Attachment Rental Might be More Cost-Effective than Owning

Your business matters.

By Kim Berndtson

How many attachments do you own? How many do you wish you owned? If your answer to both questions is the same, you're likely getting maximum utilization from your attachments. But if you own a lot of attachments that you rarely use, or don't have the right attachments to make infrequent or one-off jobs most efficient, you may want to take a look at rental instead.

With the large volume of attachments available for skid steers, excavators, backhoe-loaders and other carriers, maintaining an inventory of every attachment you might use some day can not only be daunting but impractical and expensive. That's why, in some situations, contractors turn to rental houses and equipment dealer rental departments to find an attachment that is right for the job.

"Rental is a cost-effective way to have the right work tool [attachment] for the right job," says Chris Gustafson, Caterpillar. "Contractors will own the carrier (skid steer or mini-excavator) and the most-often utilized tools. Renting the other tools allows the contractor to maximize the usage of the carrier."

Utilization and availability
To determine which attachments are better suited for rental and which may be more cost effective to purchase, Gustafson suggests working with your dealer or rental service provider to determine what's best for your individual situation or job.

Typically, the dealer or rental house staff will start by inquiring about the scope and frequency of the work. "We ask how often they will need the attachment," says Scott Pierce, Sunbelt Rentals.

"You may only need an attachment for one job, one day," says Doug Fleury, Rebel Rents. "For example, if you need a compaction wheel that costs $2,000 to purchase, and you only need it for a day, it may not be cost effective to buy it."

This may be true even if you foresee using it sometime in the future. That's because equipment has a cost even when you aren't using it.

"You have the cost to store, maintain, and hold that equipment," says Bryan Mead, RSC Equipment Rental. "Owning attachments may be more appropriate when contractors have their own organization set up with their own service department, maintenance group, and storage facility. They may already have overhead, and another attachment may not impact that overhead. But when you're using rented attachments, we assume the cost of owning, storing, and maintaining them."

Rental houses will typically stock an inventory of the most frequently requested attachments. For skid-steer loaders this usually includes augers, breakers, backhoes, pallet forks, planers, brooms, sweepers, and buckets in a variety of sizes, with and without teeth. For excavators you can usually find compaction wheels and breakers.

"Many times, these attachments will be secondary uses for a machine," says Fleury. "That's why they are so popular."

Contractors may also be looking for buckets in sizes they don't always use. "Maybe you own a 24-in. bucket and you need an 18-in. bucket for a particular job," Fleury says.

Rental benefits
Renting infrequently used attachments eliminates the most obvious cost associated with owning them - initial purchase price. "Contractors don't have to buy an asset they will only use a few times," Pierce says. The only risk, he says, is possible damage to an attachment that doesn't belong to them.

There are other benefits, as well. "When you rent an attachment, you don't have to keep up with any type of repairs," Mead says. "You also don't have to worry about disposing of the unit when you want to sell it."

Renting occasional-use tools can also allow for better cost control. "When they're quoting jobs, all contractors have to do is call us for a rental quote," Mead says. "They can more quickly determine what their costs will be for a certain job."

If a rental provider has multiple locations, you may be able to minimize, or possibly eliminate, the hassle associated with moving equipment from job to job. "If a contractor has jobs in three different counties, they can call us to schedule delivery of equipment," says Mead. "Because we have multiple locations, we can move the equipment from a store that is close to their job."

Renting also provides the ability to fill gaps in your attachment arsenal. For example, say a contractor has two jobs that require an auger and sweeper attachment but only owns one set of attachments. "The contractor can rent the second set of attachments from us," Mead says. "To keep multiple jobs ongoing, the contractor can supply one job and rent attachments for the others to cover all the jobs and satisfy all of its customers."

Kim Berndtson is associate editor of Equipment Today, published by Cygnus Business Media.