To Rent or to Buy: A Timeless Dilemma

Derse | June 27, 2019

The summer season is upon us, finally. Days last longer, popsicles melt faster, and flowers are blooming, making it the perfect time to consider a home purchase. In the real estate industry it’s called buying season, a time to weigh the ageless dilemma, should I rent or should I buy?

In the exhibit industry, we see our own share of this dilemma and it can feel a lot like the home buying process.


The benefit of renting apartments definitely comes with its perks; no upkeep duties like mowing the lawn or painting, no property taxes, and for those who like a change of scenery every couple of years renting is a nice solution. When it comes to renting exhibit properties there are similar factors to consider but we often see the misconception that rental exhibit properties are too “cookie cutter.” You can bring your unique design to life with custom features like cabinetry, fabric, graphics, and more. In addition to smart design, rental exhibits are functional and cost-efficient.

Here are a couple supporting factors when considering rentals:


Similar to favoring the constant mover mentality, having the ability to change your exhibit properties can be a huge win for exhibitors. If your booth’s footprint changes from show to show, it can be difficult to accommodate with custom properties. Rentals help eliminate that challenge by providing an option to rent components that integrate and adapt to your changing footprint and overall vision for the show. It also gives exhibitors an opportunity to approach it with a mindset of “try before you buy.” Exhibitors have the opportunity to test out different rental configurations and sizes to see what best fits the needs and goals of their face-to-face marketing program.


Cost-effectiveness is often at the forefront of exhibitors’ minds when deciding whether to rent or buy. With a rental, there are no ongoing costs of ownership such as monthly storage fees, insurance premiums, and recurring maintenance. In fact, according to Exhibitor Magazine, it’s estimated that ongoing repair of an owned exhibit after each show can total approximately 3 to 5 percent of the exhibit’s total value.

Bottom line: With rental systems, you can still earn brand equity without having to cover the costs of a variety of exhibit upkeeps. Plus, you can use budgetary savings to reinvest in other elements of your trade show, like customer experience activation or event sponsorships.


When searching for your “dream home,” you could ask yourself the same questions as you would when exhibit searching: Is this a starter or are you looking for something long-term? How flexible is your budget? What type of experiences need to take place here?

If your goals and resources support it, here are a couple of benefits to buying your exhibit:


Nothing beats the opportunity to have something completely crafted just for you. Buying allows you to infuse your brand into every element without as many structural guidelines or restrictions that come from rental components. It’s like walking into an empty home and using it as a canvas to create anything you want. It also provides an opportunity to build a long-term plan for your exhibit property upfront during the design phase. 


For exhibitors who attend multiple shows per year and are content with their design, buying could be the right decision. Think of a new home, perfectly crafted to your needs, the mortgage is signed, sealed, delivered. Each year of ownership sees costs depreciate as more equity is earned compared to the evolving costs of renting. Exhibitors with a packed show schedule and strong exhibit design get the most bang for their buck with owning. And, like a home, you still have the ability to make cosmetic or structural updates when you feel the need, or when your brand messaging needs adjustments.

Bottom line: It’s an investment, not just a purchase.

Regardless of your decision, one thing must be present in both scenarios: a good partner who has the knowledge and experience in both custom and rental exhibits. A strong partnership will help guide you through the process, evaluate your needs and budget, and ultimately find you the right exhibit property to enhance your face-to-face program.

Having trouble deciding which route is best for your program? Derse can help.

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