Although turning to rent-to-own sounds like a simple solution when you’re short of cash, it can be expensive. The rental charge can amount to three or four times what it would cost to pay cash or finance the purchase on an installment plan.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering rent-to-own:

  • Is the item something I absolutely have to have right now?
  • Can I delay the purchase until I have saved enough money to pay cash?
  • Have I considered all my credit options, including applying for retail credit from the merchant or borrowing money from a credit union or bank?
  • Would a used item purchased from a garage sale, classified ad or second-hand store serve the purpose just as well as something new?

If you decide that rent-to-own is the best choice for you, here are some questions you should ask yourself before you sign on the dotted line:

  • What is the total cost of the item? Multiply the amount of each payment by the number of payments required to purchase the item. Make sure to add in any additional charges, for example, finance, handling or balloon payments at the end of the contract. Balloon payments are large payments that must be paid over and above the regular payments. There might be one such payment or several, and they typically come later in the payment schedule. Balloon payments allow people to structure a loan differently from a traditional financing plan. For example, to eliminate the need for a down payment.
  • Am I getting a new or used item?
  • May I purchase the item before the end of the rental term? If so, how is the price calculated?
  • Will I get credit for all of my payments if I decide to purchase the item?
  • Is there a charge for repairs during the rental period? Will I get a replacement while the rented item is not in my possession?
  • What happens if I am late on a payment? Will the item be repossessed? Will I pay a penalty if I return the item before the contract ends?

Comparison shop among various rent-to-own merchants. Check with your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office for any provincial or territorial laws governing business practices where you live. Read the contract carefully and make sure you understand all the terms before you sign, and get all promises in writing.

Remember, know what you are paying. Compare the total amount you would pay by financing the purchase through an installment plan, including a down payment, with the total cost of a rent-to-own contract.

Provincial and Territorial Consumer Affairs Offices


Service Alberta, Consumer Contact Centre
3rd Floor Commerce Place
10155-102 Street

Edmonton, Alberta  T5J 4L4

Telephone: 780-427-4088
Toll Free: 1-877-427-4088


British Columbia

Consumer Protection BC
#307-3450 Uptown Blvd
PO Box 9244

Victoria, British Columbia  V8W 9J2

Telephone: 604-320-1667
Toll Free: 1-888-564-9963
Fax: 250-920-7181



Consumer Protection Office, Manitoba Justice
302-258 Portage Avenue

Winnipeg, Manitoba  R3C 0B6

Telephone: 204-945-3800
Toll Free: 1-800-782-0067
Fax: 204-945-0728


New Brunswick

Financial and Consumer Services Commission
225 King Street, Suite 200

Fredericton, New Brunswick  E3B 1E1

Toll Free: 1-866-933-2222
Fax: 506-444-4494


Newfoundland and Labrador

Service NL
PO Box 8700

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador  A1B 4J6

Telephone: 709-729-2600
Toll Free: 1-877-968-2600
Fax: 709-729-6998


Northwest Territories

Consumer Affairs, Department of Municipal and Community Affairs
5201-50th Avenue, Suite 600
PO Box 1320

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories  X1A 2L9

Telephone: 867-767-9161 ext 21022
Fax: 867-873-0309


Nova Scotia

Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, Public Enquiries
Mail Room, 8 South
Maritime Centre
1505 Barrington Street

Halifax, Nova Scotia  B3J 3K5

Telephone: 902-424-5200
Toll Free: 1-800-670-4357
Fax: 902-424-0720



Consumer Affairs, Department of Community and Government Services
3090 – 9th Street
P.O. Box 440

Baker Lake, Nunavut  X0C 0A0

Telephone: 867-793-3303
Toll Free: 1-866-223-8139
Fax: 867-793-3321



Consumer Protection Ontario, Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
Box 450
1201 Wilson Ave, Station A

Toronto, Ontario  M3M 1J8

Telephone: 416-326-8800
Toll Free: 1-800-889-9768
Phone (TTY): 416-229-6086
Phone (TTY) 2: 1-877-666-6545
Fax: 416-326-8665


Prince Edward Island

Consumer Services, Department of Justice and Public Safety
Shaw Building, 4th Floor
95 Rochford Street
PO Box 2000

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island  C1A 7N8

Telephone: 902-368-4580
Telephone: 902-368-4550
Toll Free: 1-800-658-1799
Fax: 902-368-5283



Office de la protection du consommateur
400 Jean-Lesage Boulevard, Suite 450

Québec, Quebec  G1K 8W4

Telephone: 418-643-1484
Toll Free: 1-888-672-2556
Fax: 418-528-0976


Consumer Services, Department of Community Services
307 Black Street

Whitehorse, Yukon  Y1A 2N1

Telephone: 867-667-5111
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0408 ext. 5111
Fax: 867-667-3609