Renting vs. Owning Your Trade Show Exhibit: Pros & Cons

By now, most trade show marketers understand the availability of both trade show exhibits you own and those you rent. But what are the pros and cons of renting vs. purchasing your company’s trade show exhibit(s)?

To start, let’s just say that it really depends on your company’s needs. Do you only exhibit at one or two shows per year? Does your company exhibit at multiple shows per year, with some shows happening at the same time? And do you want or need flexibility in the size, look and feel of your exhibit from show to show?

Answering these and a few other questions will help to quickly determine if renting or owning is the best option for your trade show program – and hopefully, our list of pros and cons can help you make the most of your decision.

Trade Show Exhibit Rental – Pros

Capital Expenses and the Tax Man – Because rental exhibits are just that, rentals, there is nothing to actually buy. This helps to minimize the administration and processing of a large capital expense.

No Shipping & Storage Feeds – Owning your trade show exhibit comes with some baggage – storage and shipping to name two. A major “pro” to renting your trade show booth is that once your show is over, the booth is not yours to ship nor store. Both of which save time, money, and hassle.

Maintenance and Repair Costs are Minimum – Again, because you don’t own your rental exhibit, the cost of routine maintenance and repairs from “wear and tear” are minimal to non-existent. Over time, especially during setup, tear-down, and shipping – trade show booths sustain damage. When you rent, this is typically not your responsibility.

Custom Exhibit at a Lower Cost – Because with rental trade show exhibits you are not purchasing the structure of your booth (nor paying for storage or repairs), you should have more budget to put towards customizing your exhibit with brand graphics or larger floor space and footprint.

Look Different From Show to Show – In a world where first impressions are everything, updating your look from show to show can be important. Renting your trade show exhibit gives you the flexibility to evolve your entire exhibit structure and design from show to show – including its size and footprint.

Trade Show Exhibit Rental – Cons

Costs Can Be Higher Over Time – Especially if your company exhibits at several shows per year (year after year), renting your trade show booth could cost you more money than owning (over time).

Rental Exhibits Can Show Wear – Depending on the outfit from which you rent your trade show exhibit, some rentals may show visible wear-and-tear from previous use, shipping and setup. Shop wisely.

Availability – As you do not own your rental, availability can become an issue if you don’t plan ahead. Again, be certain to choose a vendor that can meet your needs and reserve your exhibits as early as possible.

Furniture and Accessory Costs – If you will not be owning your furniture, costs for these components can be quite high and again, availability can be a concern.

Trade Show Exhibit Ownership – Pros

Cost Over the Long Term – If you exhibit at a number of shows per year and are a very active trade show marketer, the cost of owning your custom trade show exhibit will very likely be less than renting.

Total Control Over Every Detail – Because this is your booth, you can have it spec’d and built exactly the way you’d like it AND have complete control over the choice of materials and finishes used.

Your Brand – And of course owning your trade show exhibit gives you complete control over how your brand is represented – from the exhibit’s footprint to the materials and graphics that greet attendees!

Trade Show Exhibit Ownership – Cons

Initial Expense – The initial cost of building and owning your trade show exhibit won’t be cheap. With rentals, there is no initial investment.

Lack of Flexibility – Your business and offerings change and so do market and design trends. When you own your trade show exhibit, updating your look and feel – especially from one show to the next can be either quite costly or in cases totally prohibitive.

Responsibility for Storage, Shipping & Repairs – When you own your trade show exhibit, you’ll have some added responsibility over renting. To name a few – the costs of storing your exhibit between shows, shipping logistics and cost, and of course, repairs and maintenance. These must be factored into the equation when choosing between renting and owning.

Additional Considerations in Renting vs Owning Your Exhibit

The Number of Trade Shows You Exhibit at Each Year

If your company only exhibits at a few shows each year, then renting your trade show booth is most likely a more cost effective option than purchasing. With the cost of renting an exhibit being about 1/3 the cost of purchasing, along with not incurring the costs of storage and insurance, you can fairly easily exhibit at 3-4 shows and still be saving money by renting vs purchasing.

However, if your company exhibits at a number of shows per year (5+), then purchasing your exhibit might be the most viable solution. Just keep in mind that the purchase of your exhibit comes with additional costs such as storage, insurance and eventual refurbishment or replacement.

You Are a New Business or Wish to Test Different Booth Designs

New businesses are often operating under tight marketing budgets and just as often only have the need to attend a few shows for the first few years in business. That being said, saving money by renting not only gets you to the show floor by spending less on your exhibit structure, but also frees up additional budget to apply to your trade show graphics, marketing collateral and giveaways.

Additionally, if your business is new and hasn’t exhibited before (or only at a few shows) – renting your trade show booth gives you the flexibility to test the waters with different configurations, graphics and designs. Once you’ve found a recipe for success, you can consider the purchase of an exhibit of the successful design. Kind of like A-B testing for the show floor. Cool.

You Company Needs to Exhibit at Multiple Shows – at the Same Time

Whether or not you currently own a trade show exhibit, there may be times when your company needs to be represented at more than one show at once – possibly in more than one country at the same time. Renting a secondary exhibit or renting more than one exhibit becomes a valuable solution in this scenario.

Your company may use their purchased exhibit at one show, and the rental at a different show, possibly overseas. Not only will you be saving by not purchasing multiple booths (which could be an absolute deal breaker) but you might also be able to avoid the costly price of shipping & logistics of getting your “owned” exhibit property overseas.

Upgrading and Changing the Design/Configuration of Your Exhibit

There comes a time in the life of every trade show booth or exhibit when it is in either need of refurbishment or your company has outgrown it all together. For most exhibits, this is typically around the three-year mark (depending on how often it’s been used and how nice you’ve been to it).

At that time, if you own your trade show exhibit you’ll be faced with the decision of whether it makes the most sense to refurbish your existing booth OR let it go and start fresh.

Another thing to consider is that over time (especially if your business is growing or your products lines shifting) you may simply outgrow your current trade show booth.

In either of these scenarios, the number of shows you attend over the life of your exhibit will strongly dictate whether purchasing or renting is the best choice. But, you should consider that while renting, you’re never faced with refurbishment or an aging booth AND you can literally have a different sized booth at each show you participate at! You’re never tied to a single structure for more than your next show!

We hope our list of “pros and cons” helps you make the best choice for your trade show marketing program, but if you’re still unsure of what’s right for your company – give us a shout.

The seasoned team of professionals at ColorCraft will help you make the best choice for your business!

We’re Ready to Discuss Your Next Project