When Rentals Make Sense

Features - Equipment & technology

Eleven tips to help determine whether purchasing or renting that piece of specialty equipment makes the most business sense this winter.

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August 20, 2020

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For months, our nation has grappled with the coronavirus pandemic. The necessary precautions to fight off the health crisis has unfortunately contributed to an economic crisis, as many businesses have had to close their doors. Much work related to heavy equipment has been deemed essential and been allowed to continue operations, while other businesses are gearing up to reopen as many states loosen restrictions. Yet it remains to be seen if Covid-19 will resurge and lead to a return to stay-at-home orders.

With so much economic uncertainty, the benefits of renting heavy equipment will make rentals a preferred choice for many professional snow and ice management contractors, landscaping companies, and many other trade professionals. To help consumers make the best decisions when renting, here are 11 tips to guide you when you rent equipment for this snow season.

1 Understand the job.

What project do you want to complete? If you lack a specific piece of equipment, could any of your other machinery (safely) get the job done? If your current inventory doesn’t cut it, what equipment could complete the task? Does the rental dealer have suggestions for which machine could work for the project?

2 Know the time.

Typically, equipment should be in use 60-70% of the time to be worth the purchase price. How often do you plan to use a piece of equipment? If it’s more, you may want to buy. If it’s less, renting could be the right choice. Knowing the exact amount of time you need a machine can also help you determine how long you should rent a piece of equipment, so you can avoid any late fees.

3 Study the economy.

You may think you’ll use a piece of equipment a lot, based on the current projects you’ve been contracted for, but if the economy is in a bad spot (like it is today during Covid-19), there’s a greater likelihood that the jobs may dry up. Renting during economic uncertainty saves you from sinking money into an expensive machine that may end up sitting on the lot more than you first expected.

4 Map out availability.

What rental businesses are available to you? There are online marketplaces like Equipment Trader that connect you with dealers across the country, and smaller local dealerships that you may contact directly. You’ll need to know which outlets are available to you, and what specific equipment those dealers offer. If finding and acquiring a niche rental machine proves to be a continued hassle, buying may be worth the headache it would save.

5 Ensure quality: Inspect the machine.

We’ve published an entire blog-post on inspecting used equipment, which you can read here. Be sure to examine the machine at every level, including mechanical, hydraulic, structural, in-cab, fluids, exhaust, and tire/track components.

6 Ensure quality: Learn the history.

You’ll also want to understand how the equipment has been used and cared for in the past. Ask for the equipment’s maintenance schedule and possibly repair records, to ensure that you’re getting a machine that is well cared-for. Telematics can now also be provided for most equipment. Finally, make sure the machine has been properly certified for use. Uncertified equipment may not only be of poor quality, it may also be unsafe and even illegal to use!!

7 Ensure quality: Research the dealer.

Knowing a rental dealer has a good reputation can give you greater confidence in renting equipment from the dealership, so take steps to research the dealer. Ask around, look them up online, conduct a business background check, and confirm their ownership of the equipment. Being able to rely on the dealer is an important consideration when renting equipment.

8 Study the contract.

What is the full cost to rent? Does that include insurance for damages or theft, transportation fees, or fuel surcharges? How long do you get the machine for? How do you acquire and return the equipment? Are there late fees? Who is responsible for maintenance and repairs? What are the billing policies? Who is permitted to use the rented equipment? Having answers to each of the contractual questions helps you fully understand the costs and risks you incur when renting the machine.

9 Look at long-term.

See if long-term rentals provide any discount, since you are guaranteeing the dealer business for a prolonged amount of time. Long-term rentals can be good for you too, because they ensure you’ll have the equipment when you need it, while still helping you avoid the full cost of purchase and ownership.

10 Get the training.

Be sure you know how to properly use a piece of machinery. Misusing equipment can be very unsafe and non-contractual use can make you liable for damages. Research how to use a machine and ask the dealer if they provide any use and safety training.

11 Obtain contact information.

If there is a problem with a rental machine, who do you contact? What back-up options will the dealer provide? What are their hours of operation, and what is their response time? Is there a customer service or helpline to call? Do you call the dealer directly? Knowing how to get in touch with the dealer, especially if there’s an emergency situation with the rental, can keep you from falling behind on projects and potentially losing business and profits.

Contributor Ethan Smith is a content curator for Trader Interactive, serving the commercial brands Commercial Truck Trader, Commercial Web Services, and Equipment Trader.