10 Things You Can Rent Instead of Buying
Renting isn’t just for cars and movies; check out a formal dress for prom night, some power tools for your big home renovation, or camping gear for your next vacation. Cut down on expensive purchases and waste by renting instead of buying.
Buying formal wear can be expensive – especially for pieces that will, most likely, only be worn once and then left to take up space in the back of the closet. And, in a time where fast fashion brands are churning out cheap, mass-produced clothing, the cost of being fashionable also includes the pollution of waterways with toxic textile chemicals and human rights abuses against garment workers. Luckily, companies like Nova Octo and Rent the Runway rent out high-end clothing for a fraction of the price, catering to all of your formal-wear needs without the environmental cost. Check out their inventory for prom dresses – or The Black Tux for suits – to rent pieces that would otherwise have been far out of your price range. Some brides might even opt to rent clothing for their wedding day, from dresses, to accessories, to veils. Check out the woman-owned wedding-wear company Borrow Love Return for rentals, or local boutiques for rentable bridesmaids dresses to dress your wedding party for cheaper.
Camping and Outdoor Gear
Renting skis and snowboards for a day on the slopes is commonplace, but plenty of other outdoor gear can be borrowed by the day. If you’re just getting into an activity – be in rock climbing, backpacking, or car camping – gathering all the necessary equipment can be pricey, and potentially a big waste of money if you don’t enjoy the activity as much as you’d hoped. Outdoor retailers can fill in the gaps with rentals on bear canisters, camp stoves, sleeping pads, and other very activity-specific gear that comes with a high price tag.
Along with individual items, online retailer Outdoors Geek rents packages based on your trip, like family camping weekends, day hikes, and backpacking trips (even one for you and your dog). If the trip goes well, you can opt to purchase the gear afterwards too. Popular outdoor retailer REI also offers rentals and packages for a variety of activities from cycling to climbing. Head to one of their rental locations to pick up what you need (and join the co-op for a cheaper price). Many local stores also rent their outdoor gear, as do some libraries in areas with a large outdoor culture.
Books (and Textbooks)
Libraries are the obvious choice for book-borrowing: they’re free, easy to use, and offer all kinds of educational programs and events to the public. Before buying a book, consider borrowing it first.
Textbooks are also notoriously expensive, and are often only needed for the span of a single semester – not to mention the space they take up on the bookshelf. Schools sometimes rent out textbooks to students themselves. Otherwise, check out Chegg or Campus Book Rentals for cheap textbook borrowing.
Doing home maintenance is already costly without the price of tools. If you’re doing a renovation project, or simply don’t want to invest in expensive power tools – which will mostly take up space in the garage between projects – consider opting for rentals instead. Major hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s (as well as many local home improvement stores) rent planers, saws, drills, sanders, or any other tools you need; a basic drill that could easily run you $150 or more can be rented for as little as $25 per day. Borrowing power tools is also an incentive to rehab used furniture or parts of your home instead of replacing them with entirely new materials.
Lawn Mowers ( … or Goats)
Most hardware stores will also rent out lawn and garden equipment. Borrowing a lawn mower is a great option if you’re short on space, or only trim the grass occasionally (which is better for local ecosystems and pollinators anyway).
But, if you have a big space for which a single mower won’t suffice, the cost of a crew to perform maintenance can be expensive. Instead, why not try goats? Yes, goats. These playful creatures will hungrily mow down your lawn and fertilize the soil while they’re at it. Goats are best for lawns with lots of tall grasses and weeds, and will eat all kinds of greenery, including poison ivy/oak and many invasive species. Search for local companies or farms that offer the service – using the search teams “goatscaping” or “targeted grazing” – like Rent A Goat in California. They typically charge by the acre, and the final cost is usually much cheaper than hiring a whole crew.
There are many reasons to rent furniture instead of buying: for short-term living situations like a temporary job, school, or if you’re planning to buy a home in the near future and will have to invest in new furniture anyway. Maybe you’re working a remote job for a few months and want a comfortable desk chair, but won’t have any use for it after the job is over, or want to try out some home-gym equipment, but haven’t committed to the fitness lifestyle yet. Outfitting a home with new furniture is a huge expense, and large pieces are a hassle to move.
Lots of companies are meeting the need for short-term furniture rentals, like Feather, which services a few major cities including New York, LA, and D.C. for a $20 monthly membership fee. To rent a $700 bed for a year, customers pay around $33 each month, so it’s quite possible to get a piece of much higher quality than what you’d be able to pay for in full. The company can help you deck out your whole bedroom – from nightstands, to mirrors, to wall art – or any other room in your home, including delivery and assembly. The Everset, Brook Furniture Rental, CORT, and Fernish offer similar services. Rental companies will often give you the option to buy the piece after your rental term at a discount.
You can’t exactly check out plants at the library, but renting greenery is surprisingly common. If you want to spruce up a space for a wedding reception, corporate event, or gala, renting plants is both more sustainable and more cost-effective than purchasing them. Local garden centers and houseplant shops will often rent items from their inventory for a portion of the price, like Interior Foliage Design in New York City, which rents out plants, flowers, grasses, living walls, hedges, and trees. Or, opt for a larger company like 800 Plant It, which ships plants, planters, and other accents, performs installation, and comes to collect them after the event is over.
… Including Your Christmas Tree
Huge amounts of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are used to grow Christmas trees, just to be cut down and throw out with the trash at the end of the season. But, what if the same trees could be used again and again every year? Many Christmas tree farms have begun renting out their inventory instead of selling them, like Rent a Living Christmas Tree in Carmel-by-the-Sea California. Their trees are delivered in pots, where they stay fresh and green throughout the holiday, and after 30 days, the crew comes and collects the tree to be cared for until next season. Renters water their potted trees, so the needles don’t dry out and create a fire hazard. They also aren’t so easy to topple over, which is better for homes with pets or small children. When the trees get too big for a transportable pot, they’re replanted in the forest to live out the rest of their lives.
Instead of buying more land or opting for a property with a large yard, why not rent the space instead? Rentable outdoor space is common in some other countries; Germany, for instance, has a long history of making small plots of land – often called “Schrebergarten” or “Kleingarten” – available to urban residents for recreation and gardening. Apartment-dwellers have the opportunity to rent their own outdoor space where families can gather and benefit from time outdoors.
Research local options for renting land in your area, including community gardens. Some organizations might break up extra land on their property into gardening plots, renting them by the season for a small fee with access to water, compost, or even gardening tools.
And Basically Anything Else
Basically anything you need – especially items you’ll only want for a short period of time – can be rented, from drones, to cameras, to bike racks, to music equipment. Websites like Fat Llama allow users to post and rent all kinds of materials. To borrow expensive cleaning machinery or party supplies for office events, children’s birthdays, or bachelor parties, check out Loanables for a good deal. There are even specific apps for specific types of rentals, like Turo for cars, or SpotHero for parking spaces, or Neighbor for storage units.
Linnea graduated from Skidmore College in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Environmental Studies, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Most recently, Linnea worked at Hunger Free America, and has interned with WHYY in Philadelphia, Saratoga Living Magazine, and the Sierra Club in Washington, DC.
Linnea enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors, reading, practicing her German, and volunteering on farms and gardens and for environmental justice efforts in her community. Along with journalism, she is also an essayist and writer of creative nonfiction.