Rent To Own: 5 Important Things To Know

The recent years have seen many of us adjusting to thinner wallets, tighter budgets, and less luxurious lifestyles. For many people, this involves finding new or alternative ways of being able to afford what we think of as basic necessities; mattresses, refrigerators, washing machines, and so on.

Rent-to-own businesses such as Aaron’s, Rent-A-Center, and Rent2Own fill a niche by offering furniture, appliances, and more at “low monthly payments,” usually to customers who can not afford to pay in cash and who are unable to qualify for credit.

Although using a payment plan to get what you need, when you need it, can seem attractive at a glance, there are several good reasons to beware of these types of businesses.

High Markups

A familiar saying is, “You get what you pay for”. The rent-to-own business is one place where this does not hold true.

Even though it may sound like a good deal to make monthly payments of only $250 for an item that retails for $1000 or more, it is important to carefully consider the true value of the item, as well as the terms of the lease.

Frequently, a place like Aaron’s will charge more than the suggested retail price, to begin with, and raise interest rates above 100%. With any given purchase, you will more than likely be paying much more over the duration of the lease than the item is actually worth.

Questionable Products

At some rental stores, you may be informed upfront that the particular item or items you are interested in are pre-owned, refurbished, or otherwise used. In other instances, that information may be withheld by the salesperson in their interest in closing the deal.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with owning something secondhand, it is in your interest to make sure that what you are buying isn’t scratched, dented, or damaged in some way, and if it is, that you aren’t paying the original price for it.

This is especially true for electronics and other items that could have hidden issues.


Depending on the state you live in, a store may or may not be within its legal rights to call you or come to your home to demand payment. Often, they will do so whether it is legal or not, armed with the knowledge that many of their customers are not able to afford to challenge them in court.

It is also common practice for employees of rental stores to call a customer’s employer or family members, or even confront them in public.

Even if your account is in good standing and all your payments have been made on time, you may receive unwanted communication in the form of frequent phone calls requesting that you join a “club” or purchase more items.

Credit Reporting

Doing business with a rent-to-own establishment will not help you build a higher credit score, because you are not being issued credit to begin with.

However, companies such as Rent-A-Center do report to the credit bureaus, and if you have a delinquent account, your credit score may be affected negatively.

This happens most often when the business reports a “charge-off” against your credit history.

A charge off is a declaration by a creditor that some amount of debt is not likely to be collected, and is one of the most adverse factors that can be listed on a credit report.

Dissatisfied Customers

Perhaps the biggest reason to be wary of rental stores is the disproportionate amount of complaints that are filed by their customers.

The internet is home to thousands upon thousands of negative reviews, ranging from despondent to disgusted to irate. There are even websites devoted to nothing other than past customers venting against the rude, inconsiderate service that they have received.

Complaints cover a wide range of topics, from those who claim to have paid for the same item three or four times over, to customers whose homes have been infested with mites or roaches after purchasing pre-leased furniture.

In any case, it is safe to say that customers of these types of companies all too often end up with more on their hands than they anticipated.      

It is important to note that not every rental store will earn a reputation for ripping customers off, and not every employee will make disrespect and dishonesty a part of their sales pitch.

For some people, renting or leasing the items they need may truly be the best option, but if you, a friend, or family member decides to go this route, it would be wise to learn everything you can in order to make as informed a decision as possible.

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Mark Boettcher

Co-Founder of Apartment School and a previous renter turned owner of many multi-family properties across the United States, with many years of experience in all aspects of the apartment, real estate, and education world.

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