Pros and Cons of Renting Trade Show Exhibits

When you are preparing for your next trade show, one of the most vital decisions that need to be made is whether you will rent or buy your exhibit.  Obviously, if you do one show a year, you will want to rent and if you do ten shows a year, you will want to buy.  But what about all of you who are in between these two figures?  If you attend between two and five events a year, you will need to weigh the pros and cons of renting trade show exhibits in order to make a financially sound decision. 

When you rent exhibits, you have more flexible options for each show you attend.  You can rent flashy, large exhibits for your most popular events and rent cheaper, more compact exhibits for shows that you know you should attend, but will not provide you with many leads.  Also, rentals provide you the visual impact of most other customized displays, but you don't have to commit to a specific format or layout for an extended period of time.  Here is a list of the benefits of renting an exhibit:

    • You can attend very different types of trade shows that require a specific approach
    • You can have various sizes of exhibits or different configurations from show to show
    • Elimination of union labor costs, refurbishment costs, maintenance costs, updates
    • Minimization of material handling charges, shipping costs, set up/break down hassle
    • Most rental companies provide shipping, logistics, set up/break down, temp. storage
    • The rental company is liable for any problems with the display, you don't fix anything
  • You can change your graphics for each specific trade show


As you can see, there are many good reasons to rent an exhibit.  However, there are two significant problems with renting.  The first is the relatively high cost.  Most rental fees are going to constitute about 25%-33% of the total costs of purchasing the exhibit new.  You must keep in mind that these high fees usually include shipping and set up/break down labor, which can really add up once a show is completed.  The other major problem with renting trade show displays is that you cannot specify exactly what you want in your exhibit.  You must adapt to what is available. When you buy a customized exhibit, you get to choose colors, designs, and layouts that truly compliment your organization's marketing message.


Other components are also available for rent, such as plasma TV monitors, computers, sound systems, etc.  When deciding whether to rent or buy such electronics, there are a few things to think about.  Consider how likely it is for your electronics to be damaged during transport.  If a rental is damaged due to circumstances over which you have no control, it is not your problem.  If a plasma TV that you own is damaged, you may have just lost a couple thousand dollars.  Also contemplate how likely it is for the electronics to malfunction.  Rental companies are liable for any issues that arise on site and reputable companies will rush out a replacement in a few hours. 
Of course, you should do a basic comparison of the exhibit's purchase price versus the rental fees that will be incurred over the length of time that an exhibit you bought would last.  You may end up finding that you will spend slightly more money renting exhibits.  However, do not forget about all of the time and trouble you will save yourself over those years.  These types of things add significant value to rental displays.  To make a final decision, simply choose the most logical solution for your company's situation.