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Power Tools: Should You Rent or Buy?

Filed Under: Tools, Know-How

Is that power tool worth the investment, or will it end up being a colossal waste of time and space? DIY pro Mark Clement of MyFixItUpLife makes the tough decisions about 10 popular power tools so you don't have to.

When it comes to purchasing some power tools, renting will always be a better option than buying. Photo: Dougww, Flickr

Before you go on your next home-improvement shopping spree, ask yourself: do you really need to buy that reciprocating saw?

That's not to say you don't need to use the tool, but maybe you don't need to actually purchase it. In some cases, it actually makes more sense to rent a substantial power tool than it does to buy. Stores like The Home Depot and Lowe's charge by the hour, half-day, full day, week and even by the month for tool rentals. There's usually a wide selection of professional-quality, name brand tools at your disposal.

Prior to renting, make sure you have a firm understanding of how long your project will take or how often you predict on using a tool in the long run. Miscalculating and opting to rent tools frequently or for an extended period of time can mean shelling out more money than if you had simply bought the items outright.

So, when it comes to large power tools, how do you know if something is a worthy investment or just a big waste of money and space? This road map should help you navigate the home improvement aisle.


These five power tools can be used on a variety of projects, giving you the most bang for your buck. Take them home because they're for keeps.

Photo: Jupiterimages

- Cordless Drill/Hammerdrill:
When it comes to drilling and driving, you'll get more mileage out of an 18 volt drill/hammerdrill than anything else. It's got enough "umph" for drilling 5/8-inch holes in deck framing or 1-inch holes for plumbing or electrical projects, as well as setting windows, cabinets or drywall screws. Plus, you can switch to a hammer function and drill small holes for concrete anchors, ideal for hanging anything from a heavy mirror or artwork to a mailbox and garden hose reel. This versatile drill eliminates the need for multiple tools, so it's a must-have.

- 7 1/4-inch Circular Saw:
From cutting shelf blanks for a linen closet to building gates, the circular saw is the go-to cutting tool. Compact, versatile and powerful, a circular saw can go where other tools can't and gets results others simply don't. The MyFixitUpLife circular saw is a professional worm drive gear. It's heavy, and some might find it awkward to use, but there are other lighter and just as powerful options, such as the less expensive sidewinder.

A portable table saw proves to be an indispensable tool. Photo: RIGID Professional Tools

- Portable Table Saw. This table saw is one of the most useful tools in your workshop -- no matter how big or small that workshop may be. Is building a jewelry box, wagon, shelf on your DIY to-do list? A table saw proves to indispensable for these small projects, as well as bigger jobs like flooring, thresholds, fences, framing and more. Great for beginning DIYers and workshops with limited space, the market offers a wide variety of portable saws – some costing less than $200. For aspiring woodworkers, try using a premium blade rather than the one that comes packaged with the saw. The one provided with the saw is a rough-construction blade and leaves swirl marks that you'll have to sand out.

Compressor and Finish Nailer Photo: Stanley Bostitch

- Miter Saw. Precision cutting is what the miter saw does best, especially when it comes to making accurate 90-degree crosscuts. This versatile saw is great for a wide variety of jobs, such as cutting window trim, decorative trim molding, and two-by-fours.There are a lot of different configurations and price points for miter saws on the market. Some models pivot and some tilt to make compound angle cuts. Built-in blade guards make miter saws safer than other power cutters. As a good rule of thumb, buy the best model you can afford. The more you plan to use the saw, the higher quality it should be. The tool can prove to be indispensable in every step of a project, from frame to finish.

- Compressor and Finish Nailer. A nail gun completes a job in the fraction of the time it would take the traditional hammer and nail. There are several very well-appointed compressor/nailer kits on the market that you can use on every trim project from installing base and crown molding to chair rails, flooring and more. The kits come complete with with compatible tools, hoses, and couplings, including a blow-gun attachment to blow dust and clean debris out. If you expect to do a lot framing, buy a larger compressor. After which, you can then buy or rent (around $35 per day) a framing nailer as needed. Your compressor and nailer will make installing trim and other projects proceed smoothly, quicker and accurately.

The decision to rent often boils down to how often you plan to use the tool in question. Here are tools that may end up collecting dust in your workshop (no matter how cool they'll look while they do it), so it's more cost-effective to rent them an as-needed basis.

Photo: DEWALT Tools

- Reciprocating Saw. If you're a heavy-duty DIYer -- routinely installing a kitchen or bath, gutting an entire room, putting in a skylight and so forth -- you'll need a reciprocating saw. But if you do larger projects once in a blue moon (or never), you can get by without owning one. For trim, flooring, installing hanging new doors, shingles, building a shed or retaining wall, a reciprocating saw just isn't necessary. It's better to rent one on those rare occasions when you need it.

Rent: Laser level (Photo: DeWalt Tools)

- Flooring Nailer. Wood flooring is a very popular DIY project. Lots of floors (think solid hardwood (raw or pre-finished) and engineered products (such as a plywood backer with a hardwood veneer) are nailed down. The tool that accomplishes this, a flooring nailer or stapler, is not something readily used for other projects. So once you're done with your floors, well, you're done with the tool. A high-quality nailer can cost upwards of $400, but if you rent one from your local Home Depot or Lowe's you're looking at only about $55 for 24 hours.

- Laser Levels. Beefier types of levels are ideal for shooting even lines for a kitchen cabinet replacement, suspended ceiling or deck project. You can also use them for laying out basement wall plate locations. While prices for these tools have plummeted, they're still not free. The very accurate lasers feature sophisticated servo motors or pendulums, and are better used for large renovation projects that include installing floors or sloping walks and driveways. For smaller laser levels that can be used for leveling a row of photo frames or painting stripes, opt to buy. These laser levels are available at low retail prices, and can be utilized in various home projects that require a straight line.

- Roofing Nailer. Most DIY roofing projects are one-day, weekend, or one-and-done projects. Unless you see yourself re-roofing lots of square footage around the house, go with a rental here.

- Concrete Tools. Rotary hammers (sometimes called "combination hammers" because they drill and chip) are enormously efficient and powerful tools, specialized for drilling larger holes effortlessly and breaking thick concrete and masonry. Rotary hammers can also be used to break up rock-hard clay and dig post holes. Concrete tools are pricey, so unless you've got a mountain of work to complete or plan on using them regularly, it's more cost-effective to rent.

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