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11 Tools You Should Rent vs. Buy

Every DIYer should have a tool collection, but some are too big, costly or task-specific to buy. Here's a list of tools you're better off renting.

Garden tiller to workVITAGA/GETTY IMAGES

Tool Rental: What To Consider

If you’re a jack-of-all-trades or a DIY homeowner, it’s almost always more cost-effective to rent the equipment you need for one-off jobs from a local outlet than to buy it. However, when you use the same equipment repeatedly, buying can make more sense than tool rental.

Case in point: I used to work solo as a flooring installer and refinisher, and always rented the sanders I needed from A Tool Shed, the local rental yard. When I partnered with a friend to form a company, we invested in our own equipment. Owning was not only cheaper in the long run, but improved the quality of our work.

The drum sanders from the rental company were light and tended to bounce, creating ridges and valleys known as chatter marks. The high-end German sander we purchased was heavier and had a clutch that allowed us to raise and lower the drum without tilting the machine.

Quality can be important. But when you just need a tool to quickly complete an essential job, it usually doesn’t matter as much as availability. Any plate compactor will compress the base for a patio just fine, no matter what brand it is.

Most communities have a tool rental outlet. If you can’t find one in your area, the American Rental Association (ARA) can help you locate the nearest one through its RentalHQ app or website.

Ask these questions when renting tools and equipment:

  • Is the tool working? Of course the answer should be “yes.” But because it’s usually impractical to test equipment before taking it off the lot, the company should offer to cover costs if something beyond your control goes wrong.
  • Is there a manual? Tools with complicated controls, or those that require assembly, should come with instructions that specify applicable safety precautions. Some companies offer training to get you up to speed.
  • What’s the rental rate? Does the company charge by the hour, day or week? And how long is a day — eight hours or 24? Find out what time you need to return the tool to avoid late fees.
  • What’s the charge for transportation? A large piece of equipment like an earth mover needs to be delivered. How much extra will that cost?
  • Does the tool rental company sell accessories? If you rent a drum sander, you’ll need sandpaper, and if you rent a nailer, you’ll need the nails that go with that model. Does the tool rental company sell these or do you have to track them down yourself?
  • Who is responsible for maintenance? When you rent equipment for an extended period (a week or more), find out who fixes it if it breaks down. Some companies leave that to customers while others assume full responsibility. If the latter, find out how long they usually take to respond.

When Does Renting Tools Make Sense?

Even if you don’t intend to use them more than once, it’s usually a bad deal to rent most handheld power tools. They aren’t that expensive to buy, and you won’t be on a rental company’s timetable. These include cutting tools like jigsaws, grinders and oscillating tools, as well as routers, drills, hand sanders and 7-1/4-in. or smaller circular saws.

Similarly, if you’re doing a tile installation, you can usually do the cutting with an inexpensive store-bought tile saw in lieu of renting a professional model and keeping it for days. It’s also more economical to buy outdoor hand tools like post-hole diggers, shovels and digging bars.

On the other hand, it does make sense to rent many other tools. Any tool you rent will be in good working order, and you won’t have to find a place to store it. Here are 11 pieces of equipment that are more cost-effective to rent than to buy.

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Sanding hardwood floor with the grinding machine only toolLSOphoto/Getty Images

Floor Sanding Equipment

A set of floor sanding equipment includes a drum or orbital sander and a powerful disc sander, called an edger, for sanding right up to the baseboards. Together they would cost several thousand dollars to buy, but you can rent them together for about $140 a day or $550 a week.

When renting a drum sander, choose a heavy one with a clutch if you want professional results. For light sanding (removing a single coat of finish with no leveling required), choose an orbital flooring sander with a round base. You might not need the edger, which will cut your rental costs in half.

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Post Hole AugerSimplyCreativePhotography/Getty Images

Hole Auger

Building a fence? If it’s a long one, you’ve got a lot of post-hole digging to do, and it may take days. Save time — and your back — by renting a gas-powered hole auger and do the entire job in an afternoon.

The cost to rent a one-man auger is about $80 a day, compared to $250 or more to buy one. A standard eight-foot wood fence needs post holes at least 28 inches deep. Most rental augers can do that.

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Dry Wall liftvia merchant

Drywall Equipment

If you’ve got a big drywall job ahead of you, the two pieces of rental equipment you’ll need are scaffolding and a drywall lift. Scaffolding rents for about $100 a week. A drywall lift, which wedges drywall sheets against the ceiling, costs about $140 a week.

You can buy scaffolding and a drywall lift for a little more than $150 each. But they’re awkward to store when you only need them once, so it’s better to rent them. Make sure the wheels lock.

