Is It Better to Rent or Buy a Water Softener? Pros, Cons & Monthly Cost

Author: Jason Hollow - Published: 2021/04/15 - Updated: 2021/07/23

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A water softener solves any hard water issue by removing calcium and other minerals in an ion exchange process. Therefore, each softening system combines a larger resin tank containing a resin bed with a smaller brine tank for storing salt. Depending on the size of your home, the resin tank alone can be around 10 inches wide and about 60 inches tall. To this we have to add a control valve which orchestrates how the whole setup operates.

As you may have already guessed: Control valve + resin tank + resin bed + brine tank + additional components, a water softener is not a small investment. That’s why some local and online dealers provide rental contracts.

The question is: Is renting rather than buying a water softener a good idea?

So, let’s discuss the pros, cons, and monthly cost of renting vs. buying a water softener!

How Much Does It Cost to Rent a Water Softener?

Of course, how much it costs to rent water softeners depends on various factors, such as:

  • The size of the water softening system
  • The brand/manufacturer
  • The control valve model – this is probably the largest cost factor with most systems
  • Digital metered vs. manual system
  • What type of resin it uses
  • Extra features

In other words, we can only provide you with an estimate. For a regular salt-based water softener for home use, you should expect to pay anywhere between $25 to $30 USD in monthly fees. This cost estimate often includes servicing of the system.

Don’t forget to add the cost for installation if you’re not a do-it-yourselfer. These systems need to be plumbed in. Hiring a professional installer should add another $300-800 USD,

Usually, water softener installation costs between $300 and up to $1,000 USD, depending on your plumbing system and job complexity.

Costs When Buying a Water Softener

When purchasing directly, a salt-based water softener costs around $500 USD for the most basic model that certainly lacks efficiency in terms of salt and water use. For a digitally metered unit that saves as many resources as possible, the price range is $1,000-2,000 USD.

For Template Assisted Crystallization systems which are most effective at reducing the scaling effects of hard water without using salt, the prices are about the same.

Rent to Own

Rent to own is a hybrid between buying and renting. Often, monthly fees are higher compared to regular renting agreements. However, in case you decide to buy the water softener within a certain period, you get all your money back and only need to pay the regular purchase price.

Renting – Pros & Cons

Water Softener Rental Thumbnail

Advantages – Reasons to Rent

  1. The #1 advantage of renting a water softener is that you don’t need to invest a huge pile of money upfront. That said, you obviously still have to pay for system installation which we’ve discussed before.
  2. Secondly, renting a water softener allows you to try a product before you make a large monetary commitment. This goes especially for rent-to-own agreements.
  3. What’s more, with most renting plans you don’t need to worry about maintaining and possibly even repairing your system. Everything is taken care of by the service provider which saves you from the hassle of doing your own maintenance. In addition, unless you have acted willfully or with gross negligence and have caused or contributed to any system damage, the cost for both water softener repair and maintenance should be covered. Furthermore, thanks to the trained technicians with years of experience you can expect fast repairs in case anything is not functioning as it should.
  4. Last but not least, and we’ve kind of mentioned this already, renting a water softener is a much lower commitment than buying one. If you don’t like what you get, you can just cancel or not extend the rental agreement.

Disadvantages

  1. Simply put, renting a water softener for several years doesn’t make sense from a monetary standpoint. You will end up paying much more that you would have, if you had completely purchased the system right in the beginning. And even after years of renting, you still don’t own the product – unless, of course, you choose a rent to own plan. But even then you pay more over time than the regular purchase price.
  2. Offering water softeners for rental can only be a business model as long as providers continue to use used units. That’s why chances are high that the water softener you’re renting is not exactly new. Quite the opposite, the system may be outdated.

Buying – Pros & Cons

Advantages – Reasons to Buy

  1. The selection of products when renting a water softener may be limited. But this is definitely not the case when buying a unit. There are dozens of manufacturers, brands, and stores you can buy from with hundreds of models. Chances are small that you won’t find a system that does not fit your needs perfectly (provided you have the budget).
  2. When owning a water softener you are free to use it in whichever way you feel appropriate. You want to use it to remove iron from your water? Feel free to do so!
  3. When you install a water softener in your house, the value of the property increases. If you ever decide to sell, you have one additional selling point.

Disadvantages

  1. The main disadvantage of buying water softeners instead of renting is the large upfront investment that’s required. Not everyone has the money right now, but still wants to deal with his or her hard water problem.
  2. When you buy a water softener you have to make sure that everything is working correctly. You cannot just call the seller asking for free system service.

Water Softener Rental – What You Need to Keep in Mind

In our opinion, the are several aspects you need to keep in mind, regardless of whether you’re planning on buying or renting a water softener:

  • Most importantly, you need to double-check that you’re even allowed to install a unit in the place you live in. For one, salt-based water softeners are banned in certain counties or cities in the United States.[1] This is because they use more water and release more excess salt than the environment can handle. Also, when you install a system you need to cut into the main water line and make some plumbing connections. Your landlord might not like the sound of this at all.
  • Is it worth the effort? What we mean by that is the following: Is your hard water level high enough to justify the time and money that goes into buying, installing, and servicing a water softening system? And will you stay in your place for an extended period of time or are you already thinking about moving somewhere else by the end of the year?

Conclusion: Is It Better to Rent or Buy a Water Softener?

So, is it better to buy or rent a water softener?

Well, buying a water softener has always been a large investment. Naturally, dealers came up with the idea of water softener rental.

Depending on the water softening capacity and brand of a system in addition to other extras, rental costs around $25-30 USD per month on average. This monthly fee usually also covers system service. For comparison, when buying a water softener you have to invest at least $1,000 USD – for both salt-based and salt-free systems. From that perspective, renting only makes sense for a short period of time.

The main advantage of renting a water softener is that you don’t need a lot of money right now, while you can still benefit from soft water today.

Likewise, the main benefit of buying a water softener is the much larger product selection, but you have to spend the money upfront which is the main con.

Lastly, remember that before you make any decision double-check that your municipality allows the use of salt-based water softeners in your area, and that your landlord has no objections either in case you’re a renter.

Further Reading

Resources

Meet Jason Hollow

Jason Hollow Jason is the founder of Water Masterz and head of content creation. After six years in the industry, he has tremendous knowledge and first-hand experience on all things related to water treatment.

His credo: Not a single American should have to drink unhealthy water at home.

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