For homes and cars, it generally makes more financial sense to buy rather than rent them — over the long haul. Many rent-to-own programs help families double or triple the amount of money they need to spend on a computer, furniture, televisions and other home furnishing. Saving and purchasing with cash your computers, furniture and televisions is much wiser than using a rent-to-own program. However, sometimes renting makes sense.
Here are some examples.
Unless you live where you can boat every week and you’re sure you will boat regularly, it makes a lot of sense to rent a boat for a day or a week every year rather than buying a boat to display proudly in your driveway 355 days each year.
Unless you are going to live in your motor home (and if you do, I’m a little jealous—my wife won’t let me) you should think about renting one for your vacation rather than buying one and parking it, all but a few weeks each year.
Unless you live in a rural area where you can — or need — to ride your ATV almost every day, it makes more sense to rent them once or twice a year for a weekend than to have them filling the garage, decorating the driveway or paying even more to have them stored off-site.
Hotel rooms, condos
For most people with average incomes, it makes much more sense to rent a few nights in a hotel or a vacation condo than to buy a timeshare. Those who have purchased and enjoyed time shares in my experience are folks with the money and time to travel extensively and take advantage of all of the expensive privileges. For the rest of us, it’s wiser to rent a few nights here and there.
There are two general rules that can guide you in making your rent v. buy decision. You may consider to purchase if either of these conditions is true.
Frequency of use
If you reasonably plan to use an item frequently, the way you use your home, your car and your favorite socks, buying is likely much cheaper per use and much cheaper over time than renting each time. If you will only use it occasionally, you may be better off renting. To find out, rent it a few times before you decide to buy to make sure you want it and will use it as much as you hope.
Appreciation v. Depreciation
If the thing you’d like to buy is likely to appreciate — like a condo on the beach in Hawaii — it makes more sense to buy it. You may only visit your condo in Hawaii once a year, but if it is going up in value and not costing a lot when you’re not there (and you have the resources to buy it with cash) it is hard to argue against the purchase.
Owning stuff provides a certain satisfaction. We’re proud of the things we own, but there are some things that it makes no sense to own. We can rent them instead and save thousands of dollars each year that we can use to buy things that it would actually make sense to buy.