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Gear rental business
Old 15th September 2011
Gear Addict
captainate's Avatar

Gear rental business

For all you gearslutz out there who are also good businessmen:

I have some unique/expensive gear I have accumulated over the last few years (I'm only 20) and of course am limited in what I can afford. I make a decent bit of money that is often put back into equipment when possible. After the first year or so of buying crap, I realized building up a higher-end rig was more financially sound in the long run.

So now that I've got a lot of stuff I don't always use, I have been thinking about renting things out to help bring in some extra income when it's not in use. I'm not naive, I know this is a very involved process to do correctly, but at the same time I think it's worth the investment. I am hoping through this community I can get a better fundamental business plan, and cover all my bases.

One piece, in particular, is a Rhodes Mark I stage that is becoming increasingly requested. I don't mind renting out to friends and acquaintances I trust, and even then I still write up a contract and charge enough for upkeep and damages. But starting a real business will require insurance, legal help with contracts and documentation, accounting, etc.

What things should I keep in mind regarding these things? I have included a list of all included rental pieces, existing damage reports on everything, and a quickly drafted agreement that the equipment will be returned in the same condition as when it left my house. But for a business that won't be enough. Do I have to anticipate all the possible damages and include fees for all of those scenarios? What about loss/catastrophic damage situations?

Repair on instruments is something I can mostly cover myself, as are basic electronic fixes. There is a great tech in town who doesn't charge nearly enough for all the things I can't fix myself. I don't plan to loan out my most personal pieces, such as my guitar and handbuilt hardwood amp.

So thanks for indulging me, please let me know if there are any gaping holes here. I don't have an official business plan drafted yet, so even though I am aware of a lot of those needs I'd be glad to hear what your experiences have been.
Old 17th September 2011
Gear Addict
captainate's Avatar

Old 18th September 2011
Lives for gear
Although I dont have answer for you, good luck!
Old 18th September 2011
Lives for gear
Vintageidiot's Avatar

Do it! Plenty of keyboardists would love to play an original Rhodes....
Old 18th September 2011
Gear Nut
dmilt23451's Avatar

I have worked in the non-musical rental business for 10 years. I would advise you to only rent things that you are willing to have break because lets face it things happen all of the time. People can try to be as careful as possible but when it comes to rental gear all of that seems to go out the window.
Old 19th September 2011
Gear Addict
captainate's Avatar

Thanks for the encouragement, guys. dmilt23451 I'd love to hear about your experience with rental equipment, whether or not it's music related. I understand it might be different renting non-specialty equipment, but I feel like most of the customers I've already had have treated my gear well. Especially since I am very diligent recording existing damage with text and photo documentation, and that when it becomes a real business I will have my legal rights clearly defined.

That's not to say disrepair won't occur, but everything I plan to rent is equipment I know how to fix myself (to a degree).

I want to hear from all the naysayers why this WON'T work. Maybe that will help me iron out some issues in my plan before I invest any money heh
Old 21st September 2011
Gear Addict
captainate's Avatar


I realize this isn't the most popular topic, I'm trying to be patient! I just want some feedback from the community regarding your experiences regarding rentals.
Old 21st September 2011
Gear Addict

I think most rental companies usually require the payment upfront, as well as a down payment to be returned when the gear is returned, or at least a credit card number in case the equipment isn't returned or is damaged.
In terms of that rhodes, people WILL break tines on occasion, so keep some extra (uncut) tines, and you will have to put in the contract that they will pay for a new tine if they break it (that said, make sure that the escapement is set properly on the rhodes, it will help tines not break as much).
Old 21st September 2011
Gear Addict
captainate's Avatar

Thanks Eli,

I had planned to be credit-card only for large rentals like the Rhodes. I'm also thinking of including a Wurlitzer 200a in the business if I can find one for a decent price. The escapement is set properly and I've never broken a tine on this instrument. I'm not saying it won't happen, and I do know how to replace them, but I think I've effectively reduced the tendency for tine breakage.

