Everyone loves opening up that box with a shiny new tool inside. Buying and using the latest cool, new tools has to be one of the reasons we got into the construction trades in the first place, right? But when should you rent tools vs buying them? Renting may seem obvious for SkidSteers and loaders. How about when it comes time to do that tile job or use a large SDS-Max rotary hammer?
Renting vs Buying Tools
Often, budgets for everything, including tool purchases, get stretched thinner than many of us would like. Adding new tools to your arsenal, or even replacing existing ones that aren’t working as they should, may have been put on the back burner. But that doesn’t mean you have to make do with outdated or inefficient tools on your next project. Help is as close your nearest rental yard. Need a tool? Why not rent it? Knowing when you should rent a tool vs buying it can save you tons of time and money. And you need to consider more than just up-front costs.
When Should You Rent Tools?
For a lot of guys, rental yards are reserved for the big stuff that they only use occasionally—a jackhammer or a compactor, for example—or the really big stuff like tractors and man lifts. Of course, they’re a perfect resource for equipment like that. But don’t overlook rental yards for the everyday stuff that can easily increase your productivity as well. Got a big framing job but no budget for an extra saw at the moment? Why not rent one for a few bucks for your helper to cut blocking while you work? You get the idea.
Knowing when you should rent tools vs buying is all about productivity and helping out your bottom line.
Renting Tools vs Buying: The Formula We Use
When deciding on renting a tool vs buying a tool, we go through several key questions. These make up our “formula” for calculating the RIO on the decision. Run through these, and you should have an easier time coming to a quick conclusion on renting vs buying tools.
How Often Do You Use the Tool?
If you only plan to use the tool one time, then the cost may not add up vs renting it. When you buy a tool you need to store it, maintain it—this takes money. Even if you use a tool several times per year, the cost may not make financial sense. Renting a tool makes its upkeep someone else’s problem—you simply pay for consumables. If, however, you plan to repeatedly use this type of tool, buying it can save significant money over the long haul.
When we talk about loaders and similar tools, delivery can be arranged as part of the rental process. This can increase productivity and take a load off (literally) your responsibility for getting a larger tool to and from the job site. It also eliminates the need for long-term storage. If the convenience of having larger tools dropped off and picked up from a job site appeals to you—renting makes a lot of sense.
Can You Bill It to the Job?
Some specialized tools simply need to be billed to the job. When this occurs you can either build up your inventory or potentially save money by renting.
How Much Maintenance Does the Tool Require?
Some tools require lots of maintenance. This increases the cost of ownership. If you lack dedicated maintenance personnel, you may want to make tool maintenance someone else’s problem. Understand things like oil changes, greasing bearings, hose replacement, rebuilding motors, and other periodic requirements before rushing into buying a tool that has larger maintenance needs over time.
Once You Decide to Rent
We put together a checklist of things to remember the next time you rent tools or equipment of any size. It’ll help you save both time and money—and that’s what it’s all about!
Does it Operate Properly?
This might sound silly, but have them show you that the equipment is in proper working order before you leave with it. That saves you the time and frustration of getting back to the job with something that isn’t working right and helps you avoid any arguments about whose fault it was.
Do You Know How to Operate it?
Have the guys at the rental yard go over the operation of the equipment in detail before you leave the yard, even if it’s something you’ve used before. If it’s a different brand or a newer (or older) model, it may have different controls or other changes from what you’re used to using, and you don’t need to waste time with a learning curve at the job site.
Is There an Instruction Manual With it?
Even after the demo, you may have questions about how to operate or adjust a complicated piece of equipment. So even though real men don’t read instructions, it’s still good to have an instruction manual with the tool!
Do You Have Extra Bits, Blades, Sandpaper, Fuel, or Other Supplies?
Make sure you leave the yard with plenty of supplies for the tools you’re renting, so you don’t have to make unnecessary trips back. Also, make sure you’re not going to be charged for anything you take but don’t use.
Do you Have the Necessary Safety Equipment?
Most yards are really good about making sure you have the necessary goggles, hearing protection, harnesses and other safety equipment that’s needed to accompany certain types of equipment, but if they don’t ask, you need to make sure you do. Remember, rental equipment or not, your crew’s safety is still paramount—and those OSHA fines still apply!
Does it Come with a Trailer?
For larger equipment, see if it comes with a trailer at no extra charge. That saves you rental charges for an additional trailer, plus it frees up your trailer for use elsewhere.
Consider Having them Deliver it
As mentioned above, many yards will deliver equipment for a small fee, and the savings in lost productivity for you to go and pick it up might be worth the charge. You also have the added advantage of them showing you how to use the equipment right there on-site, so if it doesn’t work right, they’ll be the ones to take it back and replace it.
Do you Understand the Rental Fees?
While it’s not as complicated as renting a car, there is still some fine print involved when renting tools and equipment. Remember that you’re signing a legally binding contract, so make sure you understand what it says, and if you don’t—ask! In particular, be sure that you understand what happens if the tool is damaged or lost.
Check Into Weekend Rates
A lot of rental yards offer weekend rates that can save you considerable money. Typically, you pick the equipment up late on a Friday, and return it early on Monday, and only pay a one-day rate.
Don’t Overlook the Home Centers
More and more home centers, especially in the larger markets, are offering rental tools and equipment. The selection typically isn’t as big as at a full-blown rental yard, but you have the money-saving advantage of a one-stop-shop when you’re picking up lumber and other supplies.
Take a Tour of the Yard
When you have a moment, ask for a tour of your local rental yard. You might be surprised at what a well-equipped yard has in inventory, and it’s good to know what solutions are available to you the next time you run into problems on a project. Grab a price list as well, so you can factor some of the rental costs into your estimates.