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Buying vs. Renting

Buying vs. Renting

Blog Post

Buying and renting booths and equipment offer distinct advantages


Peter Eberly, Director
Product and Vertical Marketing

It’s an age-old question for many big expenses including vehicles and homes. Rent vs. buy? Which makes the most sense?

It’s also a question that’s revisited often in the trade show and events world. Should you rent or buy your booth and associated equipment?

Answer: Just as it is with cars or homes, renting vs. buying trade show booths and displays depends on your budget and goals.

Both renting and buying booths and associated equipment offer distinct advantages and disadvantages. In addition to the static costs related to buying vs. renting the equipment, it’s also important to consider labor and freight costs.

Tim Patterson of Interpretive Exhibits writes on the Optima Graphics blog that a “general rule of thumb is that it costs about one-third to one-half as much to rent a booth as it does to purchase the same booth. This means that if you purchase it outright, you’ve amortized the rental cost in the first two to three uses.” Put another way, if you plan to use the same exhibit more than three times, you’ll save money buying.

Branding and graphics costs

One of the more expensive costs associated with renting is branding. Renting a booth with a standard configuration can help save costs because it will be easier, faster and more cost-effective to have graphics created for it. The same work for a more custom configuration will likely cost more. It’s important to think ahead about potential future uses at this point. If you’re going to use the same booth again, and it’s a standard setup, it probably won’t cost that much to replace the graphics for the next show. However, if you’re planning to use a more custom setup, you’ll incur more costs for replacing those graphics.

If you decide to purchase a custom booth, you’ll have more opportunity and flexibility about what to create. If you decide to go this route, be sure to consider what your look and feel will be for the duration of owning the booth or exhibit. Creating a display with a classic design that will stand the test of time might be a good option for the budget-conscious company. Of course, if you’re in a faster-changing industry, it’s possible to create new displays for each new trade show. But keep in mind that not only will you incur the expense of the new displays, you’ll also have to figure out what to do with the old ones.

Technology and furnishings

Buying flat screens and shipping them to an exhibit floor can be expensive and cumbersome. Additionally, if you aren’t a tech expert, you might end up with a monitor that doesn’t work or that’s incompatible with the device you’re trying to connect to it. Vendors also tend to be more likely to keep up with the latest technology and can ensure that you have the most up-to-date equipment on the show floor.

Similarly, if you’re not a flooring installer, renting carpet will likely be a more cost-effective plan. In fact, some facilities even require carpet or flooring for shows, and in these cases, you’ll often be required to use the show contractor. In cases where you can provide your own furniture, be sure to consider the expense of shipping these heavy pieces as well as return freight.

Exhibit storage

If you have extra space at your facility and staff time that can be dedicated to cleaning and maintaining your booth as well as handling inventory and shipping, purchasing a display might be a good fit for your company. This plan typically will work well if you know you’re going to have the same graphics and branding in the foreseeable future. Beyond the initial expense, you’ll want to make sure you budget for shipping, assembly and return freight for each trade show where your company will have a presence.

Some additional advantages of renting are as follows:

  • Many vendors will manage the whole process for you turn-key and arrange for return shipments, sparing you extra time, anxiety, potential frustration and possible missed flights when leaving a show.
  • Depending on your needs, some vendors might negotiate special rental rates across multiple shows.
  • Vendors who specialize in trade show booths and equipment have access to cutting-edge printing technology and provide you with crisp graphics and polished displays that will expertly showcase your brand.
  • These vendors often also offer easy-to-assemble booths and displays so that your team can put up your branded materials quickly and without frustration.
  • You don’t need to find storage space at your facility because the vendor will often store everything for you.

Some clients also will rent for a period and become so comfortable with an exhibit or booth that they will rent-to-own, which some vendors offer as an option. Regardless of your plan, it’s important to consider your goals and budget when deciding which route will work best for your company.


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