Rent or Buy?

Should I Rent or Buy an Instrument?

It is very common for certain store fronts and instrument dealers to have an attractive and “affordable” rental policy. Some are rent-to-own and some aren’t. Some policies are fair and some aren’t. What would I recommend? If you or your child posses an interest in the violin and want to try it out for a little while before committing to the buying process, I would suggest going with a company that is within your price range of affordability of course.  This company should have a beginning trial rental period of between 3-6 months or so for a flat rate of $12-$35, which covers the rental and insurance for the first 3 months.

After the 3-6 month period is over, you should know whether or not you can make at least a one year commitment. Some rental companies like Potter’s violin shop let you renew the contract every six months. They also provide a nationwide rental program and 3 different types of rental contracts (economy, standard and premier). A common “trap” is the rent-to-own contract that applies your rental payments towards the purchase of that instrument. Depending on the quality of instrument you want to wind up with in the end, be careful who you do business with in this area.

I would go with a string shop who isn’t looking primarily at profit and mark-up, and who will ensure that you receive an instrument worth the amount of money you’ve put into it. Some companies promise payment toward the purchase of the instrument and then the quality of the instrument does not match what you’re paying for. More often than not, you wind up paying 3x’s more than what the instrument is actually worth.

If you are willing to make at least a one year commitment but are on a tight budget, I would suggest purchasing an instrument after the trial rental period and then selling once the child grows out of it. Some children stay in one size for at least a year. There are several economy violins on the market that you can purchase for very cheap (less than $100). Again, these instruments are economy instruments and are not of the best quality. They are playable and to the common ear and 4 year old, the sound quality is not quite as noticeable. However, I always recommend purchasing what you can afford. On these instruments, items such as the strings and bridge are dispensable and can be changed for little cost. Just changing these items alone can improve the sound quality and playability of the instrument significantly.

One trusted and very respected Luthier in the Tidewater area highly recommends the Klauss Mueller Etude model from Southwest Strings. I’ve listened to this model on various sizes and it is tonally balanced, responsive and it has a full-bodied sound! I’m impressed with this model for it’s price. The Prelude model costs less and it’s almost as good! If you can afford the Etude, go with it. If you can’t spend more than $200 and want a pretty nice instrument, then go with the Prelude model.

If you can afford to purchase the best possible instrument for your child, then by all means DO IT! You are equipping them for success from the very beginning; of course not to imply that if you don’t they’ll fail. Again, purchase the best you can afford. You can visit the list of recommended string dealers and luthiers on this site for violin shops throughout the country. Also make sure you check out how to select a string shop.

Some Questions About Rental Programs[1]

First Choice Second Choice Think Again
Do they offer rental credit toward later purchase? 100% 80% partial No
Does rental credit apply to regular discounted price? Yes Restrictions List Price
Are you locked into buying the rental instrument? No Yes Yes
Does the rent start low then change rates over time? No Yes Yes
Are there (required) insurance and maintenance clauses that raise rental charges but don’t apply to purchase credit? No Small Yes