Should you Rent or Buy that Garden Machinery?
The purchase of a power lawn mower is a must if you have a lawn bigger than a handkerchief. With a small lawn, a push mower is an economical alternative and also a form of useful exercise. But what about other equipment that you may use only a couple of times a year? When does owning a machine become more of a problem and expense than it’s worth?
Not only is cost a consideration, but maintenance and storage also play a large part in whether you should buy or rent a machine. Where will you keep those space-gobblers? Does it make sense to park your $25,000.00 car on the street to make room for a few hundred dollars worth of garden machinery in the garage? Or do you really want a backyard shed to clutter up your gardening space?
I decided to research how much some of the popular garden machines cost to buy and to rent. You may not even have considered using some of these garden helpers, but renting them for a one-shot garden chore can be very attractive, especially if you share the cost with a neighbor or two.
Many of these machines come in electric and gas versions. The electric ones are quieter and easier to start with their push buttons instead of pull cords, but they may not be as powerful as comparable gas models. Another powerful consideration is that an electric “umbilical cord” is a constant nuisance. (My husband’s electric hedge trimmer has several splices in its cord. I told him he should have gotten an orange extension cord instead of a green one.)
I’m giving the rental fees from two equipment rental companies in my area, and purchase prices from various retailers. Expect them to differ where you live, but at least they give you a standard of comparison.
Rototillers come in many sizes. They save a lot of muscle power over hand digging when you have a large area to prepare. They can cost $284 to $560 or more. If you figure their useful life is 10 years, that would be $28 to $56 per year. Rental fees here in Idaho are $20 to $35 for two hours or $45 to $70 per day. If you only use a tiller once a year, that works out to a break-even proposition, and you Garden rototillerdon’t have to store it or maintain it.
Mini-tillers of less than three horsepower scrumble a path up to a foot wide. They weigh from 20 to 47 lbs. and they’re easily maneuverable, but they can clog with vegetation and stall with stones or other debris in a rough area. Optional accessories on various models include a lawn dethatcher, aerator, border edger, blower/vacuum, and hedge trimmer. Adjustable tines work at various somewhat shallow depths.
However, you shouldn’t expect them to do the work of a rototiller. They aren’t powerful enough to break heavy ground, but they’re great for cultivating, especially in a raised bed where it would take Atlas to lift a big tiller. If you’d often use a mini-tiller to mix in compost, weed between vegetable rows, and ready soil for planting, it may justify its cost of $180 to $400. With a useful life of 10 years, it would cost you $18 to $40 per year. They rent for about $16 for two hours or $32 per day. The main reason to rent a mini-tiller may be to see if you find it useful and like the brand you rented before you buy one.
Chipper-shredder (Compost grinder)
For anyone who has a lot of garden trash and a lively compost pile (signs of a serious gardener), a chipper-shredder saves lots of work, time, and space in your compost pile. Plant materials decompose faster when they’re ground into small pieces. They cost about $600 and up ($60 per year for 10 years) and rent for $25 to $35 for two hours or $65 to $120 per day.
Other garden machinery
Another machine that is awesomely work-saving is a sod stripper, used to remove grass from a large area. You wouldn’t consider buying one for about $3000, but the rental is only $12 to $30 for two hours or $72 to $75 per day. For those of us who don’t replace our lawn annually, buying one probably wouldn’t be a wise investment.
An aerator can give your lawn a new lease on life. It’s cost of about $1800 is prohibitive unless you own a golf course, but you can rent one for $20 to $22 for two hours or $55 to $65 per day to give your lawn a helping hand. A cheaper alternative would be to tromp around your lawn wearing spiked golf shoes.
The same information is valid for a lawn dethatcher. It can cost $1150, but rents for $9 to $18 for two hours or $54 to $60 per day.
A chain saw is useful if you have large trees to trim, but it generated the most cussing from my husband because of its constant need for maintenance. (He assured me that the cussing was both ulcer-preventing and justified.) They sell for $90 to $300 and rent for $20 to $24 for two hours or $30 to $40 per day. (Renting one, you don’t have to sharpen the chain or buy new ones for it.)
I found other useful small contraptions at the rental stores that you might want to rent rather than buy: a lawn roller, log splitter, power sprayer, power auger, propane weed burner, pole pruner, power blower, pressure washer, and a high wheel brush trimmer.
In deciding whether to buy or rent a machine consider your available space. If you’d also have to buy an equipment shed to protect it from the weather, it’s a lot cheaper to rent! Also, if you rent a machine it has a full tank of gas (some require an oil/gas mixture.) Another powerful incentive is that you have no maintenance, no cussing, and you never have to sharpen any blades.
Remember that the rewards you enjoy in gardening should more than compensate you for your work and money spent. Machines that can reduce that work and increase your garden’s beauty and productivity are well worth the cost, whether bought or rented.
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