Buying Versus Renting Tools: When to Rack Up Rental Fees

How well can you estimate your project--one consideration when debating on buying versus renting tools.I kicked my car out of the garage for several months, replacing it with my DEWALT D24000 wet tile saw. ¬†On days I used my wet saw I moved my car across the street, keeping flying chunks of stone from hitting my car. While I am most likely riding a bike, on the rare occasion when I do drive I’d rather my vehicle not look like I drove right behind a sand truck in a snowstorm for 1,000 miles.

TL;DR — Jump to the all inclusive checklist below if you dislike tiling, glamorous walk-in shower pictures, your neighbors, beer, wedding flowers and puppies (OK, maybe not puppies). ūüėČ

I watched my neighbors get their mail. The kids would run past before I made the next cut (again, safety first). I became a regular fixture as I waved at people when they drove past.

At one point my neighbor stopped to ask if I was renting my wet tile saw. ¬†I couldn’t help but laugh. I said no, it was proudly mine.

Then I started thinking of the dollar signs behind the buying versus renting tools question if the answer was yes.  Without doing any real math I already knew the answer would blow my mind and my pocketbook.

At the time, I was in the middle of remodeling my master bathroom DIY style. ¬†It all started in an effort to get as much done as possible to show my out-of-town family members when they were here for my wedding. The project started by me single-handedly taking on the demo of the shower and tub in January of 2013. The tile work began in December of 2013 (yes, 11 months later–here’s a plug for buying a house with more than one bathroom!).

Once the wedding happened in January, I went into a slump.  I was terribly disappointed: I did not get near enough done to show my family. I got married and had a wonderful time on a brief honeymoon.  Then my husband burned his foot in an accident at work.  Life happens and projects stop.*

The DeWALT D24000 setup for a paused master bathroom remodel while my mom and I prep my wedding flowers.

The DeWALT D24000 setup for a paused master bathroom remodel while my mom and I prep my wedding flowers.

The saw stayed set up in the garage.  The water eventually evaporated out of the water pan. The car remained outside, baking in the Arizona sun in the driveway.

Once we decided to start trying to expand our family I had a surge in motivation. From April to June I spent most of my weekends tiling.  If I had to guess how many days I actually used my DeWALT D24000 wet tile saw between December to June it would be about 8 days of heavy usage with at least half a dozen more with small cuts here and there.*

Renting a similar saw at Home Depot runs $67 a day, $268 per week, and $804 for four weeks.* ¬†The weekly and monthly rates are of no use to me because I work in cubicle land during normal business hours Monday through Friday. Let‚Äôs say I geek out and get really organized to get all my leisurely cuts down to just a few days, minimizing the days needed to rent the saw. We’ll say 11 days total. $67 x 11 = $737. Plus tax. Plus driving back and forth to Home Depot. Plus planning to make sure I used the saw in the most efficient manner. Plus turning into a horrible neighbor because I would feel stressed enough to make that one last cut up until the quiet time curfew (although I would close the garage door after 8 pm). Plus hoping no one else was going to rent it from Home Depot on a weekend. Plus racing to get the saw cleaned and back to the store before they close.

Renting is way too much hassle for the size of this job. Now given, this walk in shower is not your typical design. There are two full walls of tile. One of the walls is 8′ by 9’+ with an arched window. It has an intricate mosaic pattern repeated four times.

I also had not previously used Schluter products for profile edges. So I was learning on the job.

Using different Schluter products for the first time.

However, if you consider doing more than one normal shower you are still in the same ballpark.

Having my own wet tile saw allows me the flexibility to work at my own pace. I can even do small amounts in the evenings after work if I am amped up enough.  If I want to take a nap, I take a nap.** If it is 9:00 am or 5:00 pm, I can stop and have a cup of coffee or a Hefeweizen at whichever of those times I wish or outside of those times. At 8:00 pm, I still have to stop so that the kids next door can go to sleep on time. However, I do not have to race to the store before they close. Instead, I just rinse out the water line for the evening.

