I have received an email from one of my readers asking for advice. In particular, he was on edge and couldn’t decide on how he should acquire a water softener. He wanted to know if it’s better to rent or buy a water softener?
If you are renting the property and looking for a stress-free solution, then renting a softener is a better option. The purchase of the softener is more suitable when you own the property, but it comes with more responsibilities to maintain it.
In today’s world, the amount of options you can use to get products is tremendous. You can rent it, buy it, lease, and the trend is also quickly expanding into the sharing economy and using products only when you need it. Cars are a prime example.
In the case with softeners, you have two options, you can either rent or buy it. I have decided to share my thoughts on renting vs. buying with you, as I am sure more people will find it helpful.
I have also reached out to five different companies that rent out softeners, and anonymously requested quotes from them. I pretended to be a customer, so you can compare them head to head.
Renting a Softener
Let me tell you straight away that I am a fan of owning products. I never get a phone with plans and always buy them. The thing is I don’t want to be committed to pay for it for the next two years.
This being said, renting has its own benefits and shouldn’t be disputed as the option. So let’s talk about how you can benefit from renting a softener.
I guess the first thing that comes into most people’s minds is price, but this is not exactly true and I will get back to it in a minute.
The biggest benefit of renting a softener for me is service.
The thing is when you rent a softener, you can be confident that it will be well maintained and serviced. Any problems you have simply pick up the phone and the serviceman will be with you in no time.
Especially for people like me, this is brilliant. Although I can install or fix bits and bobs, I don’t think I am very handy. It would take me ages trying to fix softener myself, and in the end, I could even make it worse. Having that cover is definitely a benefit worth paying in my case.
Not only that, if you rent a softener, you will get a professional to install it. However, most of the time, there is an extra installation cost.
Why else would you want to rent a softener?
Test Before You Buy
Did you ever go to the shop to check out and test some products, but you ended up buying it online cheaper?
I am pretty sure most of us are guilty of doing that, at least I am.
Yeah, the same logic applies here. Some rental companies offer the softener with no minimum contract, which is excellent news.
It gives you the option to rent the softener, and use it for a couple of months to actually test if it has any impact on your household.
If not, you can just cancel it, but if it does help, you can either rent-to-own it or cancel the rental and buy online cheaper.
The good thing is that, as you rent it for the first time, the service care will help you to size your softener for your specific needs.
Now, let’s talk about money.
Cost of Renting
Let me tell you straight away that renting softener long term is not cheaper than buying it, but it won’t create a huge hole in your bank account as buying would.
Although not as huge, you still need to expect the expense that will make some hole in your wallet anyway.
Most companies will charge you the installation fee. In most cases, it will be over a hundred dollars, in some cases, even a couple of hundreds, as you will see later.
The truth is, though, renting a softener stabilize your cash flow. By renting it, you have a fixed cost that never exceeds that monthly amount.
Think about it from this perspective, if you buy a softener and something goes wrong, you will have to pay for service, parts, or in the worst case, a new softener.
If you rent it, you avoid these unexpected expenses, and you only buy salt.
Also, renting gives you the option to purchase the softener later, and the price you have paid so far for renting and installation will be deducted from the purchase price.
I think this is fair.
Buying a Softener
First, let’s start with the biggest problem when you decide to buy the softener. The problem is a high upfront cost.
I get it, softeners are expensive to the extent that some cost even more than $3,000. But here is the thing, they don’t have to.
Often companies will try to sell you something you don’t even need with the softener. The bright example is WiFi or app feature to connect with your phone.
Realistically this is something you can absolutely avoid. This is the feature that has nothing to do with the actual water softening. However, it adds a huge chunk of money to the final price.
But when you decide to avoid all these features, you can buy a great performing softener for about $600-$700.
For your convenience, I have gathered the best softeners for a reasonable price in this article.
You Own It
The best thing about buying a softener is that you actually own the product. I need to add that you own the product with a very long lifespan.
This is important because softeners often last in a range of 10-15 years. This is a long time, and if you want to rent a softener for 10 years, you are likely to overpay it a couple of times.
The key is to understand that what you are buying will last you for years to come. Even if we include the maintenance costs buying option is cheaper in such a long term.
In case you rent the property, buying a softener might not be the ideal solution for you.
Let me explain why.
The issue I see is when you have to move the property. Water softeners are heavy because of the resin inside, which makes it difficult to move around.
