Refrigerators aren't exactly optional. Unless you're only going to eat canned goods and boxed items, you'll need this handy appliance -- and if you're a landlord, your tenants will, too.
But fridges aren't cheap. Even the lowest-cost model can run you $500 or more -- and that's a pretty hefty investment if you're tight on funds.
Fortunately, another option exists: the refrigerator rental. With refrigerator rentals, you can get name-brand fridge models delivered directly to your home, all for a small weekly or monthly cost.
How to rent a refrigerator
Surprisingly, there are tons of places you can rent a refrigerator from. There are designated appliance rental companies like Rent-a-Center (NASDAQ: RCII), Aaron's (NYSE: AAN), and Conn's (NASDAQ: CONN), and a number of major stores also offer them, including Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) and Sears (OTCMKTS: SHLDQ).
The process is pretty simple: You head to the store's website or in-person showroom, pick out a model, and put in your order. The company will deliver the fridge -- often the same day, depending on your location -- directly to your property. Many will set up and install the unit, too.
From there, you'll pay either a weekly or monthly fee to lease the unit. With most stores, you can return the unit whenever you no longer need it, or, if you prefer, you can continue leasing until you technically own the fridge. (They'll tell you how many weeks/months of payments this will take when you initially rent the unit.)
Cost of refrigerator rentals
You can typically pay either weekly or monthly for a refrigerator rental. The exact payment and cost depend on the model you choose, as well as where you rent it from, but you can generally expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $150 per month.
Some companies also offer in-house financing, which essentially just works like a credit card. You'll get a line of credit to use toward your appliances, and then you'll pay that bill back monthly (plus interest) until the balance is paid off. Obviously, this is less appealing than leasing the unit directly, as it adds in interest and other fees.
Why you might want a refrigerator rental
The most obvious reason you'd want a fridge rental is to save on upfront costs. Even on the low end, refrigerators cost a pretty penny, and if you don't have hundreds of dollars on hand and at the ready, a rental may be your only option.
Refrigerator and freezer rentals also typically come with installation, delivery, and repair service -- free of charge, too. This can be a nice perk if you're not the handiest or just want to make sure your unit is installed properly and per manufacturer specs.
Finally, a rental can also be a smart option if you're not sure you'll be staying put long. If you know a job change or other move is in your near future, investing in an expensive appliance that you'll just have to pay to uninstall, move, and reinstall elsewhere might not be the smart option -- especially if you're moving a long distance. With a rental, you can simply cancel your lease and return the unit whenever needed.
The drawbacks of refrigerator rentals
Fridge rentals can save you cash initially, but over the long haul, they'll probably cost you a lot more. Take a basic top-mount model listed on Aaron's website for example. Though the "cash price" is a mere $1,408.99 (what you'd pay to buy it outright right now), the total cost of renting to own the unit is $2,399.76 -- a difference of more than $990 once all is said and done.
There may be hidden fees in lease agreements, too. You might find yourself paying a penalty for canceling your lease early or for failing to maintain your unit a certain way. Always make sure to read the fine print, and take along a trusted friend or family member when you go to rent the unit.
Do you need to provide a refrigerator in your rental property?
Legally, landlords don't need to provide a fridge -- or any appliance, for that matter -- in a rental property. If you do opt to have a refrigerator on site, a rental probably isn't the best option, at least financially speaking. Unless you only plan to rent the unit out for a short amount of time, you'll likely get the most for your money by purchasing a unit -- ideally a quality one that will last the long haul.
Keep in mind that if you do provide appliances, you'll need to maintain them just as you do the rest of the property. That means making repairs when requested, and, if the appliance breaks down, replacing it from time to time, too.
Another option for landlords
If you're not required to provide your tenants with an on-site fridge, you might consider providing them with a list of local appliance rental companies. This can allow them to get the appliances they need at an affordable cost while also ensuring the appliances are delivered and installed properly in the unit.
You can also look into used and refurbished appliances. These are typically available at places like Sears, Best Buy, and other major stores, though you might have a specific used appliance store in your area. Habitat for Humanity stores also offer a wide variety of used appliances you can check out.
The bottom line
Renting a refrigerator can be a good option if you need a fridge but don't have much in expendable cash. It can also be smart if you only need one temporarily. If you're looking for a long-haul solution for your dream house or for a steady stream of renters, it's probably not your best choice -- at least if money is a priority.
The good news? If you do decide to buy a fridge for your home or rental property, you'll reap the benefits for many years to come. In fact, most fridges last around 13 years, according to data. With proper maintenance, they could last even longer. Another bonus: If it's in a rental property, you might be able to deduct the appliance's depreciation on your annual tax returns.