For the number of bathrooms, kitchens and backsplashes I have completed, I have come out way ahead by buying my DEWALT D24000. If I decided to stop tiling once and for all I could sell it on Craigslist and pocket the money. Maybe I should sell it. At this point all the normal projects are done. I have upgraded all 2.5 bathrooms in my current house. Any additional projects will involve spending blow money, like the stone skirt I put on my house. Beautiful and fun, but certainly not necessary!

Beware! If you buy the tool you just might have enabled yourself with project creep...

Beware! If you buy the tool you just might have enabled yourself with project creep…

There are additional reasons to buy a tool instead of renting when a tool is flexible enough to use for more than one task. Check out this previous post¬†on the DeWALT D24000¬†and go to the ‚ÄúOpportunity Cost/Savings‚ÄĚ section. If the saw you buy has the ability to miter and profile tile you are also paying less for specialty finished edges on your tile. However, all good things take time and profiling tile trim edges yourself, while very doable, also takes up rental time.

This same type of cost analysis can be applied to many other tools you can rent at a tool supply business. Here is a checklist to help you decide on buying a new tool, renting, borrowing, or finding a used one. For this comparison I will say ‚ÄėCraigslist‚Äô as a placeholder for any other website selling used goods from consumer to consumer.

  • How much does a tool cost new?
  • How much does it cost to rent the tool for a day?
  • How much how big is the project?
  • How good are your project time estimates?
  • How much does it cost on Craigslist?
  • How far is the nearest listing on Craigslist?
  • How much is shipping online?
  • How much is tax if you buy it in a brick and mortar store?
  • How much is your time worth if you need to drive across town for a pickup? Could it be binned with other errands so perhaps this is not a factor?
  • Does it need to be new?
  • Would a used version hide problems that are not obvious? (ex. paint sprayer–are the insides really clean?)
  • How much maintenance is recommended?
  • Are you good at keeping up maintenance?
  • Is the warranty a factor?
  • Is this a tool that you will use over and over so that the cost difference between buying it new or used¬†is not as big of a factor?
  • Is this a business tool or is it for personal use (tax write-off implications, is the rental cost more/ less what it “earns” at work)?
  • How fast do you need it?¬†Amazon is in a shipping race with Walmart and Target. In some insane cases it can even arrive on your doorstep the same day. Craigslist will take some searching and coordinating.
  • Are there any special features making a rental more necessary because it is cost prohibitive to buy it yourself? (renting a big tile saw for a few days and buying a cheap saw for most of the other cuts)
  • Is additional insurance a consideration?
  • Is it easier to rent it and not deal with the issue of selling it? (ex. 3′ x 9′ wedding tables for a reception)
  • How much space does¬†it take to store the tool? (ex. 3′ x 9′ wedding tables for a reception, rolling¬†scaffold)
  • Do you have the space to store it?¬†(ex. 3′ x 9′ wedding tables for a reception, rolling¬†scaffold, again)
  • Does a friend have the tool and is it possible to borrow it?
  • Are you willing to pay for a replacement if something happens to your friend’s borrowed tool?

As you can see deciding between buying versus renting tools is a multi-step process that only you can answer so you can sleep peacefully at night.


*Life happened the day this blog started. I was pretty excited to share the website going live with family members. A normal workday schedule includes a small window of time for my husband, daughter and I to have a small coffee/milk break looking out our backyard bay window, watching the birds, airplanes and morning light in the trees. This was when I was going to call my parents and brother’s family. I woke up with pink eye. Instead of a relaxed morning, it involved racing to work and picking up my laptop before anyone else would make eye contact and point in horror. My husband texted with my brother and sister-in-law during the day getting all the fun texts. Later in the evening, when I told my parents my daughter decided to show she was related to her cousin who at only 1 year old will be climbing Mount Everest next year. She reached for a stack of books and dropped them on her head just as my dad typed into his browser. Sigh. I certainly did not get any first hand reactions. “Life” happens.

*Rental rates advertised online as of 5/1/2017. According to the Home Depot website there are none available in my area, so this price is for Omaha, NE.

**When it is an option. Many days are barely-stop-to-eat-anything days because the mortar/grout is drying and if that adjacent piece of tile is sticking out and you don’t notice it in time it will be *that* piece you wish you could take back. A nice craft beer is more likely since you can enjoy it on the job.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *