How to Know if You Should Rent or Buy Medical Equipment

Getting back home after a hospital stay can be tough. Hospitals are built for patient accessibility. You may not even realize what some quality-of-life items you need until you get home. Most hospitals don’t send you home with certain items or even give you a list of necessities.

One of the goals we laid out when we opened our Medical Equipment Showroom was to make it easy for customers to get what they need. One way of doing this is offering rentals on top of purchases. This leads to the question “should I rent or should I buy?”

Type of Need

Some surgeries and procedures have short recovery times. Some are the exact opposite. And a few will leave you with a lifelong need for certain assistance.

Short-term recovery periods (1-2) weeks can almost always get by with equipment rentals. There is no need to spend hundreds of dollars on a product you will only use for a few weeks.

Long-term recovery periods (2 weeks +) are a bit trickier. When you look at recovery aids or mobility aids for a longer period, buyout price vs. rental price becomes a big question. Electric or motorized medical equipment (mobility scooters or power lift recliners) can be very expensive!

A simplified way of looking at long-term mobility needs is as follows: If you are going to need a manually operated mobility item for over a month, purchasing is usually better. If you are going to need a motorized or electric item, rental usually makes more sense.

Lifelong needs usually require purchase, however there are situations where rentals will make sense. If you are going on vacation or to an all-day event, rentals can be big money savers!

Medical Equipment Rental Pro Tips

Crutch Rentals

Crutch rentals are always a no-go. A new pair of basic crutches costs $15-$30, depending on brand. After you are done using the crutches throw them in a closet or garage—they take up no space and someone you know will need them one day!

Walker Rentals

Standard walker rentals are also always a no-go. Standard walkers cost $30-$50 new, which is two weeks rental from places that rent them. Rollators or rolling walkers are great to rent for vacations and trips. Anywhere that requires more walking than you do at home. If you travel a lot, however, you should look into purchasing a unit you like.

Knee Walker Rentals

Knee walkers are a specialty rental item for lower leg injuries. The amount of mobility you regain with a knee walker during recovery is amazing—you just need to know how long recovery will be. If your recovery will require a knee scooter for over a month, you will want to look into purchase options. Knee scooters are still fairly expensive (for quality units), so the rental/purchase debate is all about time of use.

Wheelchairs and Transport Chairs

The most popular rental item—and for a reason! Transport chairs cost around $150-250 new and wheelchairs in the $200-$300 range. With rentals available for as low as $25 per week, you would need a good reason to purchase a wheelchair. We offer discounted monthly rates for certain rentals, including wheelchairs, making this decision an easy one.

Power Lift Recliner Rentals

If you are in recovery that will eventually restore you to 100% (or close to), renting a lift chair is a great option. The downside with lift chair rentals is that you don’t get to choose the specific chair model you want. Different sizing is always available, but cushioning and features are usually set to a handful of models.

Or, if you want to kill two birds with one stone, you can pick out a nice chair and make it your new TV chair! Oswald’s Pharmacy owner Bill Anderson bought a chair he knew he would use after surgery just for that reason. Golden Technologies does a great job making chairs that anyone would love to sit in.

Mobility Scooters

Mobility scooters are can be a tricky ‘rent or buy’ topic. I always ask in-store customers “how often would you use the scooter every day?” If the answer is ‘a lot’ then we start looking at purchasing options. Scooter rentals are perfect for outdoor excursions, graduations, trade shows and the like.

We even have 2-day scooter rentals available—sometimes a week is just too long!

Hospital Beds

Hospital beds can be extremely useful after a major surgery. Being able to press a button to raise the patient and another to raise the bed makes homecare a lot easier. Beds are expensive, however, and difficult to store after use. Hospital bed rentals save a lot of headache for customers—they don’t have to build the bed or worry about storing it.

When you rental a bed, you must purchase a mattress. This is necessary because used mattresses can be very unsanitary. This may seem like bad news, like a hospital bed rental is a rental/purchase. The good news, however, should make up for this: you get to pick the mattress. There are tons of hospital bed mattresses to choose from, so you or your loved one are sure to be comfortable, even in a rental bed.


Ramp rentals the item we rent that ‘saves’ the most people from spending unnecessary money. If you are having family come to down and a family member needs a ramp to get up your front steps, renting a ramp is what you need.

Ramps can be very expensive, especially if you are buying a quality ramp. We rent EZAccess suitcase ramps, which are rated to support 800 lbs., accommodating just about everyone AND the mobility aid they use. Some power chairs weigh a lot!

Cold Therapy

Barring special instructions from a doctor, very long recovery times or repeated use due to sports, cold therapy machines are great to rent. Like mattresses in bed rentals, the cold therapy pad must be purchased, while the hardware is rented. Also like mattresses, this is a good thing, as there are many types of pads to choose from. No matter how ‘universal’ a pad says it is, a knee-specific pad will always fit better.

Patient Lifts

Patient Lifts are expensive. There’s no other way to phrase that. The cheapest manual patient lifts start at $700 and let me say it here: Manual patient lifts are HARD to use. Electric lifts add around $400 to purchase costs and are worth every penny.

All that being said, Patient Lifts are primarily a purchase item. Patient Lifts are long-term care solutions and a lot of consideration should go into a purchase. We offer rentals for people hosting family members with special needs. Patient lifts are nearly impossible to travel with, so rentals in rare situations can be extremely helpful.

Renting Versus Buying Medical Equipment Questions to Ask

Before renting or purchasing any medical equipment, the following questions should be answered:

  • How long will the recovery period take?
  • Could any complications make recovery longer?
  • Will I have any use for this item after recovery?
  • Do I have any special needs? (Outside of standard recovery needs)
  • What is my budget?
  • If renting for a family member: How often will we need this item?

And maybe:

  • Do I want a new, super-comfy chair for my family room?

The only way to answer the rent/purchase question is by saying; everyone has different needs, renting or purchasing depends on your personal situation. Rental has the downside of rental payments and lack of model choice. Purchasing costs more upfront.

What you decide to do is up to you. Thankfully our Medical Equipment Showroom is staffed by trained team members who can answer any questions you have. Give us a call or shoot us an email with any questions. We will help make your life after surgery easier!

Written by Wil Anderson

Wil has been working for Oswald's since 1994. A 6th generation member of the Wickel-Oswald-Kester-Anderson family, Wil focuses on web development, inventory, and sales. With over 10 years of experience selling durable and home medical equipment, Wil is an expert on helping people find what they need to use after major surgery or an accident. Wil graduated with a BA in English Literature from Knox College in 2008, minoring in History. A graduate of Naperville North High School in 2004, Wil is a lifelong Naperville resident and is currently a columnist for Positively Naperville.