Should You Rent or Buy Linens for Your Event?
The answer: IT DEPENDS
When I first starting looking at linen rental prices, I thought, “This is crazy. I can buy for less than that!.” Sometimes, that is in fact true, but there are other things to consider. So, why do people rent if it is cheaper to buy?!?!
Here are 3 things to think about before you decide between renting and buying linens for your event:
If you choose to purchase, you need to plan on ironing or steaming the linens the day of the event. When you purchase linens, they come folded, and there are deep creases in them. Sometimes, they also have a factory smell to them. Many people prefer cleaning before using them the first time to get rid of that smell. If you buy, plan on cleaning twice: before and after your event.
If you choose to rent, the linens will be delivered to you clean and steamed. They are ready to use. And, when the event it over, all you have to do is give them back to the rental company.
2. CLEANING COSTS
It costs $10-15 to dry clean a tablecloth. That is often higher than the purchase price. Now, if you purchase a polyester tablecloth, you can launder those yourself, but you will need to iron or press them after they are clean. When deciding whether to rent or buy, make sure you factor this in unless you plan to just throw them away afterwards. (I’d be remiss if I did not add…please don’t throw them away. We don’t need more stuff in the landfill – at least donate them.)
3. RESALE VALUE
You can typically resell your linens for about 1/2 the price you paid. But, keep in mind, most people purchasing will require them to be clean and stain free. Also, it is likely that at least one of the tablecloths will get ruined or stained (especially if you are serving red wine).
Here’s an Example:
I’m doing this calculation today for an event we are currently planning at my kids’ school:
The co-chairs have picked out beautiful, silver, satin tablecloths. These tablecloths are $24.95 to rent, and they need 50 . That is $1247.50 just for tablecloths (I gulp every time I see that price)! So, of course, my gut reaction was “let’s just buy these.” We found similar tablecloths on Amazon for $16.78 including shipping (they are not Prime eligible). So, they will cost us $839 to purchase.
For simplicity sake, let’s say they arrive from the factory and don’t have a bad smell. Also, since it’s a school event, we can probably find a volunteer willing to iron or steam them before the event. (I am, however, nervous about being able to transport them without them getting wrinkled. I’m not sure we will want this extra stress with everything else going on the day of the event).
After the event, though, we will have to clean them before we can sell them. My local cleaner quoted me $11.50. That will be an additional $575 so my total costs is $1414.
I believe I could resell them for $8 each. Of the 50, I’m going to assume 2 of them (about 5%) came back with stains that the cleaners could not remove. I’ve got 48 for resell at $8 each, which equals $384.
So, here’s the breakdown:
$839 (to purchase) + $575 (to clean) = $1414 – $384 (resell value) = $1030 total cost to purchase vs. $1247.50 total cost to rent.
The difference is $217.50. Is it worth my time to iron them beforehand, take them to the cleaners afterwards, and find a buyer plus probably ship them to the buyer? I could easily argue both sides, and I think it comes down to a personal choice and deciding where you want to spend your budget and your time.
Also, don’t forget I’m taking a risk – if the tablecloths arrive with a factory smell, I have to clean them before the event. The total purchase expense in that case would be more than renting ($1605 to buy vs $1247.50 to rent). I have to decide if I’m willing to take that risk and do the extra work.
Couple of other things to consider:
- If budget is your biggest concern and you are crafty, the most economical thing to do is buy fabric in bulk and make your own tablecloths.
- If you have a recurring event, it will definitely make more sense to purchase linens and use them over and over again.
- If you are on the fence, just rent to reduce overconsumption. It’s a big problem that you can read more about here.
If the rental price is less than the purchase price, it is always better to rent than to buy (even if only by a small amount).
It isn’t so black and white when the rental price is more than the purchase price. The main thing you need to consider is what your time is worth. I’m not a professional party planner so my personal rule is:
Never plan an event that you don’t have time to enjoy.