Owning your own water softener certainly has its advantages.
But if the expense is too high, you might be considering renting a water softener instead.
In this guide, I’ll be sharing the considerations you should make when deciding whether to rent or buy a water softener. By the end, you should know which choice is right for you.
Table of Contents
💭 Pre-Rental or Purchase Considerations
When choosing whether to buy or rent a water softener, consider the following things:
How Hard is Your Water?
There’s no point in parting with a big sum of money, whether that’s an upfront payment or monthly installments, unless you actually need a water softening system.
Test your water hardness before you even consider renting vs buying.
Water that measures 0 to 60 mg/L (milligrams per liter) is soft, while anything between 61 and 120 mg/L is moderately hard.
If your water falls into any of these categories, either renting or buying a water softener might not be worth it.
Are You a Homeowner or Renter?
If you’re the owner of your property, investing in a water softener will do more than provide your home with soft water benefits in the present. Should you decide to sell your property, a water softener will increase the value of your home.
It’s important to check with your landlord, or consult your rental terms, if you currently rent a property.
Your landlord might be happy for you to temporarily install a water softener, but many won’t allow you to make changes that can’t easily be reversed – even if they’re for the better! Therefore, buying or renting a water softener may not be an option for you while you’re renting a property.
What’s Your Budget?
Money is the biggest driver when it comes to choosing whether to rent or buy a water softener.
You will need to consider whether you can afford to buy a water softener in full, including the price of the system itself, any additional tools and equipment that are needed for installation, and potentially the cost of a professional handyman or plumber to install the system for you.
Most manufacturers offer free shipping, which is a small bonus. You may also be able to sign up to a payment scheme that allows you to pay off the cost of the water softener over several weeks or months.
Looking for a system with a lifetime warranty is also smart, as this will usually cover you if you need to carry out any repairs or replacements to worn parts in the future.
Renting a system may seem like the cheaper option to start with, but it’s the worse value for money of the two.
If you’re only renting for a short period of time, and you only need a water softener for short-term use, you might be able to spend less money overall on a rental product.
But once so many months pass, you will have paid off the cost of the water softener itself, and you will continue to pay for every month that you use the system.
How Long Will You Use the System?
Additionally, it’s important to think carefully about how long you will realistically use your water softener.
If, for instance, you’re planning to move to another part of the country in less than a year, paying the full cost of a system that might be too much hassle to take with you isn’t a smart decision.
But if you’re looking for something you can use for years or even decades, buying a water softening system may offer the best savings over its years of operation.
Something to note, however, is that owning a water softener means that you’ll have to pay the full price for a new system when your existing one stops working; typically after 10 to 15 years.
If you rent a water softener, on the other hand, your installments will likely remain the same every month, even when your system is replaced with a new one.
Do You Want a Salt-Based or Salt-Free System?
There are two types of water treatment options to address hard water available today: salt-based systems and salt-free systems (or water conditioners). It’s worth being aware of the additional costs that come from owning a salt-based system compared to a salt-free conditioner, and the performance disadvantages of owning a conditioner.
You might find that the difference between the rental costs and upfront prices for the two types of systems are significant enough for you to choose one over the other.
How Much Physical Space Is Available?
Finally, you should make sure you have plenty of room to install a water softener, whether you’re planning to purchase a softener or rent one out.
If you don’t have enough room near your water supply’s point of entry to accommodate a system with two tanks, a water softener may not be an option for you at all.
