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Rent vs. Buying Unique Equipment

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I spent most of Saturday morning and afternoon pressure washing my deck, blasting away all the gunk and grossness that had accumulated there the last who knows how many years before I bought it, and weatherizing it with some nice stain and water repellent. I originally planned to use my neighbor’s 1200 p.s.i. pressure washer, which would have been the most frugal of choices (i.e. free!), but I quickly discovered that it was a little weak on the pressure (1200 is good for washing cars, bad for power washing decks) and it was malfunctioning (so I thought).

My first thought was to rent one from Home Depot, as I had seen my father do before when we pressure washed our deck in New York, which would’ve cost $60 for four hours or $86 per day for a gasoline-powered engine 2,000 p.s.i. monster. I really didn’t have a frame of reference, since I’ve never rented a pressure washer before, but I had seen pressure washer deals on Amazon for $130 (1200 psi varieties) so $60 for 4 hours seemed a little steep. I briefly considered buying a pressure washer online and then waiting for it to arrive before cleaning off the deck but thought otherwise. This is the classic buy vs. rent when it comes to these unique-use pieces of equipment.


On the one hand, buying a 1200 p.s.i. pressure washer for $140 surely beats renting one for four hours for $60 and at the time I had no idea what the difference was between 2000 and 1200 (besides the obvious numerical difference). The problem is that I really would only ever use the pressure washer maybe once or twice a year. I would only use it on the deck once every four years and I might spray off the sidewalk/walkway once a year. So for the other 364 days a year that I wouldn’t be using it, it would be taking up space in my basement. With a pressure washer, unless you have a lot of space to use up, chances are you will want to just rent one when you can.

That being said, 2000 is the minimum you’ll want to have if you’re thinking about blasting away at your deck and you won’t want to store this huge gasoline-powered engine monstrosity in your basement for use once a year (plus they’re hundreds of dollars).

If it wasn’t for the fact that my local Home Depot didn’t have rentals, the closest that did was twenty five minutes away (instead of five), I wouldn’t have searched the web for a better deal. Luckily I did because I found an ABC Rental place that rented the 2,000 p.s.i. monster for $40 for four hours and it was only 3 minutes away!

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11 Responses to “Rent vs. Buying Unique Equipment”

  1. ~Dawn says:

    Research does wonders for the pocket book! Good work.

  2. I’ve been wondering the same thing, as the deck at our new house needs to be refinished, and our kids play structure does too. I figured I’d rent something and hit them both in the same day. While it would be convenient to have one of these lying around, I’m not sure I want to store it. Any idea how much the 2000 psi monsters cost to buy?

  3. jim says:

    Anything 2000 psi and higher usually runs off a gasoline engine and will run you about $300. The 1300, 1200-ish psi ones can be plugged into a household electrical outlet and those are around $130 a piece. I don’t know what your play structure is made of but the 1200/1300 psi washer should be enough. As for your deck, you really want to go with a 2000+ psi washer if you want to really get that gunk off well. At 1200 psi, you have to spend a lot of time (and water) with the nozzle head really close to the wood in order to get what you want. Luckily you only need to refinish a deck once every four or five years.

  4. Don says:

    Something you touched on and should be considered on each buy decision; that is storage. My 2980 sq ft house cost me a cool 1/4 million. This works out to about $85 per sq ft. Using my $85 value and a minimum of 2 ft square to store their behemoth, this works out to $340. This really ups the price considerably, particularly in many of the “hotter” real estate areas.

    I think everyone should consider this when they replace, for instance, their hot water heater with an on-demand type which uses much less space.

  5. jim says:

    When my water heater needs to be replaced, I’m thinking about getting an on-demand tankless water heater in part because of energy conservation.

  6. The play structure is redwood and cedar, and it’s pretty big. After about three years out in the elements it could use a fresh coat of stain, and I thought that it might be best to clean it up/pressure wash it first. Unlike a deck, it doesn’t have any large, flat, uncovered surfaces that collect leaves, bird crap, etc. (it’s mostly beams, and the ‘deck’ that it has at the top of the slide is covered by a canvas roof).

  7. Carman says:

    I may have to look into renting one of those 2000 p.s.i. machines for my deck. Alternatively, I have four gallons of deck cleaner (no idea if that’s enough) that I can scrub with by hand. It seems like a waste of time, but if you choose a sunny day, it actually saves time on getting tan.

    With an iPod and some cheeba, it can be pretty enjoyable too. That’s my tip.

  8. 2 million says:

    I broke down and bought a 2400psi gas engine pressue washer. I split it 3 ways with my brother and father. Since we only need to use it once a year or so it made sense to all chip in – it would have been about the same for each of us to rent one and now we can use it every year.

  9. Michael says:

    Carmen, Where are you washing your deck? Tan, Ipod, own your own home humm.lololol.

    Back to the point in hand:

    Don, your analysis on opportunity cost for storage is invalid unless you are using the space for another purpose. ( not every inch of your house is in use) Your house cost is a sunk cost It will cost you $85.00 if you buy and store a power washer or leave it empty. Duh!. SHould I factor $200.00 a sq ft ( my cost) into the charge for my neighbors? That is ridiculous unless you are inthe business of washing decks or rentals. You also forgot to factor the real cost and opportunity cost of the machine over its life versus renting during the same period. Another note when renting is lets not forget the cost of gas……..to go pick it up and in Don’s terms mileage on the vehicle. Average cost to operate a vehicle is over $.50 a mile now.

    Having owned a power washer for over five years and maintaining it like a lawn mower ( oil changes) the power washer is also good for removing brake dust from automobile wheels and cleaning the sidewalk.

    Another reason to own one is friends like Carmen pop up all the time. Surprisingly, you become popular in the neighborhood and charging a neighbor a recovery cost of say $75.00 pays for the machine in no time flat.

  10. Carman says:

    What do you mean by “friends like Carmen pop up all the time”? I’m not your friend; you can’t even spell my name right.

  11. Eric at Jet Setters says:

    Just take a quick note when using a power washer. While it is true that the higher the psi, the more productive your efforts will be. However, the true cleaning power comes from pre-treating the dirty area first with purchased cleaners. Don’t use a homeade concoction as this can cause serious injury to you, the equipment being cleaned, as well as lingering chemicals that can affect plants and animals.

    Once treated, allow the cleaner to work (caution: don’t let it dry). Then use the power washer to agitate and rinse the cleaner from the surface. Hot water washers work the best.

    A couple of points for concern:
    1. PSI that is too high can damage the surface, in particular wood
    2. More GPM (Gallons per Minute), will help your job go faster and significantly dilute the run off until it is not a hazard.
    3. Companies spend millions in product research for their cleaning products; use their expertise and not Aunt Millie’s.
    4. Renting or buying, consider the value of the cleaning project and how mych more valuable it becomes when clean and in good shape.


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