Equipment in the public sector: Why Rent?

Sourcing heavy equipment is tricky in the public sector. Since every nickel at stake comes from taxpayers’ pockets, local and state governments are expected to act in the public interest and squeeze the most out of limited resources. 

That mindset tends to point towards ownership. Governments are generally thought of as stable, and bureaucracy is slow. So, public officials and agencies try to do what’s best in the long run with the budget they have. And owning is cheaper than renting, right? 

The answer is a little more complicated than that. Ownership has costs and considerations that need to be accounted for before a purchase is made. Depending on your situation, renting could be a better option. Here are some tips to guide you:  

Estimate your equipment usage

There’s no denying that heavy equipment comes in handy from time to time. Occasional use, however, is seldom enough to justify major equipment purchases. 

For instance, when light bulbs burn out in a school gymnasium, it’s far easier to replace them if you have a single manlift at your disposal. But light bulbs can last years. If replacing bulbs is all you need the lift for, it’s probably more expedient to rent one as needed than it is to lobby your school board to purchase one. Public appropriations are usually subject to some form of scrutiny, so keep that in mind during your analysis. 

good rule of thumb is to avoid purchasing equipment unless you plan on using it 60% of the time. 

Consider hidden costs

When you decide to buy equipment, you take ownership of everything that comes with it. You need a place to store it, and your team has to stay on top of the upkeep, lest it start to deteriorate. Depending on how large of a commitment the purchase is, you may wish to take out an insurance policy on it. 

Each of these concerns has a cost attached to it, visible or not. So, before you buy equipment, consider how it will be handled from start to finish and what the price tag will really be.

Protect your existing investments

Whenever public property is subject to extraordinary usage, the risk of damage increases. Think summer festival at a city park, for instance, or a graduation at a public high school gymnasium. 

When those events occur year after year, the prospect of purchasing ground or turf protection suddenly seems wise. But consider this: When you know your ground protection mats will take a beating year after year, do you really want to buy them outright? 

If you can manage it, renting rather than buying your ground protection can save you the cost of removal and replacement, while ensuring you aren’t relying on damaged goods to protect your facilities and your land. 

Ownership has limitations

Every piece of equipment is a snapshot. The second you buy it, your technology is isolated to that machine and becomes fixed in time.

That means, when a new piece of equipment hits the market, with enhanced functionality, you’re stuck with what you bought five years before. Or, when a new need arises that’s outside the scope of what your current piece of equipment can handle, you’re stuck with an itch you can’t scratch. 

Say, for instance, you own a basic sweeper. It might work great for everyday cleaning, but it’s not as effective for scrubbing off the really sticky residue that builds up over time. You need the basic sweeper for everyday use, and you need an industrial floor scrubber for the task at hand. 

That’s where rentals come in: They give you access to continual upgrades through fresh equipment. At Sunbelt Rentals, we frequently source new models as they hit the market, so you don’t have to worry about becoming obsolete or hamstrung by what your machine can or can’t do. 

While equipment ownership has its perks, so does saving money. If you’re on the fence about what to do for your equipment, it pays to get in touch with our specialists. We have a firm grasp of the market, where it’s headed, and what that means for you. And whether you decide to rent or own, we’ll equip you with knowledge that is yours to keep. 


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