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Rent to own furniture is a tempting proposition when you’re decorating on a budget.
For a lot of people, buying new furniture is a headache. Besides being expensive, it can be hard to tell if a piece really works in a room until you actually have it in your home.
It’s no wonder that renting to own furniture is pretty popular. But is it worth it?
In this post, I’ll go over how rent-to-own furniture works and how to tell if it’s a good idea for your situation.
How does Rent-to-Own Furniture Work?
Rent-to-own, or RTO, stores sell items like furniture and appliances as well as decorative items like lamps.
Just like a regular furniture store, you can walk in, choose your furniture, and take it home with you (usually that same day). The difference is that rather than paying the full price outright, you pay off the item in installments.
Normal payment plans usually require a credit check. RTO stores don’t require credit checks, which is often their big selling point. (But you might need to provide personal references to vouch for your responsibility and character from family members, neighbors, or friends.)
Before leaving the store, you’ll sign a contract that needs to be renewed regularly (usually weekly or monthly) until the piece of furniture has been paid off.
Bi-weekly and semi-monthly payment intervals are also available from time to time. The most common rental terms are 18 months (or 78 weeks, for weekly renewals).
At the end of each rental period, you can decide whether to renew the lease or return the item.
If you keep renewing the contract, you’ll keep making payments until you’ve paid the full price of the item. At that point, you’ll own it outright.
The idea is that you’re essentially renting the item until eventually, it belongs to you.
What Types of Furniture Can You Rent?
You can rent-to-own pretty much anything you’d need for a house! Living room sets, sofas, bedroom sets, TVs, beds (including mattresses), recliners, dining room sets, the list goes on – and the selection depends on the specific retailer.
Popular Rent-to-Own Furniture Companies
Renting to own isn’t just about Rent-A-Center anymore!
People move more often now than ever before. This is especially true for young people and anyone who hasn’t fully established themselves financially and professionally.
The old expectation to settle down in young adulthood, start a family, and stay put for decades is no longer a reality for lots of people.
Because of that, the face of renting to own is adapting to this changing landscape.
Here are a few rent-to-own furniture companies, from the old standbys to the up-and-coming.
Aaron’s has been around forever and is one of the better-known rent-to-own retailers. They carry a few big brands like Ashley Furniture and Beautyrest.
In addition to the standard selection, they also carry children’s furniture, rugs, and home decor pieces.
Style-wise, their selection leans toward the classic and contemporary (with some rustic chic pieces thrown in). You won’t find anything too out there here, but they do have a decent selection.
Cort is geared toward students, homeowners, and military personnel who move around frequently.
They offer move-in-ready packages with professional styling and lookbooks to get your ideas flowing.
Compared to Aaron’s, their selection is more modern, with contemporary and urban industrial influences.
Feather is geared toward young people whose tastes and living arrangements change often.
All their furniture comes pre-assembled. They pride themselves on affordability, with pieces starting at $4 per month.
You can take a style quiz or shop by room, which is a nice touch you’d expect in traditional furniture stores.
In keeping with their bent toward the younger demographics, Feather’s selection is a bit more modern and distinctive than most rent-to-own furniture companies.
Their pieces range from classic, minimalist, mid-century modern, and contemporary, with some Swedish sensibilities mixed in.
Feather’s biggest downside? It’s only available in specific locations. If you don’t live near a big city, you’re out of luck.
Brook Furniture Rental
Brook’s biggest selling point is its customer service.
One thing to note: their selection varies based on location. Browsing their offerings, you’ll find contemporary, modern, mid-century modern, and classic pieces.
They also carry housewares, which can be a helpful way to try out new decorating ideas without committing to specific items.
Is Rent-to-Own Furniture More Expensive?
The catch is that rent-to-own furniture is often more expensive than if you’d bought the same piece of furniture outright. In general, the longer the contract, the more you’ll end up paying for it.
That’s why it’s so important to know the contract terms inside and out before you sign anything.
Always check the item’s total cost. Factor in any fees that may apply (insurance, delivery, etc.) so you know exactly how much you’ll be paying if you decide to keep the piece of furniture. If you’ll end up paying more than you’d want to pay for an item outright, that’s something to be aware of.
I also recommend asking a few in-depth questions about the contract before moving forward.
