Form a Co-op and Borrow – Instead of Buy – Expensive, Rarely-Used Equipment

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to purchase a really expensive (but rarely-used) piece of equipment… what do you do? How do you get access to equipment that you need only on occasion? These are things like floor sanders, sewer rodders, chain saws, wood chippers, heavy-duty drills and other specialized household and yard equipment – or a pickup truck for that matter… They’re things you don’t need to have – until you do. Even if what you need is within your means – like a mitre box – if you’re not a carpenter – by trade or hobby, do you really need to own one for the handful of times you may want to cut moulding or build a picture frame? These specialized pieces of equipment often represent a big investment. If they’re used regularly, they are well worth that investment; if they’re not, they sit unused and only represent a waste of money.

The fact is, you generally don’t need to shell out the money to purchase this type of rarely-used equipment because you can borrow or rent it. The problem with that is, although you can get the equipment, it doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to operate it. While hiring a professional handyman may seem to be an answer, they can charge a lot and it’s sometimes difficult to find someone trustworthy and reliable.

Form an Equipment-Lending Co-op

A workable solution to the issue of procuring access to equipment you don’t own and don’t want to buy is to form a co-op among people you know. An equipment co-op is like a lending library where you can borrow that which you don’t have in exchange for something you do have. You may, for example, offer the use of your snow blower in exchange for the use of your neighbor’s rototiller in the spring.

Most everyone has at least one piece of expensive or specialized equipment that they could and would be willing to share. Ask some equipment owners if they’d be interested in joining the co-op and create a master list of who owns and/or knows how to do what. Chances are, those who own the equipment know how to use it so you can also borrow their expertise along with the equipment. Get several people together with a diverse assortment of items and the skills to use them and you’ve built a strong resource for yourself.

Create Co-op Rules

Keep it friendly and casual, but some establishing some guidelines will protect this valuable equipment and the enthusiasm of the lenders. It’s prudent to implement rules to govern the co-op such as:

  • Schedule – When is equipment available for lending? For how long can it be borrowed?
  • Exchange – What is to be exchanged for the lending of equipment? In addition to another piece of equipment, time, labor or expertise may be deemed a fair exchange in some cases.
  • Care of equipment – Both lender and borrower should be assured that the borrower knows how to use and care for the equipment to avoid damage or unwarranted wear.
  • Consequences of damage to equipment – To avoid confusion and/or conflict between lender and borrower, determine who repairs/replaces what should the equipment break or malfunction while it’s being borrowed.
  • Etiquette – As a courtesy to the lender, return the equipment not only in good working condition but clean and refueled, recharged and/or restocked.

Start your co-op small and work out the procedures and rules before involving a lot of participants. As you grow your co-op, you’ll realize more and more opportunities for borrowing instead of buying.

Could a co-op save you on expensive equipment?

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