I think the cash down-payment plan is unreasonable for most high-end rental gear, simply because covering the value of the instrument would require too large a deposit. I'll have to devise a threshold for what is allowed to be a cash rental and what is credit card-only.
Old 21st September 2011
Lives for gear

Sounds like a great idea but where do you even find insurance to cover this type of business? And how would you deal with someone not returning gear?
Old 21st September 2011
Gear Addict
Freematik's Avatar

I worked at a music equipment rental place for years... here's a couple things to keep in mind:

-Whenever we rented gear, we needed to get a "pre-auth" from the credit card merchant. This is basically a hold on funds.. If you don't get this, you can be screwed in a number of ways, including:
--People renting the gear, the gear breaking, and then the people saying it was broken when they got it, and refusing to pay.
--People that seem cool, but actually are trying to scam you out of gear. They may give you a real credit card, but will take your gear, then if you try and come after them, these people are really good at not being found... and if you try to charge their credit card it will almost always not work for big charges, or you can even get in trouble for fraud/etc. if you don't handle this by the book.

The key is the rental agreement, which I would suggest copying off some similar rental company, or something to that effect. There are very specific things you NEED to include.

Also, you need to be ready to get into the situation where you rent something to a friend or colleague, and then there is a disagreement about the piece of gear working when it went out, and coming back broken.. I had witnessed countless arguments about this working at the rental shop. Just be ready for that person not to be your friend anymore if you stand up for your company LOL.

Also, ALWAYS demonstrate the gear is in working condition directly to the customer, before you rent it out. This solves a lot of problems.

All this being said, it is definitely a decent idea if you have plenty of connections or are planning on marketing the service.

I would suggest looking at small PA systems as far as rental equipment goes... a baddass rhodes might bring you a couple bucks a month, but the real money is in PA rentals and related activities.. also band instrument rentals for school kids is a great area to rent to as well...

If you just have a few baddass instruments and want to rent them though, I would just do this under the table to the few friends that are interested. However, since you asked in the beginning, there is definitely good money to be made in the music gear rental business...
Old 21st September 2011
Gear Guru
UnderTow's Avatar
I can't really give you any business advice but I would say only rent out equipment that you are not emotionally attached to or that is not too hard to replace. Sooner or later some of that gear _will_ be stolen, lost or broken beyond repair. That is just reality.

Proper insurance etc can cover any monetary loss but you can't insure against emotional loss or the inability to find a replacement piece.

Old 21st September 2011
Gear Addict
captainate's Avatar

@Freematic: Thanks for the detailed response. I'm running ALL of this by a lawyer before I get into the business for real. I appreciate all the input because now I'll have a bunch of specific questions to address. I have already pulled a few rental contracts from local businesses to look at their terminology. I'll also present this to the lawyer.

There are already well-established companies in my area renting PA and school/band instruments. I'm not at all interested in competing with any established businesses. The only low-end rentals I have thought about are cheap guitars that are set up well. These would be rented on a weekly or monthly basis.

I'm not too worried about scams/assholes, because I will have a strong contract clearly stating existing damage and including that the client understands that they will be charged if the rental comes back with anything which is not stated in that list. I will seriously look into credit card pre-authorization.

@Obik: State Farm business insurance. Rentals not returned will result in credit card charges equal to the appraised value of the instrument/equipment stated in the contract. BTW: I love your plugs

@UnderTow: Already accounted for. The Rhodes, although an instrument I love, is not something I'm sentimentally attached to. They are pretty easy to find around here, and while I have put a lot of work into it, I could replace it if need be (especially if insurance or rental deposit money covers it). As previously stated, I will not rent out my home-made amp (huge sentimental value) or my personal guitar (too much monetary and time investment). A wurlitzer would be much harder to replace, although I would charge much more for that rental because of its rarity and maintenance costs.
Old 21st September 2011
Lives for gear
MickeyMassacre's Avatar
Just make sure you have KICK butt insurance!
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