Want to Rent-to-Own a Laptop? Seven Questions to Ask First 
March 24
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rent-to-own laptop by Pete Low

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.

  • Will the computer or laptop be new or used, and what exactly will come with it, as far as software and accessories? Make sure you'll get everything you need, including cables, speakers, chargers, etc.
  • What happens if you don't pay? The rent-to-own store probably has the right to come to your home and take the laptop back, but that's all. Check to see if there's a minimum number of payments you must make before you can turn it in without an extra penalty. There may be a clause in the contract that says if you get caught up with payments within a certain time, you can get the laptop or whatever back, and continue paying toward ownership. That's a good thing.
  • Can you buy it early? If you come into some money and want to finish buying what you're renting, see if you'll be able to buy it for less than making all the payments. The laptop or computer will still probably cost more than if you bought it at a cheap store, but the point is, you didn't know you'd want to or be able to buy it to begin with.
  • What happens if it needs repairs? Don't just go by the salesperson's word, make sure you have any promises in writing.
  • What happens if it gets stolen or you damage it? Be careful, because you'll probably be liable for the cost, and something like a laptop is fairly easy to steal or damage. Find out what happens, and be prepared just in case. If you have renters or homeowners insurance, see if it'll be covered.
  • What's the total cost? Figure out the total amount you'll be paying, if you follow through with the whole contract, and make sure you can't get the same thing cheaper somehow.
  • What other fees are there? Look for fees if you decide to turn the laptop back in before buying it, or if you pay late but want to continue the contract. If you decide to own it, make sure there's no extra-large balloon payment at the end. Look for additional charges for insurance, delivery (because you'll probably just take a computer or laptop with you), or warrantees and make sure you can afford the actual total cost.

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.

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1 Comment

Anonymous

Anonymous
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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