Should I Rent or Buy Office Furniture?

When would it make sense to rent vs. Buy office furniture? What is the “break even” point on renting vs. Buying? 

November 15, 2021

Outfitting an office can be expensive. In the modern fast paced business environment, you may be on a sub-lease, in temporary space or not know if next year you will need 10, 50 or 200 employees. 

When would it make sense to rent vs. Buy office furniture? What is the “break even” point on renting vs. Buying? 

The office furniture rental industry has consolidated in recent years and is dominated by Cort. They provide a service which is needed but the price can be more than you expect. Rental companies know furniture is damaged every time you move it and expect only 3 uses before the items need to be discarded or recycled. They also know there are few options and price accordingly. 

I have seen projects where a moderate amount of furniture for a medium office (5k square feet) was $30k for three-month rental, $10k per month. When the client wanted to shave the budget and asked for a one-month rental they got a bill for $30k for a single month. I share this to point out the rates are based on the number of turns the company will get from the furniture and not so much how long you are using it. 

The design relevance or style of the item is also a factor. Just like cars, furniture rental companies want to keep their “fleet” fresh and up to date. With the pace of change, that can mean replacements every few years. 

If you rent furniture for 1 year+, you could have purchased comparable items for about the same price or less.

The sweet spot for renting furniture, where the cost is less than buying and the price doesn’t make your eyes bulge out and consider just using a card table from Home Depot, is 6-9 months. If you know for sure there is no way you will need the items more than 9 months, I would explore renting. 

If your need is undetermined or a year or longer it really makes sense to purchase or look at some other option like furniture as a service (FAAS).  The key to keep your budget under control is to explore the non-aligned or midmarket commercial furniture options. Check out our blog on brand name vs. open line office furniture to learn more. The basic truth is you can get the same quality for much less if you don’t care if it says Herman Miller, Steelcase or Knoll on the label (which is usually hidden anyway).

So, to sum it up…

If you need furniture for only a few months…grit your teeth and rent, there are not too many great options

If you need furniture for 6-9 months…rent or explore FAAS, you are getting excellent value.

If you need furniture for a year or more…buying may really be the best choice. Just be sure to keep your budget under control by using solid but lesser-known brands.

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