5 unusual things you can rent

Everybody knows you can rent cars, movies and tuxedos — but what about designer jewelry and caskets?

Today, you can rent iPhones, textbooks, caskets, tools and designer handbags, among other things.

In some cases, it makes more financial sense to rent these items than to buy them. But there are risks. If you damage a rented Prada handbag or power tool, you may have to pay to repair or replace it.

Following are some tips on the ins and outs of renting these items — and whether it makes sense to do so.

iPhones and other smart phones

iPhones and other smart phones

Use all of those cool iPhone apps when you’re traveling abroad? If so, you should expect some hefty data roaming charges.

“This is a big problem for smartphone owners,” says Guy Zbarsky, co-founder of iPhoneTrip, which rents out iPhones and SIM cards for international travel.

IPhoneTrip’s SIM card rental packages start for as little as $15 per day. Each package includes unlimited Internet in more than 120 countries and free VoIP calls. Some iPhone rental packages include insurance in case the item gets damaged.

Fixing an iPhone could cost you up to $100. There’s a charge if you break the iPhone beyond repair and didn’t purchase the optional insurance, says Zbarsky.

Other companies also offer smartphone rentals. For example, you can rent a BlackBerry for international travel from TravelCell based in New York or Cellhire, which has offices in Dallas, New York, Chicago, Washington and Seattle.

College textbooks

College textbooks

The price of college textbooks continues to rise. That’s why students should seriously consider renting, says Gregory Karp, author of “The 1-2-3 Money Plan: The Three Most Important Steps to Saving and Spending Smart.”

“If you’re only going to use something once or for a short period of time, renting almost always works out better,” he says.

Shane Willard, co-owner of CampusBookRentals.com based in Ogden, Utah, says his prices are usually half or less than half of retail.

“If you rent, you won’t ever get stuck with a book,” Willard says.

Renting also saves you the hassle of trying to sell the book on eBay or Craigslist, Willard says.

CampusBookRentals.com allows some highlighting in rented books. However, renters are charged for books with excessive highlighting, water damage, or with ripped pages or covers.

CampusBookRentals.com doesn’t guarantee books will include supplemental materials.

Other options for renting textbooks include Chegg.com, BookRenter.com and CollegeBookRenter.com.

While renting is cheaper than buying from the campus bookstore, it may not always be the best deal, says Nicole Allen, the Boston-based director of the Make Textbooks Affordable campaign.

She says shopping around is your best bet.



If you’re a do-it-yourselfer with home repairs, consider renting tools, especially if you plan to use the tool only a few times, Karp says.

Renting provides you with a commercial-quality product for less than it would cost to buy a lower-quality consumer product, says Karp.

Before renting, make sure you can use the tool safely. For example, Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes says he would not be comfortable using a table saw.

“You want to avoid doing any kind of property damage with the tool as well,” says Holmes. “You don’t want to compromise the safety of your home because you don’t know how to deal with wiring or plumbing.”

Renters generally are charged for repairs needed to fix a damaged tool. Holmes says that if you don’t bring a tool back clean, you’ll be charged a cleaning fee. That’s pretty much the industry standard.

Normal wear and tear is expected, says Holmes.

Home Depot does offer a protection plan, which is 10 percent of the rental costs and covers any tool repair costs.

You can also rent tools from places such as United Rentals based in Greenwich, Conn., and Sunbelt Rentals based in Fort Mill, S.C.

Designer handbags, watches, jewelry

Designer handbags, watches, jewelry

Designer accessories may be expensive to rent, but renting still can save you money.

“Fifty bucks beats the heck out of spending $1,500,” says Karp.

Also, renting for a little while may help you talk yourself out of a more expensive purchase.

“Rent it — then, you can get it out of your system,” says Karp.

Avelle may be the leader in renting out designer handbags, watches and jewelry. Formerly known as Bag, Borrow or Steal, the designer rental company was made famous by the “Sex and the City” movie. It has more than 3,000 styles of designer handbags, jewelry and sunglasses from more than 100 designers, including Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci.

You can rent from Avelle for a week, a month or an entire season. If you rent something and decide you want to own it, 50 percent of more of your rental fees may be applied toward the purchase of that accessory.

Damage insurance totaling $150 is included free of charge with each rental to cover potential wear and tear.

“We expect that they will borrow them like they are borrowing from one of their friends and then return the item in much the same way they received it,” says Michael J. Smith, Avelle’s president and CEO.

You can also rent designer handbags from RentMeAHandbag.com and FromBagstoRiches.com.



Mourners planning to have a loved one cremated can rent a ceremonial casket instead of spending thousands of dollars to buy one, says Jzyk Ennis, an at-large representative of the National Funeral Directors Association Executive Board.

Usually, when someone is renting a ceremonial casket, a cardboard insert is put in and then the body is put inside. When you look into the casket, it looks just like any other expensive ceremonial casket.

At the end of the visitation or viewing, the insert gets pulled out and a new one gets put in for the next person who rents the casket.

The funeral director has the family sign a release so both sides agree on exactly how the whole process will work.

“This gives you more opportunities to celebrate the life of your loved one and do that in a cost-effective way,” says Ennis.

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More frugal stories

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