Over the last few years, there has been a tremendous increase in rental penetration in the industry. How do you know if rental is right for you? The general rule-of-thumb is if you use a piece of equipment 75 percent of the time or more, you should buy it, and if used less than that, rent it.

Before deciding that rental is right for you, you should consider some do’s and don’ts so you stay as efficient and productive as possible—and avoid having an unnecessary asset on your books.

What to do before renting

The first do when renting equipment is ensuring proper safety precautions. Many landscapers have skid-steers in their fleets, but if all of a sudden a landscaper gets a bigger job and needs a bigger piece of equipment it’s crucial to make sure there is a qualified operator to run that machine.

Also, a landscaper should always take the time to read the operator manual that accompanies a new piece of equipment or receive the proper training needed. It’s also important that everyone on the jobsite understand the safety of the new machine as well.

The second do for renting is start with a reputable rental company that routinely maintains and services the equipment. There’s nothing worse than spending thousands of dollars to rent a machine for a week, only to have it break a few days into the job. A reputable company can react quickly and either send out a replacement machine or get the issue fixed quickly.


When renting, clearly communicate with the rental company what you plan on using the machine for. They may offer an alternative dual-purposed machine or recommend the right attachments to get the job done more quickly.

For example, if you request an excavator, but let them know you are placing stones 30-feet away from the street at a height of 20 feet, that gives the rental company enough information to know you need a thumb attachment so you’re able to grip the stones and use your machine more effectively.

Be clear on what attachments you plan to use or which ones you think you need for the job. For example, you’re not just renting a skid-steer, you’re also renting the attachments for the skid-steer. Those attachments will help you get more work done with just one machine.

Giving detailed information will help you get the job done effectively with the right equipment while eliminating time-consuming trips back and forth to the dealer.

Another do for renting large equipment is to make sure you’re specific about what control patterns you or your operators are most comfortable with. Depending on whether it’s a skid-steer, backhoe or excavator, there are a variety of different control patterns that an operator could use.

If the rental company sends out a machine with a control pattern that’s different than the one you’re used to, you instantly become less productive. A one-day job could end up taking three days because the operator needs to learn the new control pattern first.

With so many new technologies on the market today, landscapers need to make sure they address what they should and should not be doing in terms of engine maintenance. With some companies now including DEF fluids in their machines, landscapers should ask, “Do I fill this? Do you fill this? What quality fuel do I put in?”

Asking questions can help eliminate surprise charges later on down the line. And if a machine goes down due to poor engine maintenance, your business could suffer with the unexpected machine downtime. Double check the rental contract to make sure who is responsible for what, and make sure you know exactly what you’re on the hook for.

The last do is to think about transportation. If you have a new piece of equipment and are responsible for taking it to or from the rental store, make sure you understand the trailer capabilities. A skid-steer or compact track loader can fit on a standard pull-behind trailer, but a wheel loader or dozer will require a gooseneck trailer. Also make sure you know the rules of the road and what kind of vehicles can tow this thing safely.

What not to do

There are three don’ts to consider before renting a piece of equipment.

The first is don’t put an inexperienced operator in it. A piece of equipment is an expensive asset, and you want someone operating it who knows the ins and outs of the machine. Otherwise, you could be compromising the safety and integrity of the people and the jobsite.

The second don’t is don’t overstep the maintenance boundaries and don’t run the machine beyond its limits. If a light goes off in the machine and you don’t know what it means, you should shut off the machine and call the rental company. There are lights that operators might not be familiar with, especially with new engines, so it would be worthwhile to make a phone call just to be on the safe side.

This applies to one of the do’s mentioned earlier of finding a reputable rental company. It’s the responsibility of the company to explain as much about the machine as possible before the machine goes out on rental. There should also be open lines of communication, so if you have a question, don’t hesitate to ask.

The last point on our list is don’t overextend the use of the machine. If a machine is designed to lift 3,500 pounds, don’t go ahead and assume that just because it’s a rental you can lift 5,000 pounds. Not only is it cost-effective, but it also promotes the safety of those operating the machine and on the jobsite.

Take the time to think about the best equipment for the job, communicate with the rental company and get the right machine. And, remember, you’re not just renting one piece of machinery, you’re renting the entire solution.