The beginning of the school year is insane! In addition to the normal school supplies you need to get, now you have to get an instrument for your kid that just joined band! Do you rent an instrument or buy one? Initially renting sounds easier, but buying an instrument will save you some precious money (that you can use towards all the other school supplies they need). Read on for the benefits of both renting and buying an instrument before deciding your next step.
Does Your Kid Know What They Want to Play? Not Sure?
Picking an instrument to play as a 5th or 6th grader can be a daunting choice, there are so many instruments and they are all super cool. Keep in mind that while rental companies will let you switch instruments, or you can buy/sell an instrument you own to switch instruments when your student changes their mind, most teachers will recommend/require the student to stick with one instrument for at least half the year while other teachers will recommend/require the whole school year before switching. Teachers understand that trying to play in an instrument can be challenging, and so they want to make sure that the student can succeed on the chosen instrument first before switching.
Renting: Might be the best option if your student has a very hard time picking one instrument to try. Most rental companies will allow you to switch instruments at any time (just check to see what the transfer rate/credit will be. For example: many companies will allow you to switch and 50% of the accrued credit will also transfer to the new rental).
Buying: If your student is not at least 80% sure of the instrument they want to play, then hold off on buying an instrument for the first few months. By the holidays they will know if the love the instrument they started on and want to continue in band. When that happens then it is a better choice to buy a repair shop refurbished instrument or a brand new horn (both options will save you money in the long run vs. renting, we will go into further details later) and it makes for a fantastic holiday gift!
Cost of Renting vs. Buying
Renting: The monthly cost of renting an instrument can be very appealing for parents, especially if your student is unsure of what instrument to play. Rental companies typically charge a monthly rate for the instrument and a maintenance/insurance fee on top of that. (Rental companies require maintenance/insurance fees because until the horn is paid off, it is still property of the rental company and they need to protect their assets against damage, and theft if it gets stolen).
Rentals are generally on a month-to-month basis and are a rent-to-own., meaning that if you keep paying your monthly payment for the full term then you own the instrument. Example a rental trumpet is $32 dollars a month + $5 maintenance = $37 per month = $444 per year = $1332 per 3 years (buy out time). However, if they do plan to stick in band for more than a year, the cost of renting an instrument can exceed what you can buy a refurbished instrument. Over the course of the whole rental you spent $1332 on a trumpet to rent, where a refurbished trumpet might run you $400.
Buying: The upfront costs of purchasing an instrument are higher, especially if you opt for a new instrument, but the long term savings are HUGE! If you purchase a refurbished instrument you are easily saving over 50% off MSRP, and if you treat you student to a new quality instrument, you end up saving on the monthly maintenance/insurance rental fees that rental companies would charge you. The great thing about buying an instrument is that if they end up loving band and play all through high school you have easily saved yourself a lot of money.
The biggest difference between renting and buying, is that when you buy an instrument, new or used, you always have the option to resell it to recoup the purchase price. If your student plays for one year and wants to quit, you can resell the instrument (provided it is a quality brand) for most of what you paid for it. New instruments do lose a lot of value for resale (just like a new car does as you drive it off the lot), but most used instruments keep their resale value.
Example, you buy a refurbished clarinet from Rocky Mountain Music Repair for $375 and a year later you sell it, you can probably get $250 and tell people that the instrument was just repadded a year ago (because all clarinets we sell have been repadded). Essentially you “rented” a clarinet for $125 for the year, not to shabby compared to actually renting an instrument at $408 for the year.
Other Questions You Should Ask Before Renting or Buying
Maintenance: You may have already been asking yourself about how much it costs to maintain the instrument.
Rental companies will charge you a flat monthly rate for the maintenance which generally covers normal wear & tear, bumps and dings, etc. It does not cover cleanings, most of the time that is left up to you to schedule and pay for. After the full term and you own the instrument, all repairs are at your cost.
Buying a shop refurbished instrument from Rocky Mountain Music Repair will include a 1-year warranty on corks, felts, and pads; all of our brass instruments have been professionally cleaned. Other repairs for student caused dents, or future cleanings, are your responsibility.
But how much does it cost to maintain an instrument every year?
Just like a car needs regular oil changes and tires, woodwinds will need pads changed and brass instruments will need cleanings. Check out our article on the average yearly cost to maintain an instrument. Depending on the type of instrument it is anywhere from $95 to $150 for student instruments (and that takes into account the pads, cleanings, new case, new mouthpiece, etc) so most times it may actually be cheaper per year.
What Instrument to Buy?
There are brands that we recommend to students because we know they will last a long time, and parts are easily accessible if you need them. Beware that most of the online brands that are inexpensive won’t be recommended by most teachers because parts are hard to get or non-existent and most repair shops will not repair them because of that reason.
Here is a link to the “Guide to Buying Used Instruments” on our website that will list our most common recommended brands for students (many of the professional brands are not listed, but you can always check with us if you are interested in a brand that is not listed). It will also give you a list of items to look for/check if you are buying a used instrument from somewhere other than Rocky Mountain Music Repair. Your school teacher is also a fantastic resource for brands that they recommend (hint: they will be the same as on our guide).