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Renting baby gear: How does it work, and is it worth it?

Baby gear can be expensive, which is why the rental business is booming. Here's what you should rent and what you should buy.

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Getty Images

Babies bring so much joy into our lives, but they also bring a lot of stuff. Three years and two pampered children into parenthood, my garage is overflowing with baby gear we no longer need. On top of taking up space, most of these things took a good chunk out of our bank account to own. It's this wasteful cycle of constantly buying new stuff, which has spurred a boom in the baby gear renting market. 

Baby gear rental companies have existed for years, but have mainly catered to vacationing families who like to pack light. More recently, companies have started to pitch the rental model as a cost-reducing and environmentally friendly alternative to buying -- and it makes a lot of sense in some situations. Here's what you should know about renting baby gear, including how it works and the pros and cons of renting.

How does renting baby gear work?

Rental services that focus on long-term renting, like Loop, lend baby products by the month. The rates vary depending on the item, ranging from as little as $4 a month for a simple baby toy to $125 a month for a Snoo bassinet. In Loop's catalog, you'll find a wide selection of products that you need early in your child's life, including breastfeeding pillows, bassinet stands, baby bouncers and more. But you'll also find plenty of items for toddlers and older babies. You pay a monthly fee for delivery and pickup, and the rate varies depending on your commitment. Signing up for a whole year gets you the lowest rate and also unlimited pickups and deliveries. Once gear is returned, it goes through a thorough cleaning process to prepare it for the next family.

Other services like BabyQuip and Rents4Baby offer monthly rates, but are really geared toward traveling. As such, daily rates are the norm. BabyQuip is particularly interesting because it relies on a network of Quality Provider partners, individuals who rent out their gear on behalf of BabyQuip. Think of it like the Airbnb of baby gear. The company has providers in more than 600 cities across North America. Providers are expected to clean and maintain their gear to a high standard and must take training courses on equipment safety and customer service before being approved. Each provider sets their own rates, including for delivery and pickup, and just like with Airbnb, customers can leave reviews. 

All of the above rental services claim to inspect gear for safety and monitor consumer recalls to make sure none of the gear on loan is affected.  

What baby gear should you rent instead of buy?

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Snoo Smart Sleeper

Happiest Baby

The items that make the most sense to rent long-term are expensive products that baby won't use for very long. The Snoo Smart Sleeper is a perfect example. If you're unfamiliar, the Snoo is a special bassinet designed to soothe baby back to sleep with a gentle rocking motion whenever it hears them cry. For some parents, it can be a gamechanger. But it doesn't come cheap. The Snoo retails for just under $1,600. It's also only recommended for use up to six months of age or when baby can push up on their hands and knees. That's a steep price to pay for something you'll use for less than a year. 

Suddenly, the rental model becomes very attractive -- so much so that even the maker of the Snoo has gotten into the rental business. You can rent a Snoo directly from the company that makes it, Happiest Baby, for $149 a month for the first four months and just $30 per month for the remainder of your rental period. Assuming you use it for the full six months, you'll be out less than half the cost of buying one outright. If you rent one and it doesn't work for your baby at all, you'll be in and out of the Snoo game without losing your shirt.

That leads us to our next category: Products you'd like to try before you buy. If you're not sure if you'll like a certain stroller and you want your baby to have some seat time in it before you fork over $1,000 or more, renting is a great option.The Uppababy Vista is one of the most popular and most expensive premium strollers on the market, and you can commonly find them available for rent. Unless you're looking to get an extended test drive, you probably don't need to rent one for a full month. You're probably better off finding a rental company with daily or weekly rates.

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Happiest Baby

Here are some other baby gear picks that could be good candidates for renting:

  • Owlet Smart Sock - This gadget monitors your baby's oxygen and sleep patterns through the night and alerts you if readings are out of their normal range. The Owlet gives some parents invaluable peace of mind, but not everyone is a fan (including some babies). Priced at $299.99, the Owlet is one piece of gear you might want to try out first. 
  • 4Moms MamaRoo - This fancy baby seat is like a cross between a swing, bouncer and a rocker. It's a great place to put baby down when you need a break and it's approved for sleeping, so you don't have to worry like you would with some other rockers. However, brand new it costs $249.99 and it's only suitable up to 6 months. It's also bulky, so unless you plan on storing it for baby number two, it might make more sense to rent. 
  • Any bassinet or bassinet stand - This is another bulky item that you'll only use for the first six months or so. By renting, you can potentially pay less and get it out of your hair as soon as you're done with it. 

What baby gear should you buy instead of rent?

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In most cases, buying is going to prove to be the better value. You'll have to do some math and guesstimate how long you might use something to figure out if renting would be worth it, but even at the highest discounted monthly rates you'll end up paying more than what the product is worth in less than a year. So, really, anything you plan to use for a year or longer you should probably just buy. That is, unless the environmental benefits of renting particularly appeal to you.

You will end up with a lot of baby clutter, but you can always resell your gear to recoup part of your investment or pass it on to a family member or friend. 

Speaking of which, buying used or inheriting hand-me-downs are two other ways you can save money and reduce waste. Just be sure you know what to look for and what to avoid. For example, secondhand car seats generally aren't recommended because there's no way to tell if a seat has been in an accident. If you can confirm with the previous owner that it's never been in an accident, you still need to check the expiration date on the seat and make sure it hasn't been recalled. 

Another thing you should avoid buying secondhand is a crib mattress, because diaper blowouts happen and there's no telling if the previous owner had a mattress protector on. Also, mattresses lose firmness and can become uneven over time, which makes them unsafe for younger babies. When you rent, you typically don't have to worry about these things because the rental agencies thoroughly inspect their gear before loaning it out.

Renting baby gear for traveling

Traveling with a baby can be a chore if you have to lug their Pack and Play, stroller, car seat and other essentials onto a plane. But if you can source everything baby needs at your destination, you can pack lighter and travel slightly less stress-free (here's hoping your little one doesn't melt down during the flight). Only you know what your baby needs on the road, but some of the things you can rent include car seats, strollers, cribs and crib mattresses, play pens, toys, bathtubs, high chairs and much more. Some services offer package deals, which could provide more savings.  

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.