Page Reviewed / Updated - November 16, 2010
Is renting home medical equipment less expensive than buying? If one is paying the complete cost of their durable medical equipment out-of-pocket, then renting may be a less expensive option than buying. Unfortunately, a simple calculation of monthly rental cost vs. purchase price often fails to account for all of the factors that should go into this decision. While it is beyond the scope of this webpage to provide a cost / benefit analysis for each type of durable medical equipment, we have identified the factors that should be considered when making a purchase vs. rent decision. Applying this information to one’s unique situation should assist in making a decision.
The duration of time for which the item would be rented is arguably the most important factor. It is unfortunate that often the length of need for an aging individual is unknown as illnesses can progress. When one does know exactly the number of months they require an item, the calculation is simple. A good workaround for when one does not know is to estimate in 6-month periods. Will the item be required for 6, 12, 18, 24 months etc.
Another factor, often overlooked when purchasing, is how much of the purchase price can be recouped from a resale of the item once there is no longer a need. One should consider both the value of the item and the difficulties associated with the re-sale process, such as advertising and shipping. To establish the possible value of a resold item, one can search the “completed listings” for similar items on Ebay.com or other DME classified ads.
Durable medical equipment rental agreements usually cover the cost of maintenance and repairs. When purchasing DME, the buyer is responsible for those costs. Consider the service schedule and likelihood of having to make repairs. For example, a hospital bed rarely requires maintenance but powered wheelchairs or electronic monitoring equipment often require servicing or recalibration. Financial considerations aside, should maintenance of DME be required, how inconvenient is it for an elderly or disabled individual? Is on-site servicing a possibility or does one need to take the item to a service location to be repaired?
Does the individual that requires DME remain in the same physical location throughout the year? Moving delicate or bulky DME is challenging with a vehicle and nearly impossible with air travel. Most rental companies will pick-up and deliver items and some have multiple locations around the country that can accommodate for individuals who travel or move frequently.
Separate from the larger question of which approach is less expensive, one’s financial situation is relevant. Are the larger upfront costs associated with purchasing durable medical equipment manageable? Or does the individual have a fixed income that requires a lower monthly payment?
With some home and durable medical equipment items, Medicare will authorize a rental instead of a purchase. The decision is based on the length of need, the cost of the item and the frequency of servicing. Medicare approved durable medical equipment suppliers will know the specifics for each type of item. As with purchases, Medicare will pay for 80% of the costs leaving the individual responsible for the remaining 20% of the monthly rental payments.