Rent-to-own isn't just for furniture or TVs. You can rent to own a laptop or computer too. If your old laptop died and you need a new one right now but you don't have enough to pay cash, you've got a couple choices.
Use a credit card. But what if you don't have one?
Purchase at a store where you can make payments. That's fine if you can get approval, but what if your credit isn't good enough?
That's where rent-to-own places come in. They're designed for people who need a laptop or TV or furniture right now, with no credit check, and with the added advantage that if you can't keep up with the payments, you can just turn the laptop back in. It's not like a store or credit card where you have to keep making the payments until the bitter end.
There's also the advantage that if the laptop quits working, your contract may allow you to just trade it in for a replacement, since you're renting a working laptop, not paying for a broken one.
However, there's a down side to the convenience, and as you can probably guess, it's cost. If you can get a loan to buy what you want with a credit-card kind of interest rate, it'll be cheaper, as long as you're sure you can make all the payments. If you don't need something right now and can put aside the money you'd spend on the rent for six or eight months, you might be able to save up enough to buy it out-right.
However, if you need something right now, like a laptop for your job, and you have bad credit and are worried there's a chance you won't be able to make all the payments, the cost of a rent-to-own contract may be worth it.
Questions to Ask
Here are some things to check out in the contract. Some of these may be regulated by laws in your state, while others are up to the store.
Not for Luxuries
I always thought rent-to-own places advertised in the worst way. They push luxuries, like large-screen TVs or upgraded furniture, as if you ought to be renting things you don't really need but just want. Those are the kinds of things you can save up for. Where rent-to-own makes sense are short-term situations or times where you need something urgently and don't have credit good enough to get a regular loan.
When I got a job and didn't have a car, I wanted a place to live within walking distance to work. Best I could find on short notice was on the bus line, so I rented-to-own (rent-to-owned?) some basic furniture, knowing I'd be moving out as soon as I could, and who knows what furniture if any I'd need in another apartment. Last thing I wanted was the headache of moving furniture in, when I didn't know anybody to help yet and was trying to learn a new job, but they just delivered it. And sure enough, a few months later, I found a place within walking distance, and let the rent-to-own place take everything back. Maybe it wasn't the cheapest way to do it, but it was the least hassle and the most flexible way.
10:20 p.m. March 24
Make sure you have some kind of renter's insurance or something because I had my apartment broken into and a TV stolen. The renter center kept calling even after I sent them the police report and it was worse than any kind of debt collector. Probably nobody's going to walk out the door with a bed or couch but if your renting a computer or electronics or something, make sure it's insured.
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