Should you rent or buy lift equipment?

  • Articles
  • Jan 13,22
For most businesses, lift utilisation or frequency of lift use will be the best metric when deciding to rent or buy. Buying a lift works best when a business needs a lift often and year-round, says Emily Newton.
Should you rent or buy lift equipment?

When sourcing lift equipment, it can be challenging to decide if a business should rent or buy. Both renting and buying are major expenses, and either option will have advantages and drawbacks.

In general, businesses that use lifts only occasionally don’t benefit from buying their lifts. Businesses that use lifts frequently, however, may need to review their spending and consider purchasing a lift outright.

Renting vs buying: Key differences
In most cases, renting a lift is cheaper than buying one outright, especially if the end-user only needs the lift equipment infrequently or for a brief period of time.

For example, a 19-foot electric scissor lift typically costs around $130 per day to rent, plus the cost of delivering and retrieving the lift if necessary.

Buying the same model of lift new will likely cost upwards of $14,000. Once purchased, the business will be completely responsible for lift maintenance, management, storage, and troubleshooting.

A warranty may cover some repairs, but the owner will likely need to invest in repairs and basic maintenance, as well as storage space for keeping the lift stored when not in use. The owner may also have to invest in special equipment that can move the lift from job site to job site.

Businesses that don’t use lift equipment in day-to-day operations or may not need lifts for future jobs should consider renting first.

However, renting isn’t always the cheaper option — especially for businesses that use their lifts year-round or on a near-daily basis for much of the year.

Why some businesses buy lift equipment
Businesses that buy their own lifts will have the most control over the equipment possible. As with most types of heavy construction equipment, there is a wide variety of lift equipment types, each of which is best suited to certain jobs and tasks.

For example, articulating boom lifts can provide lift around corners and obstacles or into tight spaces. A rental company may have these lifts available inconsistently or not at all, forcing a business to use less maneuverable straight lifts.

A purchased lift will be available on-demand, and if all lifts are busy, the business will have continuous information on the lift’s location, its work status, and an estimate on when it will be available.

The business will be able to choose which make and model of lift it will purchase, rather than relying on their rental service company to stock the lift they need.

Businesses will also be able to always use the same lift from the same manufacturer. This consistency can help to streamline workflows and reduce the complexity of training workers who will use the lift equipment.

Businesses that buy a lift will also be able to choose how the lift is maintained and be free to install aftermarket components, add-ons, or parts as desired.

Buying a lift will also establish a direct relationship between a business and the lift dealer. The dealership may be able to provide services like replacements or warranty repairs for lifts that the business wouldn’t have access to if it was renting.

These benefits will have the most impact for businesses that are regularly using lift equipment.

A purchase may be better than renting if a business’s workers are frequently having to learn how to use new types of lifts, if the business is waiting on rental providers due to limited area inventory, or if the business has delayed projects due to regional rental lift equipment shortages.

Calculating the cost of lift ownership
Ultimately, the decision to buy or rent is a financial one, meaning that businesses can consider data including the cost of renting, the cost of purchasing, potential losses due to delays, and the utilization rate of lift equipment when deciding to buy or rent.

The business owners or key decision-makers should also consider potential long-term challenges with lift ownership. Buying a lift may be a long-term commitment to a specific make and model of lift. Issues with that lift’s particular model or model year will continue to cause problems until the lift can be replaced.

As with most types of industrial machinery, the value of the lift will begin to depreciate the moment it leaves the dealership. It’s unlikely that the business will be able to totally recoup the cost of investing in a lift if the business replaces the lift.

If a business is frequently renting lift equipment, has suffered delays due to regional shortages, and can afford the high capital cost of both buying and maintaining a new lift, purchasing may be a good decision.

Many contractors and construction businesses prefer to rent lift equipment because these costs are too much to bear, or because the logistical challenges of lift ownership outweigh the potential benefits. Even with fairly frequent lift usage, it may be economical to continue renting and avoid the high costs of storage, maintenance, and repairs.

There are ways to offset the high cost of buying a new lift, however, like sourcing and reconditioning used equipment. These strategies could help make buying more realistic for businesses.

Which is best: Renting or buying lifts?
For most businesses, lift utilisation or frequency of lift use will be the best metric when deciding to rent or buy. Buying a lift works best when a business needs a lift often and year-round.

Businesses that decide to buy lifts can help offset the buying price by sourcing a used lift and investing in preventive maintenance.

About the author:
Emily Newton is a tech and industrial journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily.

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