The Pros and Cons of Renting Appliances

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Two movers install a rental fridge inside an apartment.

You’ve just moved into your new apartment, and all the furniture donated by your friends and family is finally in its place. But then you realize you’re missing the creature comforts that, for many, are as vital to survival as running water and heat: a big screen TV, an Xbox, and more importantly, a stove, refrigerator, and washing machine.

Moving typically taps out your bank account, so buying these items outright is often impossible, even at second-hand prices. And since your closest buds and siblings rarely have extras of these appliances that they can just pass on to you, it’s safe to say you’re probably feeling pretty helpless right now. How will you survive?

Rent-To-Own to the Rescue

At least one person you know will likely suggest you check out rent-to-own companies to fill your needs. The name alone is seductive, implying that it’s a simple deal where you make monthly payments until you’ve fulfilled the original purchase price and the item is yours forever. At first glance, it looks very similar to a car lease, which people negotiate all the time with few complaints.

But it’s not. As one of the most ridiculed industries in the country, rent-to-own is constantly scrutinized for deceptive business practices. In some cases, laws have been passed to protect consumers from being ripped off by shady deals so cleverly worded that they had no idea what they were agreeing to — or how much it would cost them.

Like many life situations, there are lots of pros and cons to renting appliances. As long as you consider all sides and read the fine print, you’re bound to make a deal you can genuinely feel good about.

The Pros

Flexible Payment Plans

Even if your income varies from month-to-month, rent-to-own companies will typically still work with you to accommodate your needs. And in case you get a windfall of cash, you can usually negotiate an early payout deal to purchase the appliance outright and rid yourself of those pesky monthly payments.

Competitive Prices

Sometimes you’re just waiting for your first paycheck from a new job to get up to speed. Luckily, you can still save a significant amount of money in interest fees if you change your payment plan to fewer installments, and you’ll often get a deal that competes with current retail prices, to boot.

Easy Accessibility

Even small towns tend have a rent-to-own furniture and appliance store, so it should be pretty easy to find one near you. In the US alone, there are nearly 9,000 stores of this kind that serve over 4 million customers annually.

Easy Contract Cancellation

Sometimes life goes sideways, and when it does, keeping your rental TV is the least of your problems. If you go rent-to-own, you can break your contract at will. Just remember that all the rental fees you’ve paid so far will be lost forever.

Customer Service Perks

Maintaining good customer relations is of the utmost importance to rent-to-own businesses. To remain competitive, many stores offer free delivery and repair and will replace faulty units at no additional cost to the customer.

No Credit Score Damages

Keeping your credit score as high as possible is vital to your financial future. Defaulting on a loan considerably lowers your score, but if you miss a rent-to-own payment, no credit reporting agencies will be informed, which means your score goes unscathed.

The Cons

Schmoozers

Rent-to-own employees are expected to be charming and engaging to boost revenue, but don’t be taken in by those who mesmerize you to your detriment. Go into the store strong and decisive on exactly what item you need. When a commission is involved, some employees have no qualms about subtly convincing you that you need more items than you want, need, or can even afford.

Long Payment Plans

Don’t be seduced by super low monthly payment plans. Keep in mind that the more payments you make, the higher the total cost of the rental will be (often three or four times the retail cost). Fewer payments mean a lower cost for you in the long run.

Bad Reputations

Contact your local Better Business Bureau for free information about the company you have in mind to see if an excessive number of complaints have been filed against them. You can also search the internet for costumer feedback on the store. Finally, you can check out the Association Of Progressive Rental Organizations’ website to see how your state governs the rent-to-own stores in your area.

Interest Rates

No one will mention the interest rates for rent-to-own because they are often exorbitant, as in 60 to 100 percent more exorbitant. This alone is often enough to make people consider other options — or just how much they really need a TV the size of a movie screen.

Always take a friend or family member with you to rent-to-own stores so you can both read the terms and conditions of the contract carefully before committing to anything. Pay particularly close attention to terms regarding fees, responsibilities for maintenance and repairs, and fees for missed or late payments. If possible, try to have a paralegal or other legal professional review the contract before deciding on anything.

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