If you decide you want to keep the piece of furniture, can you pay it off early, or will that incur an extra fee? And be sure to ask about any extra fees.
Depending on what fees the retailer charges, you might end up paying significantly more per month than you expected just based on the furniture’s rental cost.
Common RTO fees include:
Excessive damage fees
Delivery and pick-up fees
Late payment penalties
The Pros of Rent-to-Own Furniture
You can get your items quickly. In general, you can walk into a RTO store and leave with the item you want (or have it delivered) same-day.
If you’re on a budget, weekly or monthly payments can be more manageable than a big lump sum to buy a new piece of furniture outright.
Most RTO retailers don’t run credit checks on their customers. This is helpful if you need a bigger-ticket item like a couch, dresser, or wardrobe, can’t afford it outright at the moment, but also don’t have good credit.
Compared to renting, RTO has the obvious benefit in the end result: you actually own the piece of furniture you’re renting. Instead of making payments indefinitely, you’ll have something that belongs to you at the end of the contract.
In most cases, if you get a few periods into your rental term and decide you definitely want to buy the item (and can afford it), you can pay the rest of the cost outright. That effectively turns RTOing into a trial period for furniture, which is pretty cool (especially if you’re indecisive).
You can stop making payments anytime. If you decide to return the piece of furniture, you won’t have to worry about any penalties.
The Cons of Rent-to-Own Furniture
In the long run, RTOing ends up being more expensive than just buying the piece outright. It’s actually one of the most expensive ways to buy furniture; you’ll often end up paying 3 to 4 times the retail cost, factoring in fees and total payments.
If you fall behind on payments, the furniture could be repossessed. Any past payments you’ve made toward owning the furniture will have gone down the drain.
It’s often more expensive to RTO than to buy a piece of furniture with a credit card and pay it off over time. (Obviously, that depends on your specific credit history and credit card terms.)
Insurance and other fees can hike up your monthly payments, which wouldn’t apply to a piece of furniture you owned outright.
When Should Someone Not Use Rent-to-Own?
Renting furniture to own can be useful in specific situations, but it’s not usually an ideal go-to way to buy furniture.
If you can afford to buy the furniture you need outright in cash, using a credit card, or if you have good enough credit to qualify for a payment plan, I recommend taking that route.
If the piece of furniture you’re thinking of RTOing is something you can live without long enough to wait and save up for, it’s generally best to wait until then.
A classic example of this would be if you want to upgrade or replace a piece of furniture you already own and that’s still in good working condition.
If your biggest barrier to buying furniture outright is a tight budget and you can’t afford something new at the moment, explore your options.
Thrift stores and charity shops can be excellent sources of gorgeous furniture, and they’re generally much less expensive than buying something new or renting to own.
Check less traditional avenues like Facebook Marketplace. Oftentimes, you can find some real gems and buy them used.
When Might Renting to Own Be a Good Idea?
In general, renting to own is best when you’re in one of three situations:
To Fulfill a Short-Term Need
Sometimes, you just really need furniture without committing to it long-term – whether that’s for a few days or a few months.
Maybe you’re having guests over and need extra seating. Maybe you’re not sure how long you’ll be staying in one place and don’t want to worry about having to lug around a bunch of furniture if you decide to move.
In those cases, renting to own can be a good option.
To Test-Run a Big-Ticket Item
Buying furniture is a big deal. If taking the plunge on a new couch stresses you out, you’re certainly not alone. Test-driving your furniture before you buy may make the buying process less stressful for you.
If this idea appeals to you, RTO for a little while. If this is your plan, make sure your RTO contract terms won’t charge you a penalty for paying your contract off early.
As a Last Resort
If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t own the basic furniture necessities, haven’t found good thrifted options in your area, and your credit situation won’t allow for you to lean on a credit card or payment plan, RTOing may be your best option.
Hey, sometimes it happens! Do what you’ve gotta do. Just make sure your contract doesn’t saddle you with unreasonable fees.
Just like with any home decorating choice, whether or not to rent to own furniture is ultimately a personal decision.
There are plenty of factors at play that can influence whether or not it’s the right option for you. In the end, the most important thing is furnishing your home with pieces you can afford and that makes you feel like your best self when you’re around them.
Have you ever tried rent-to-own furniture? Was it the perfect move for you? Did you regret it? Tell us about it below!
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