It’s a question that faces many people and businesses in all walks of life. Houses, cars, televisions, refrigerators and virtually every other consumer product and industrial tool is available for both hire and outright sale. The possibility of long term leasing and hire purchase schemes of products can make the choice even harder.

It is no different in the world of industrial lifting either: does the person wanting to lift something heavy at home in a one-off job need to buy a tool, just to use it only once? Or is it wiser to rent a chain hoist for the day? It is as easy to hire certain hoists for the day as it is a lawnmower or a chainsaw and can provide a perfect solution for tasks such as jacking cars or lifting heavy loads up flights of stairs, or through an upper window perhaps. With regard to safety when hiring smaller hoists, detailed instructions should always be provided by the hire shop. For larger and more complicated equipment, a safety instructor should also be provided. While renting may be an obvious option for the domestic consumer, it might also be an option for construction, engineering or manufacturing businesses that may find that they need a specific tool to perform a certain task.

The clearest benefit of short term renting is cost; there really is no point in buying a piece of equipment that would probably only be used once and then locked away for months to rust.

Total Tool Supply Inc, a US company with a large hire operation, is quick to point out more benefits of short term tool hire. Total Tool says that its rental price includes the cost of maintenance and repair, thereby eliminating the need for the user to spend extra money on repairs and parts. Not all hire companies offer this, however. Repair costs for damage caused to a tool while out on hire would normally be charged to the customer.

Some company accountants will also prefer not to have a large indent in the books from the purchase of a new piece of machinery. The accounts can look more balanced with smaller outgoings each week or month from rented equipment, and borrowing capacity might be increased because the tool will not appear as a liability on the customer’s balance sheet.

It might also be easier for the accountants to calculate the exact cost of a piece of equipment if it is rented. Customers and contractors in the USA can benefit from renting in another way: unlike purchased equipment, rented goods do not carry any personal property taxes and are exempt from licence costs. Depending on the cost of hire, it can be far better to keep tools on a long term lease or rental and avoid paying these charges rather than purchase a piece of equipment outright.

Total Tool also points out that the machinery available from most hire companies is likely to be the newest on the market, which eliminates the potential problems associated with using older and perhaps more accident-prone equipment.

Certain equipment manufacturers are quick to disagree with this, however. Gordon Adie, managing director of Konecranes UK, says that the surest way to get the newest technology and the best equipment is to purchase it yourself.

He warns that rented equipment has often been in service for many years and may lead to problems for the customer. The customer is unlikely to know the age and working history of rented machinery, nor are they likely to understand the implications of this.

This of course leads to the customer asking the question of whether the hired equipment has been misused or overworked by other users. Many of the issues surrounding the purchase of used equipment also apply when considering renting (see HOIST 11, pp28-29). People renting a hoist should ask to see Declarations of Conformity and other related paperwork such as service history and repair records.

Common sense should decree that it is best to visit reputable, established dealers – not necessarily just the cheapest they can find – and seek advice about which product is best suited to which particular job.

Wire rope hoists should be carefully checked as they can be particularly vulnerable to rope damage and, as previously said, rental companies are likely to want to charge for repair of any damage that might have occurred during the rental period.

Adie also points out that new equipment is specifically selected for a job, while those renting may occasionally have to settle for a less than optimum solution. For most applications, however, a quick description of the job in hand with a reputable rental company should ensure that the right tool is hired, minimising the risk of unneeded tools lying idle and racking up costs.

Another benefit that Total Tool points out is the question of mobility. A contractor can bid for a job on the other side of the world by renting equipment near the project site, eliminating the expensive shipping charges of moving his own materials to the jobsite. In some cases, the cost of rental may match or even outweigh the cost of transport so the final decision rests with the contractor.

When a customer or contractor has finished the job they are doing using a hired tool, it can be a case of merely putting the tool in the boot of the car and returning it to the rental company’s premises. If it is a larger piece of equipment, like a gantry crane, removal will be carried out by the rental company as part of the original hire contract. As most of us have experienced, it costs money to get rid of a broken down washing machine when we want to replace it and it is no different with material handling equipment. A removal company may have to be called in to take the equipment away, and if it is being sold, there might be a long wait for a buyer.

It is important to remember that when comparing costs, it is the actual cost of ownership, rather than the purchase price of equipment, that should be examined. The price should not be the deciding factor, however, and it is a good idea to consult a lifting specialist to help decide which choice to make.