United Kingdom

The rental revolution: How long before an item becomes cheaper to buy?

For decades it was the norm for families to hire expensive gadgets such as televisions, rather than buying them outright. 

It was only in the 1990s when these items became more affordable and reliable, that rental shops in town centres faded into distant memory.

But the renting revolution is back — with a modern twist. Concern about fast fashion and waste has driven a surge in people looking to hire items rather than buying yet more ‘stuff’.

Something borrowed: Carrie Johnson injected new life into the rental trend after hiring a £2,870 wedding dress to marry Prime Minister Boris Johnson for just £45 a day

Just this month Carrie Johnson injected new life into the trend after renting a £2,870 wedding dress to marry the Prime Minister for just £45 a day. 

But it’s not just clothes you can rent. From furniture and washing machines to mobile phones to DIY equipment, there is a website for everything.

One rental firm, Fat Llama, says hiring everyday items has soared, with 500 new borrowers joining its site every week.

But does renting really work out as better value? Here, Money Mail does the maths...

White goods

Rental firm Hughes offers a basic washing machine for £2.77 a week — or £144 a year. 

This includes installation and servicing. However, you can buy the same model online for just £219. So if you rented a machine for more than 77 weeks you would have paid more than it is worth.

It’s not just clothes you can rent. From furniture and washing machines to mobile phones to DIY equipment, there is a website for everything

Another website, Forbes Rental, lists a 43 in Samsung smart TV at £10.99 a week. You can buy the same model for around £649. If you owned the television for more than 59 weeks, you would save money by buying your own.

So unless you are committed to upgrading your set every year, you could easily overpay by renting.

Verdict: More cost effective to buy.

Furniture

John Lewis teamed up with rental website Fat Llama in August to hire out new and refurbished furniture.

For example, a two-seat leather sofa costs £39 a month to rent — or £468 a year. It would cost £919 to buy new. And a £475 white two-door wardrobe costs £20 a month to rent — £240 a year.

A two-seat leather sofa costs £39 a month to rent from John Lewis. It would cost £919 to buy new (file picture for illustration purposes only) 

The minimum rental period is three months, and you can choose to buy the item when the contract ends.

Any rental payments made will count towards the purchase so you never pay more than the full cost.

Harth also offers furniture rentals, which can also be bought at the end of the term. Modern Art Hire loans art and sculptures.

Verdict: Useful service for tenants in unfurnished homes without risk of overpaying.

Baby equipment

Car seats, pushchairs, toys and even children’s clothes are available to rent online.

On Tiny Tots Rentals’ website, Money Mail found a £100 Mothercare Combination car seat available to rent for three days for £10 — plus a £60 deposit you will receive back if it is returned undamaged.

Kid smart: Car seats, pushchairs, toys and even chidren's clothes are all available to rent online

But you would only have to rent it ten times to overpay.

For fast-growing children, firms Bundlee and The Little Loop offer a rental service for new and second-hand clothes that parents can trade in when they no longer fit.

Bundlee’s ‘capsule subscription’ costs £24 a month, or £288 a year, and includes 15 items from its basic collection.

If parents want to choose from premium brands, there is a £39-a-month option. Deliveries and returns are free.

The Little Loop costs £17.50 a month — or £210 a year — and you get 100 credits, which allow you to hire six or seven items.

Your first delivery and return are free, and postage is charged thereafter.

How much you would pay for new clothes depends on where you shop, but Bundlee claims the average family spends £997 on outfits for their baby in the first year, with toddlers outgrowing seven clothing sizes in their first two years.

Verdict: Consider renting clothes, but it is typically cheaper to buy equipment.

Tools and mowers

DIY equipment can be expensive —particularly if you rarely use your tools. So if you are doing an odd job you could save money by renting using a website such as Fat Llama.

Money Mail found a £50 Silverline Hammer drill available to rent for £7 a day in Weston-super-Mare.

DIY equipment such as a power drill is usually more cost effective to rent for one-off jobs. But better to buy for longer projects

The cost falls to £2.86 a day if you need the item for more than a week and then to £1.46 for 30 days or more. 

So if you rented the drill for eight days you would pay just £22.88 — half the full price cost.

Large firms, such as Hirestation and HSS Rentals, also rent equipment. Hirestation is currently renting a self-propelled lawnmower for £18.93 if you return it later the same day — or £25.24 the next morning.

It costs around £700 to buy new, so you would need to rent it 37 times at the cheaper rate before you overpay.

Verdict: Best to rent for one-off jobs but buy for longer projects.

Mobile phones

You can rent second-hand mobiles for as little as £6.99 a month from websites such as online retailer Musicmagpie. 

At the end of one year you can opt to upgrade your phone for free, keep your existing gadget for a lower fee, or return it.