Just remember how hard it is to move heavy furniture. Do you actually need another headache? Not to mention that plumbing in a new place might have slightly different specifics, which will require additional converters etc.
I would seriously consider renting a softener as a tenant. Purely because of its convenience.
Simply return a softener back, move to a new place, and rent another one.
The entirely different story is when you own the house. Purchased softener will stay there for a long time, and the purchase makes financial sense.
I think I mentioned it briefly before, but buying a softener is also a good idea if you or your partner are into DIY.
You will save a couple of hundred for the serviceman and enjoy that winning feeling when you actually finish all the setups.
So, let’s briefly compare the running cost of owned and rented softener.
Running Cost of Water Softener
The cost of maintenance will slightly vary but regardless of renting or buying you will have one inevitable cost – salt.
Most companies do not include salt in their rentals, but I have managed to find one that does, and we will talk about it later.
Now, the salt cost is not something that should put you off. It costs about $10 in Lowes or Walmart, but some brands can be much more expensive.
At the end of the day, it is just salt, so there is no need to go for anything fancy.
Other than salt, if you decide to own a softener, you will have to cover any maintenance costs and problems.
The good news is, softeners are reliable products, and if you set them up correctly from the very beginning and take good care. Adding the correct salt and amount on time, cleaning the brine tank and regularly inspecting softener for any issues is the bare minimum you can do.
The rest of the maintenance softeners take care of themselves by regularly flushing and recharging the resin.
It doesn’t cost much, but the problem occurs when things go wrong.
Often the faulty part can be an electronic control head, and if you have to replace it, the average cost is about $200. More if you want extra functionality. Remember our fancy WiFi mentioned earlier?
Such a control head can easily cost you $500.
Then you will have to either pay a professional to replace it, which will be another $200 or fix it yourself.
I mean, it doesn’t happen very often, and control heads are reliable, but think about the fact that softener has a lifespan of 10 years. So one way or another, problems will occur.
You won’t have this issue with renting the softener, as all of this is covered in your monthly rent.
Water Softener Rental Companies – Cost Comparison
Finally, we are getting to the head to head comparison.
First of all, I want to share what I did to get these quotes.
I have reached out to the five companies that rent and sell softeners anonymously.
Acting like a customer who would like to rent the softener, I asked for quotes and all the information you will see in a table.
I know you are excited to see the comparison. So here is what I’ve found:
|Culligan||Johnson Water||Hawkins Water||Hague Water||Tri-County Water|
|Rental Fee||$85/month||$25-28/month||$29.3-40.5 + VAT||$32-46||$25-39|
|Setup Fee||$399||$75+ depends on the home||$200-300 + VAT||$79||$175|
|Purchase Price||$2,300-3,600||$1,200+||$1,888-2,255 + VAT||$2,300-3,300 (Includes installation fee + 3 bags of salt)||$1,300-2,300|
|Minimum contract||24 Months||36 Months||1 Monthly Rolling||1 Monthly Rolling||36 Months|
|Company website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website|
Quotes are accurate as of January 2020.
I think the table is pretty self-explanatory, but there are a couple of things to point out.
First of all, although I have done the research and acquired quotes, the price can vary.
Mostly these companies have offered to come and test my water and, based on this, pick a softener.
Second, quotes might be different in each state, I have quoted from Kansas City, Missouri.
As you can see, there is somewhat similarity in price between the companies, so mostly you will be deciding based on the service they can provide for you.
I believe you have also noticed the Culligan price and their service. They are the only ones of the quoted companies to include salt in their rental rate.
Also, they have a standard rental price regardless of the type of softener. They will check your water and select a softener based on that.
Other rental companies are pretty much in the same range as the offer. The particular one that I enjoyed talking to is Hague Water, though.
They are the only one company with a reasonable installation fee and rolling monthly contract you can cancel any time. Also, customer service was friendly.
Should You Rent or Buy?
Before I wrap up the article, I want to summarize everything said earlier into a definite answer, in case you are still on edge.
The purchase option is definitely a good shout if:
- You own the property
- You are DIY enthusiast
- You are okay with fixing it yourself or paying somebody for servicing
The rental is better if:
- You don’t want massive upfront cost
- Rent the property
- Don’t want to be involved in servicing the softener
I hope this should give you a nice conclusion, but if you are still uncertain, simply get in touch with me through comments.
There is never an easy answer when deciding whether you should rent or buy a softener.
Both have their own benefits and disadvantages, so at the end of the day, you need to decide what is important to you.
I want you to share your thoughts with me via the comments below.