💸 Renting a Water Softener
Advantages of Renting
- Cheaper short-term solution – using a softener for up to 2-3 years should cost less overall than an upfront purchase
- No up-front purchase cost – better initially for smaller budgets
- Low commitment – can return the softener if you have a change of heart, or local/state law changes and you can no longer use it
- No extra cost for replacing the system – it should be part of your rental deal that old or broken systems are replaced “for free”
Disadvantages of Renting
- More expensive than buying a system in the long run – you will start to pay money on top of the purchase price after 2-3 years
- Fees might not cover installation and ongoing maintenance – could cost hundreds of dollars to fix issues yourself
- You don’t own the system – no flexibility with exactly what you do to it; won’t provide a financial benefit if you sell your home
- You’ll probably receive a used softener – it’s rare for rental companies to provide brand-new systems
- Limited choice – you won’t get as many options from a local rental company as you would from buying online
True Water Softener Rental Cost
The average cost of renting a water softening system is $25-$50 per month, depending on the quality of the softener, the manufacturer you rent from, competition in your local area, and whether you’ll be expected to shell out on your own maintenance and repair costs.
Most water softeners last for at least 10 years. If you choose to rent a softener at a rate of $30/ month for this period of time, you’ll spend a total of $3,600 within that time. You may also need to spend extra on repairs and maintenance, depending on your rental terms.
Should maintenance not be included in your rental cost, you will probably need to part with another $200-$500 for this, depending on the quotes you receive from local plumbers.
Considering water softeners are priced at around $600 to $1,500, you’re paying significantly more to rent this water treatment unit over a period of 3+ years than to buy it.
The longer you rent, the more money you will end up spending.
It’s important to thoroughly read through your rental agreement before making an official decision. This will prevent you from being caught out by any unexpected (and unaffordable) surprises in the future.
Rent to Own Option
One rental that might be suitable for you is the “rent to own” option.
This concept allows you to make “rental” payments, usually on a monthly basis, until you fully pay the system off.
Of course, “rent to own” water softeners are typically more expensive, as the company will add interest to the installments for the benefit of being able to split them over a longer period of time.
The biggest catch here is that you won’t actually own your water softener until you’ve paid it all off.
This may be risky, as if you’re unable to make your monthly installments, you may be charged extra or the company may take back the system.
With the “rent to own” concept, you’ll end up paying slightly more than the actual cost of the water treatment unit, but it still won’t cost as much as renting.
I’d recommend only considering this option if you know you have the financial stability to make your payments on time.
💵 Buying a Water Softener
Advantages of Buying
- Better long-term investment – no monthly cost to deal with for the rest of the system’s lifespan
- Many manufacturers offer monthly payment options– can pay off the softener over a set period for only a small additional cost
- You get a brand-new softener – can guarantee high-quality performance and components that will last 15+ years
- Hundreds of options to choose from – especially when looking online
- You own the system – and it’ll increase the value of your home if you decide to sell
Disadvantages of Buying
- Bigger up-front cost – not everyone can afford to spend more than $800 in one go
- You’re responsible for all maintenance/ installation fees – nobody to do the job for you for free
- Only worth the investment for long-term use – won’t be cheaper than renting unless you own the softener for 2-3+ years
Cost of Buying a Water Softener
Buying and installing a water softener in your home’s plumbing system can cost as little as $500. However, the higher-quality water softeners are priced at $700 at least.
Add on the cost of a professional installation to your purchase price, and you’re looking at between $1,000 and $1,500 in total, depending on the initial price of the unit.
Generally, the more you spend, the higher quality softener you will get. The better quality water softeners last longest, so they’re often well worth the investment.
💡 So, Is It Better to Rent or Buy a Water Softener?
Based on the pros and cons of buying vs renting, I’d recommend buying a water softener if you need a softening solution for an extended period of time. A quality water softener can last up to 15-20 years, so it’s worth saving up for that initial investment for the long-term cost benefits.
Owning a water softener is generally a lot cheaper than renting over an extended period of time. Let’s say you choose to rent a system, costing $1,000, to soften the water in your home. Hypothetically, imagine that costs you $25 per month.
After three and a half years, you would have paid the system off. But you would have to continue paying for the system for as many years as you continued to own it – that’s the downside of renting.
Ultimately, choosing whether to buy or rent a water softener depends on your personal circumstances, but I would advise only using a rental company if you need a softening system for short-term use.
- Learn how to select the right system for your needs in this guide.
- Decide purchasing makes more sense? Check out our best water softener reviews updated for 2024 right here.