Trade Show Rent or Own

To Rent or Own? That is the Question

One of the longest running—and most contested—debates in the trade show industry is whether it’s better to rent or own. We’re not talking about furniture and monitors here (where renting is almost always the better choice), but substantial booth properties such as walls and cabinetry.

Everyone has their opinion, but if we’re honest we should all agree that the right answer is…it depends. What works best is going to be based on your needs and situation.

So to try to clarify matters, we offer five questions to help make your decision easier:

  • How many times will you be using the properties?
    If it’s just a few, rental is a slam dunk choice. But as it becomes more, you could end up paying many times over what purchasing the property would have cost. Rule of thumb: if you’ll be using it more than three times, buy it and you’ll be dollars ahead.
  • How sensitive are you to a big capital outlay?
    If your budget can’t absorb the cost of fabrication in one payment, rental may be your only option. However, some companies have flexible payment options to get around this. For example, we offer a rent-to-own option where you pay a portion each time you use the properties. After a few shows, you own them free and clear—and everything after that is money in the bank.
  • How much does your show schedule overlap?
    If your program suddenly expands and overlaps appear, short-term property rental is the sensible option for dealing with this situation—but of course, long-term rental of many properties will become costly.
  • How important is the quality/uniqueness of the properties?
    There are some good-looking rental properties out there and in a lot of cases they will work great, especially for smaller booths. But if you really want to stand out and express your brand, rental systems can’t compete with the look, feel and functionality of custom-built properties.
  • How much does your trade show company charge for storage and refurbishment?
    Depending on who you’re working with, these costs can be substantial and can tip the balance in favor of renting. Better to look for a company that doesn’t treat the modest costs of servicing your program as a cash cow.

That’s our take. We’d love to hear your perspective on rent vs. own and keep the conversation going!

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Wayfindings is written by people who love the event marketing business. Our goal is to share perspectives and insights we’ve gained over the 25+ years we've been in the business of events and trade shows with exhibit and event managers so they can find greater success with their programs. We hope you enjoy!

-The MSM Team

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