow you must be willing to lend, too.

    Some things pay for themselves to own, however. We bought a steam cleaner (used I might add). It has paid for itself over and over by not having to rent one at the supermarket for $25 a pop.

    Bonus to renting is that we can all buy smaller homes and save money on our mortgage!

  11. Please FD! Before you till check out the Lasagne gardening method. Nothing better for breaking up compacted soil, you are recycling unused items (newspaper, cardboard, leaves & grass clippings) and you’ll not be tilling up a bunch of weed seeds that are going to germinate and cause you headaches later!

    Borrowing vs. buying: we get stuff borrowed all the time. We are rural people and have a large truck which we use constantly and people always want to borrow, we have a tractor that digs out our neighbors quite often. We have an old crappy pick-up box trailer that gets the job done for hauling stuff like rocks and mulch. May I suggest something? It really goes a long way when you are borrowing from your neighbor to be truly appreciative. Bake some cookies and bring them over. Stop by if you see the neighbor digging fence posts and offer to help. I can’t tell you how many people have borrowed our stuff and returned it with nary a thank you. Sometimes even broken with a promise to fix or replace that never happens: then it becomes awkward for both of us when we run into each other. Even stop by once in a while without asking to borrow something! I start to feel used when I only see the neighbor when he wants something from me.

  12. Great post! Ownership really does come with costs, especially for those of us who live in very small homes. We recently borrowed tools from our neighbor to build some earthboxes, and we share a bike trailer with those same neighbors. We’re working on either renting or borrowing a birth pool because we’re expecting in June.

    I love the idea of a neighborhood lending library!

  13. I once paid $500 for a used pickup truck to assist me while renovating our first (and current home). We bought a project-house and we’ve quickly gained lots of equity from the renovations.

    To me, that was a good occasion for buying but generally I think you’re right on track. I’ve worked out an informal agreement with a few friends to swap tools for food from my restaurant, babysitting, etc. If you can work out swap arrangements, that is preferable to the rental markups you’ll pay.

    There’s no need to buy something new unless the price is comparable to the costs of renting.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!

  14. @Michele

    I’m not sure where you live but everyone around me needs a snowblower. I love to help out my neighbors when time permits when snow falls on weekends or at night, but on a weekday morning you want to have your own so you can get the driveway cleared quickly you better have your own 🙂

    The lending library is a great idea… might have to think about getting something like that together.

  15. This is a great post and brings up a good point. As consumers we have a tendency to accumulate Stuff for no real reason. I wonder if it isn’t because we feel as though we are throwing our money away because we don’t “have” anything to show for it. We focus a lot of our energy on displaying our worth through material possessions, and even though we may only use the tiller once a year, it is yet another item to show our financial capabilities.

    The same can be said about anything we own, our car or our DVD collection. It says “Look at me, I have MONEY!” I used to display my own DVD collection for the world to see and was proud to have over 300 movies sitting around. Today I am embarrassed that I wasted that much money on a piece of plastic.

    I am working towards eliminating a lot of my material possessions now that I realize they offer little or no value to my life. My priorities have shifted from materialism to being able to have freedom. I wrote about this concept on my website in an article called “Prison Walls of Barbie Dolls” about how the more Stuff we accumulate the higher we build our prison walls. It is as if we are trapping ourselves through the accumulation of stuff as well as wasting our money and building our debts, all of which restrict our freedoms.

  16. @Scott. You’re right in some places a snowblower would be a necessity. I live in Virginia. The once-per-year snow that we get just doesn’t warrant it, especially since everything closes down for the day anyway. 🙂

  17. Comparison shopping, calculating borrowing vs. buying vs. renting, on a case-by-case basis would be the way to go.

  18. Books, movies, games, music – all available for free from the local library – don’t forget that!

    In our little town we are blessed to have a rental center that has just about all those things mentioned above – from ladders to hospital beds, from tillers to punchbowls and dishes, etc. Great way to go!

    Best non-mechanical tiller I have come across is my heavy 4 tine spud digger… not as difficult to get into the ground as a shovel…just do a couple square foot a day and it will soon be done… and the bonus is that I use if for my clam digging also! Believe me, it gets used a LOT! A friend took off the wooden handle and welded on a piece of galvanized steel pole and it is just about indestructible now!

  19. One thing to remember, if you borrow anything bring it back CLEAN!

    One of my neighbors asked me last summer if I would borrow ALL of his equipment because it always comes back clean!

  20. Sometimes renting or borrowing is a great way to determine how or what type of item you want to purchase. Before my parents bought an RV (not a giant tourbus model) they rented one to take on a vacation. They were able to test out the type they thought they were interested in and decided that it wasn’t for them, which saved them from making a very expensive mistake when they did purchase their first camper. They made it pay for itself 10 times over. All of our vacations were taken in the camper – it allowed us to travel more places. We also camped close to home during weeks/weekends in the summer so my Dad could drive to work but Mom and kids could relax. Think of it as your summer weekend house on wheels. Apparently Santa’s Elves also used the camper to hide and wrap Christmas prsents. My Dad still has the trailer and still uses it. So in this case, it was a good purchase.