Spending

3 items that can be a better value to rent, not buy

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You can rent just about anything these days, including kids' shoes, trendy clothing, and minimalist furniture. But figuring out whether renting or buying offers a better value requires careful assessment.

"Start with some number crunching, specifically the cost to own versus rent an item over a long period of time" — ideally, a year, says Kristin McGrath, a shopping expert at Offers.com. "The math, however, will work out differently for every lifestyle."

Your results will depend on how often you tend to use that particular item, how long you use it, and your spending habits around buying or replacing it.

Here are three items experts say are often a better value to rent instead of buy:

1. Furniture

Before buying something, ask yourself how long you plan to use an item, and how often, says Robbie Kellman Baxter, author of "The Membership Economy." For example, if you move often or will be moving in the next six months, you might save more by subscribing to a rental furniture service rather than buying expensive furniture that you'll have to get rid of or spend money to move.

At furniture rental company Feather, members can rent a West Elm couch for $39 a month, plus the monthly membership fee of $19. The average cost of a sofa is $1,000, according to industry data. So if you need the couch for fewer than 17 months, this West Elm rental could save you money.

2. Trendy clothing

If you're purchasing a piece of clothing that you know you'll only wear for a season — or maybe just one day for a special event — you might save by renting. The same can hold true for kids' shoes and clothing that your child may quickly outgrow.

Ask yourself, "How frequently do you use it, and are you going to use it enough times that it justifies the purchase?" Baxter says.

For example, rental clothing service Gwynnie Bee charges $69 a month to borrow two items at a time. The yearly cost of that subscription for the first year, including an initial one-month free trial, is $759. If you spend more than that annually on trendy clothing or accessories you won't wear in one to two years, that rental subscription could work in your favor. For perspective, the average household spent $1,833 on apparel in 2017, according to the latest government data.

The math, however, will work out differently for every lifestyle.
Kristin McGrath
shopping expert at Offers.com

3. Specialty gear

Renting things like skis, bikes, or cameras can save you money as well as space. "Anything that is sitting in your closet is stored value," Baxter says. "Anything high-priced that you use occasionally is probably better to rent."

For example, say you want to get some professional-looking photos for an upcoming vacation, but know you won't regularly use an expensive camera. A Nikon D7200 with an 18-140mm lens retails for $1,600. But renting the camera and the lens separately from Borrowlenses.com for a week would only cost you $109.

If you're honest with yourself about how many times you will use an item, it can be easy to spot which items you should rent and which ones you should buy.

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