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Paint Sprayer Toolvia merchant

Airless Paint Sprayer

Whether you’re painting indoors or out, an airless sprayer makes the job faster and easier, with better results than rolling or brushing.

A decent gas-powered airless paint sprayer for outdoors or an electric one for indoors costs from $500 to $900, but you can rent one for $100 a day or less. A rental unit comes clean, lubricated and ready to go, which may be more than can be said for one you maintain yourself.

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Industrial hammer drill. Perforator with a drill on a wooden background.Evgeniy Priymack/Getty Images

Rotary Hammer

When you need to punch a hole in a concrete foundation for a plumbing pipe or dryer vent, you need the percussive action of a hammer drill. Buying one will set you back a couple of hundred dollars, or you can rent one for about $29 for four hours. So when you have a quick job, renting makes sense.

The bit you need for chiseling or drilling isn’t normally supplied with the tool, so be sure the rental outlet has one. It might be included with the rental price, or you might have to buy it separately.

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Vibrating Soil CompactorPamWalker68/Getty Images

Plate Compactor

You’ll need a plate compactor to compress a base for a patio, walkway or concrete subfloor and many other outdoor jobs. The purchase price for this gas-powered machine is between $500 and $1,800, but you can rent one for about $89 a day ($62 for four hours).

You’re unlikely to use this tool often, so renting one makes sense. It’s a heavy machine you might want to have delivered, so don’t forget to ask about delivery costs.

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man cutting concreteshank_ali/Getty Images

Concrete Saw

Need to install a sump pit in the basement or cut out a section of a concrete or brick wall? That’s a job for a concrete saw. You can purchase a serviceable one for $250, while a top-notch one runs closer to $1,000. A walk-behind concrete saw costs even more.

Renting a quality Makita handheld or a Husqvarna walk-behind for $89 a day is definitely the way to go. You can also rent a diamond blade to go with it and save on that, too.

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New complex of apartment buildings under constructionewg3D/Getty Images

Concrete Mixer

That concrete isn’t going to mix itself. You can do it by hand or use a mechanical mixer, and the mixer wins out in most situations because it’s much faster.

A towable gas mixer rents for about $100 a day and a portable electric one for about $46 per day. Outlets that rent concrete mixers usually also rent the other tools you’ll need. Pole floats go for $15 a day, edgers/groovers run $15 a day and gas-powered trowels for finishing large surfaces cost $113 a day.

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A Stump Grinder Machine, Grinding Up A Tree Stump Into Saw Dust And MulchSusan Sheldon/Getty Images

Stump Grinder

Got a large tree stump smack in the middle of the yard? You could try decomposing it with chemicals, which takes months or even years. Or you could use a stump grinder to remove it in an afternoon.

A small stump grinder costs about $36 an hour to rent. A heavy-duty one for large stumps goes about $46 an hour. On the other hand, it costs $2,000 to $3,000 to buy one. It shouldn’t take more than a few hours to remove a single stump, so the hourly rate is definitely a bargain.

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TillerMediaProduction/Getty Images

Tiller

If you’re just getting your garden ready for the spring crop, go ahead and spend $125 for an electric tiller. You won’t save much by renting. If you’ve got some serious ground to turn over and you need a more powerful gas-powered tiller, it’s better to rent.

Tilling takes time, so it’s better to rent by the day or week than the hours. Expect to pay about $88 a day or $314 a week. That’s still a pretty good saving, considering a new gas-powered tiller costs $600 or more.

Note: Some experts advise against tilling garden soil.

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Orange Warning Construction Ahead Message Road Sign Over Blue Skyryasick/Getty Images

Traffic Control

When you’re working close to the road — perhaps digging up a sewer or repaving the driveway — you have to think about oncoming traffic. Rental outlets can help, because they usually stock barricades, cones and delineator posts that rent for around $1 a day each.

You can also get road signs that say “Slow” or “Construction Ahead” ($15 a day; $46 a week). On the rare occasion you need one, you’ll be able to find towable solar flashing arrow boards for $100 a day at some outlets.

Chris Deziel
Chris Deziel has been active in the building trades for more than 30 years. He helped build a small city in the Oregon desert from the ground up and helped establish two landscaping companies. He has worked as a carpenter, plumber and furniture refinisher. Deziel has been writing DIY articles since 2010 and has worked as an online consultant, most recently with Home Depot's Pro Referral service. His work has been published on Landlordology, Apartments.com and Hunker. Deziel has also published science content and is an avid musician.