Is Rent-A-Center Really a Good Idea?


Does Rent-A-Center work?You’ve likely seen an ad for Rent-A-Center on TV or driven past one, maybe even stopped in to see what they’re all about. They basically urge you to rent to own consumer electronics, furniture, and other household items. This requires weekly payments, or you have to give the stuff back. We looked closely at what their offer entails, and whether or not it gives enough benefit to the consumer to make it a good deal.

Overview
The big thing that they are capitalizing here is people’s desire or need to have things now. It’s no fun waiting, that’s for sure, and a lot of studies have been done about immediate and deferred gratification, and how hard it is to wait for something you want.

The Claim
Rent-A-Center does their best to make it seem like renting their products is a better alternative than saving up the money and buying them outright, either online or at a big box store like Best Buy. They also claim that you’re pre-approved for 90 days same as cash, and that they have a worry-free payment option that keeps your payments set without a rising interest rate. They make a pretty strong case that they’re a better choice than using credit.

The Hype
They enlist celebrities to help tout their service, and have even gotten Hulk Hogan to try and convince you that it’s a good idea. They have to hype it up, or no one would want to go through with it, as it’s just about as desirable as a payday loan when it comes to costs. But most of us know that we’re being sold to, they just have to pull double duty, because first they have to convince you to get that item that you’re thinking about now, rather than later, and then they have to convince you to pay extra for the luxury of having it now.

The Cost
The cost of the items that they sell at Rend-A-Center higher than you’d find at normal retail outlets, because they have factored in the finance charges and fees. You’re paying these fees to have the item now, which in some instances might make sense, like if you’re sitting in an apartment or condo with no furniture and don’t have the lump sum to go buy some. But for luxury items that aren’t really necessary, it’s a fee that could be better used by buying better stuff, or the same stuff, just more of it.

The Commitment
There’s not really any commitment to continue making payments, as long as you don’t mind giving the items up. But if you’re not ready to give them up, and are unable to continue making the payments, it can be really hard getting used to something and then having to give it back. On the flip side, it does make some sense if you’re in a temporary situation and aren’t putting down roots, because when you’re ready to up and go you won’t have to deal with trying to get rid of your stuff, you can just give it back and wash your hands of the matter.

Evaluation
Most people are aware that they’re not getting a great deal when they get something from Rent-A-Center, but they are convinced that the item in question is so necessary that they must have it now, regardless of the terms. They do have a 90 days same as cash plan, which would be the best way to make this work out for you, but be sure to check the prices of what your getting on the Internet so that you know just how much extra you’re paying for the privilege of being pre-approved and not paying any extra interest and extra fees. The free delivery and set-up is a nice bonus to consider.

This only makes sense if you only need an item for a short period of time, and don’t want to keep it for a long time. For example, buying a big screen TV from a traditional retailer and then returning it after the Super Bowl is considered return fraud, but it’s perfectly acceptable and exactly how a rent-to-own place works. Or if you just need a laptop computer for a few months either for a road trip or a school assignment, but don’t want to be stuck with it afterward, you can rent it, use it for what you need it, and then take it back with no more payments needed.

Final Rent-A-Center Review

We’re giving Rent-A-Center the Thumbs Down. You can get better merchandise for less money and call it your own if you just be patient and start saving your money towards making the purchase. Renting their goods is akin to chasing the White Rabbit, just when you think you’ve got it, it’s still out of reach. By saving up, you’ll actually own your products faster than you would by renting them. Of course you won’t be able to enjoy them in between, but you can use that strong desire to fuel your resolve to save up and save money in the meantime.

Our Recommendation
If you’re bent on getting an item and have the choice between putting it on credit, and renting it with Rent-A-Center, they might be the best bet. This is especially true if your credit is not so hot and you’ve gotten rejected for a store card at places like Best Buy. In this regard, they make it easy by letting you make smaller payments on it, and you don’t have to stress about paying late fees to a credit card, or falling behind and having it mess up your credit.

What do you think? Does Rent-A-Center work or not?


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Claire October 27, 2012 at 11:23 pm

I used to think Rent a center and things like that were a way to try to rip off the poor, but a friend of mine pointed out that the interest rate was less than a credit card.

Is it the best? No. The best is as you say, to save your money and buy the stuff outright. However, if you do have an empty apartment and you would like furniture (such as a bed, couch, just the basics) you’d be better off going with Rent a Center than you would a high interest credit card.

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Paul Lavoie October 29, 2012 at 2:45 pm

I can’t believe you would tell people to use Rent-A-Center when you know full well the things you buy, especially electronics, cost you 4 to 5 times the actual cost you could pay for them at a store like Walmart. Even the tv shows like Home Shopping Network and QVC will let you buy quality items on 3 to 4 payments with no credit checks. Go to Rent A Center and see the Mitsubishi 75 inch tv they have. You can buy this TV for less than a thousand dollars but at Rent A Center you will pay the total amount if you keep it to own it for the price that you could have bought 3 of these TVs. An employee of mine bought a dishwasher from them. He told me what the payment plan was. I made him return it and loaned him the money to buy a dishwasher at a local appliance store for kess than $360. Had he bought the same one from Rent A Center he would have ended up paying $1,644.00 for the same exact dishwasher. They rip off the people that can ill afford to pay these high prices. It is similiar to the pay day loans for people with bad credit. The interest on a televised ad for an Indian Reservation Loan Company that gives loans up to $10,000. without a credit check has a payback of, get this now, 866% interest. You will pay over $100,000. to borrow a measly $10,000. This is robbery and I think you should do your homework before you make recommendations.

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Does It Really Work October 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Hey Paul- Please read the full review. We don’t actually recommend Rent-A-Center and gave it a “Thumbs Down” rating.

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webbie155 October 29, 2012 at 6:05 pm

So basically rent a center is an alternative way to furnish homes for low income people like me. I mean it’s an option, so I won’t complain about that, but I’m sure in the end I’ll be paying more than buying it straight up. I bet you though a lot of people right now don’t have a choice but to use such service and it might come in handy in hard times. It’d be nice to know how much it would cost roughly to rent a 32 inch TV for a year. Sometimes when you factor in the depreciation, you might actually come ahead renting. If you’re buying though, I wouldn’t bother.

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whitehorse67 October 30, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I say, leave it up to the consumer. When you go into these places, they have to disclose what an item will cost you full term. So you can chose to buy with this option,or not.Simple isn’t it? Businesses like this were not just opened for fun. They were a reaction to what the consumer wants. That’s what makes this Country great. They are completely legal and highly regulated. It’s all out on the table folks. If you are ok with the costs involved, go for it. One benefit here is that if you can;t afford it down the road, you can return it. Later on, when you can afford it again, you can get it back and pick up where you left off. Credit cards do not offer that option. People who have the ability to save money or have enough on hand are not going to use this service anyway.Let’s face it, how many people these days have a grand sitting in their bank accounts? Plus people seem to forget that if you put something on credit, you are going to pay a large amount of interest! So if you think businesses like this are a rip off, then don’t utilize this option. If you have limited credit and need something, then go for it. Just be an educated consumer. I have used companies like this when I found myself divorced with nothing to my name! It certainly helped me regain some quality of life and made me feel good about myself.

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