5 Ways Renting Equipment Can Save You Time and Money on Outdoor Projects This Summer
As temperatures warm and the ground thaws, it's time to prep the garden, get the deck entertaining-ready, or create the perfect spot for a fire pit. But before you dig into outdoor projects this season, you'll need the right tools to get the job done. If you don't have the equipment you need stashed in your shed or garage, new tools can get pricey. For seasonal upkeep or projects you only plan to complete once, renting equipment can be a smart choice that saves money and storage space. Use this guide to determine when it pays to rent outdoor equipment and power tools and learn the average rental costs for common home improvement items.
1. Consider how often you'll use a tool.
For seasonal maintenance jobs that you tackle once or twice a year—or every couple of years, such as aerating your lawn—renting is a good option, especially if you don't want to deal with storing or maintaining a tool. "For gas-powered equipment that you only use once or twice a year, the gas can go bad while it's just sitting there," says Tim Allen, chair of the General Tool Shared Interest Group for the American Rental Association (ARA) and owner of Allen Rental in Roseburg, Oregon. "The homeowner will be fighting with it every time they go to use it. A rental tool is going to be maintained and properly stored so it will work when you need it."
However, for tasks that you do frequently, such as mowing, you'll want to own the proper equipment. If you live in an area with lots of trees, it usually pays to own an electric leaf blower you can pull out to clear sidewalks and driveways. Convenience is an advantage of owning the equipment, and you're typically more familiar with how to use and maintain it. But if you're short on storage space and only need a specific tool like a wheelbarrow occasionally, you can rent one for around $15 a day.
2. Utilize higher-powered equipment.
Renting provides a cost-effective way to level up your equipment for strenuous projects, such as moving heavy loads of compost, rock, brick, or pavers to prep a garden bed, build a patio, or lay a path. In that case, spending $75 to rent a motorized wheelbarrow for a day instead of using a traditional one might be worth the rental cost. For larger jobs, you can also rent a compact track loader that will fit through a gate to transport heavy materials right where you need them—without hiring a pro or risking injury to your back. Similarly, instead of tilling large vegetable beds by hand, consider renting a high-powered rototiller for $50 to get the project done in a few hours.
Allen says his employees are trained to ask for details about the project to make sure the tool the customer requests is suited for the job. "Sometimes we can suggest another option that will help them do the job better in a lot less time with a lot less effort," Allen says.
3. Test a tool before you buy.
Over the last 10 years, high-quality equipment that used to be too expensive to buy, such as pressure washers, has come down in price and is worth buying in some cases, Allen says. However, before you make a big purchase, consider renting a pressure washer for around $40 a day to try out all the nozzles and accessories and see which features you actually use. After sprucing up your deck, cleaning siding, and clearing out your gutters, you might decide to shell out $150 to buy one yourself. However, keep in mind that rental tools are professional grade, so note which features you like and look for those in consumer options.
Renting is also a good way to test out different brands and models, which can save you tons when deciding which type of equipment is worth the investment. For expensive machines like riding tractors, you can get a feel for the model and make sure it's the best fit before spending your cash.
4. Don't forget the accessories.
When renting a tool, you should also consider the accessories you'll need to run it. Tools like post-hole augers require bits that vary by job type, so pay attention to what your project needs. In some cases, a variety of accessories can help you tackle different jobs with the same tool to maximize your rental time. With a roto-hammer, for instance, you might be able to drill a hole through the concrete foundation and then, after switching to a spade bit, loosen up the soil under the house for running new pipe. Regardless of whether you rent or own the tool, you'll need to use accessories that can handle whatever material you're dealing with, so be sure to factor that cost into your budget.
5. Read the fine print.
Whether buying or renting, research the tool's features ahead of time. For anything you buy, ask about the store's return policy. For rentals, carefully read the dealer's damage waiver. Rental contracts are typically for 4-hour periods or per day, week, or month. Talk through the scope of the project with the dealer since you might need a chunk of time to get the work done. For example, renting for a week versus three days could be more cost-effective and give you more time with the tool.
If you do not have a large enough vehicle or the appropriate hitch to move equipment yourself—or the ability to load and unload it—you'll want to opt for delivery. This usually costs extra, but you'll have more time to use the tool instead of having to subtract pickup and return from your rental time. You should also plan to put down a refundable deposit on rented equipment. You'll get your deposit back if the equipment is returned in good condition.
Keep in mind the rental agreement is a contract, and only the renter should use the equipment. "If you hand a rental piece of equipment over to a neighbor to use, you take on the liability for anything that might happen—not only to the equipment but if the neighbor hurts themselves or someone else while using the tool," Allen says. "You can help the neighbors with their project by running the equipment for them and maybe trade them for a hosted barbecue."
Must-Know Tips for Renting Power Tools and Lawn Equipment
If you plan to rent, reserve equipment at least three to four weeks ahead of time, especially during the busy season. "There's nothing worse than making plans to do a project a specific weekend, or even take vacation to do it, only to find you can't get the tool you need because it's rented out," Allen says. You will also want to prep the site and materials ahead of time to maximize the time you have with the equipment during the rental. If a project requires any digging, always contact the national "Before You Dig" 811 number, or go to call811.com, at least a week ahead of time to have utilities mark buried lines.
When you get to the rental store, make time to become familiar with the equipment and ask questions. Note any tips on the features and accessories, and test it out in a safe spot to confirm you're comfortable operating it. "One thing I would love is for my customers to plan a little more time in the store," Allen says. "We know time is money, but so much information can be gained and frustrations avoided if we could spend 15 minutes talking over the equipment and the project in the store versus five."
Average Cost to Rent the Most Popular Equipment
The list below includes some of the most common tools and the average cost to rent for four hours or one day. Many smaller items are available in electric or gas versions, so let the dealer know if you have a preference. Prices vary by the size and power of the equipment, rental time, and location. Check out RentalHQ.com to find a reputable dealer near you and find answers to additional rental questions.
- Aerators: Core lawns to reduce compaction; $65 for 4 hours
- Auger/post-hole digger: Dig fence post holes or deck footings (available in manual and power options); $6-$70 for 4 hours
- Backpack blowers: Remove leaves, even wet ones, and caked-on dirt quickly; $50 for 4 hours
- Brush cutter: Remove tall grasses or clear out overgrown areas; $50 for 4 hours
- Chainsaw: Cut down limbs or branches; $45 for 4 hours
- Chipper/shredder: Turn branches, leaves, and twigs into mulch; $70 for 4 hours
- Compact track loaders: Use for moving heavy materials, scooping, or grading in tight spaces; $200-$350 per day
- Hedge trimmer: Prune and shape hedges; $15 for 4 hours
- Lawn dethatchers/power rake: Remove compacted grass from lawn; $55 for 4 hours
- Mini excavator: Use for excavating soil, trenching, and clearing water drainage ditches; $225 per day
- Motorized wheelbarrow: Move heavy loads with less effort; $40 per day
- Power concrete buggy: Move ready-mix concrete to small or through tight spaces; $160 a day
- Power trencher: Dig 24- to 36-inch-deep trenches for lines for landscape lighting, gas lines for grills, water lines for water features, etc.; $100 for 4 hours
- Rototiller: Break up the ground to make it easier to plant veggies or trees (available in small and larger, more powerful sizes); $30-$50 for 4 hours
- Sod cutter: Relocate, reposition sod, remove sod for garden beds, paths, and patios; $70 for 4 hours
- Stump grinder: Grind out tree stumps. For stumps under 18-inches, choose a light-duty grinder. For larger stumps, go with a heavy-duty model; $70 for 4 hours