“Rent-to-Own” has become a multi-billion dollar industry in the American economy. Consumers are attracted to this option for larger-scale purchases because it allows them to buy the goods they desire without paying the full price up-front. Also, because renters pay as they go, no credit is extended, credit reports on customers are not obtained and no debt is incurred. One of the most popular rent-to-own purchases is furniture because of its typically high prices and the fact that it is a general necessity for homeowners. Furniture also does not get outdated nearly as fast as electronics, so it makes more sense to be paying for furniture over a long period of time than it does for electronics. In general, rent-to-own may be a good option for consumers who cannot comfortably afford to pay the full price of an item in one payment. However, if you are considering this option, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of “rent-to-0wn.”
-It is not difficult to find a place that offers rent-to-own purchasing options. There are approximately 8,600 rent-to-own stores in operation, serving 4.1 million customers a year.
-Flexible payments plans allow consumers to change the amount they pay or they can execute an early purchase option at any time to obtain ownership of the product.
-The customer is never obligated to make the next payment and can return the product at any time for any reason (but he or she will not get their money back).
-If a customer chooses a fewer number of payments, the rent-to-own price is significantly lower and can be competitive to retail prices.
-A person’s credit will not be damaged in any way if they are unable to make a payment, unlike a loan.
-Some stores offer free replacement, repair and delivery.
-If the customer chooses a higher number of payments, the total cost will be more than retail, sometimes double or triple the item’s original price.
-Though a rent-to-own contract is not a loan and does not involve payment of interest rates, when factored-in, the equivalent interest rate may be 60 to 100 percent or higher.
-There have been complaints of stores that do not adequately explain their contracts, deliver used or damaged goods, and use illegal collection practices, such as harassing phone calls.
-Store employees often convince customers to rent products they don’t need, therefore burdening customers with multiple payments they cannot manage.
-Some plans may have hidden fees, for example, if the product is returned or damaged.
When considering rent-to-own, it is very important to follow these tips to ensure that this flexible payment option does not become a costly scam:
-Read all terms and conditions of the contract carefully before signing. Determine what fees may be associated with the transaction, who is responsible for repairs or maintenance and what happens after a late or missed payment.
-Make sure you know, in writing and orally, the total dollar amount and number of rental payments you will have made by the time ownership is an option and the payment plan is over.
-Before choosing a rent-to-own company, visit www.bbb.org to see what other consumers’ experience has been like, the volume of complaints and how they were resolved.
-Only rent the item that you absolutely need so you do not find yourself trapped in multiple payment contracts at a time.
-Visit the Association of Progressive Rental Organizations website for links to state laws governing rent-to-own provisions.
-Compare your other options first. You may qualify for a short-term loan, retailer financing or a layaway plan. Look for deals and, especially for furniture, consider buying the item at a garage sale, through a classified ad or at a second-hand store (but make sure it is what you want, because you won’t be able to return it).