You can rent second hand mobiles for as little as £6.99 a month from websites such as online retailer Musicmagpie

The deal includes free accidental cover and a lifetime warranty.

But you will need to buy a Sim card and top it up with credit to make calls, text and use the internet.

Money Mail found an iPhone XS in grey available to rent for £25.99 a month — or £311.88 a year.

A cheap SIM-only deal with 3GB of data, unlimited calls and texts with provider Lebara costs £2.50 a month for the first quarter, and then £5 a month thereafter. So if you rented the phone you would pay a total of £30.37 a month, or £364.38 a year.

The same model, which offers 64GB (gigabytes) of storage, would cost from £270.

Alternatively, a 24-month contract for the same phone at Vodafone, with unlimited data, would cost £174.99 upfront and then £42 a month — a total of £1,182.99.

Verdict: More cost effective to rent if you do not need much data or want to upgrade your phone every year.

Bikes

Cyclists typically spend £835 on a bike, according to insurer Aviva. Working out at £2.29 a day you would need to use it once a week for seven years to recoup the cost - not including maintenance.

And specialist bikes, such as e-bikes, are even more expensive. A Dawes Ultra Galaxy 2020 Sports Hybrid bike would cost around £1,199.99 to buy new.

Cyclists typically spend £835 on a bike, according to insurer Aviva. And specialist bikes, such as e-bikes, are even more expensive

But on rental site Fat Llama, Money Mail found one owner in Edinburgh renting the same bike for £24 a day. The price drops to £9.02 a day for more than 30 days.

You would need to rent it for 133 days straight for it to work out cheaper to buy one yourself.

But over two years you would pay £1,296 more than if you bought it outright — and bikes typically last for ten years.

Verdict: Buy if you are a keen cyclist and want to know you can use it whenever you want.

Cars

If you are looking to rent a car, sharing platforms Turo, Zipcar and Hiyacar can match you to vehicle owners in your area.

Their deals often include fuel, parking, roadside assistance and insurance costs. Money Mail found a Vauxhall Corsa 2017 available to rent for three days over the weekend in Manchester for £153, with fees and cover included.

We found a Vauxhall Corsa 2017 available to rent for three days over the weekend in Manchester for £153, with fees and cover included 

The same car would cost upwards of £6,000 to buy second hand, plus car insurance, road tax, MOT and fuel costs. This means you would need to use it at least 121 days a year — two or three days a week — to make it worth buying.

But if you use a car every day, you would pay around £10,600 over the odds. Before using these sites, you should check if hiring a car from a traditional rental firm works out cheaper.

Verdict: A useful alternative to hiring a car for those who do not drive regularly.

Fashion

Many people worry about being seen in the same outfit twice — and that is where rental firms can help. You can hire a £3,700 embroidered Gucci gown from Wardrobe HQ at £288 for the minimum four days.

And website Girl Meets Dress lists an Yves St Laurent glass stone ring for £19 for two nights. It costs £176 to buy new. Another firm Covett acts like a timeshare for jewellery.

Each item has four shares available costing from £500 for a £2,500 pair of pearl and diamond earrings to £11,076 for a Lady Victoria diamond watch — which retails at £55,380.

You choose the dates you want to wear the piece.

The cost includes insurance if the item is lost or stolen, subject to exclusions.

Verdict: Rent for your one-off special occasions.

Christmas trees

Increasing numbers of farms now operate Christmas tree rental schemes which can save you money and benefit the planet.

Cotswold Fir, in Gloucestershire, has a scheme called Rental Claus. You can request delivery if you live within three miles of Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud or Central Bristol

Families choose a tree and then return it after Christmas so it can be replanted, helping to remove carbon dioxide from the air.

Cotswold Fir, in Gloucestershire, has a scheme called Rental Claus. Tree costs range from £15 for a two-foot tree to £40 for a 6 ft one.

A typical 6 ft Christmas tree can cost upwards of £60.

Verdict: Rent for modest savings and to help the planet.

Pets

Borrowing someone else’s dog is no substitute for owning your own. But if you cannot commit the time and money needed to care for an animal full-time, consider borrowing one instead.

Website BorrowMyDoggy charges £12.99 a year for borrowers and £44.99 a year for pet owners who need help walking their animals. 

Rent-a-mutt: If you cannot commit the time and money needed to care for an animal full-time, consider websites such as BorrowMyDoggy and ShareYourPet

Each creates a profile and can then message users through the platform. The cost also covers insurance and a 24/7 vet line.

ShareYourPet users pay £3.99 a month or £5.50 for a premium membership — £47.88 or £66 a year respectively. By comparison, the average price of puppies for sale soared to £1,875 last year, according to Pets4Homes.

And then there are vet bills, food and toys on top.

Verdict: A lovely option for those who love dogs but cannot adopt one of their own.

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