As a parent looking for an instrument for your child, or an adult with a renewed interest in learning an instrument, the decision of whether to rent or buy an instrument is one of the first you have to make. The only more important decisions to make are choosing the right teacher and choosing the right instrument. All of these decisions will affect not only your early musical career, but also your long term enjoyment. The option of renting or buying will also affect your finances, and this is one of the core elements of your choice.
Outright rental schemes are rare for musical instruments. Most rental schemes are actually rent-to-buy (see below). Some music shops do offer you the option of instrument rental, however, and depending on your commitment this can be a good, short-term way of ensuring that you're happy with the instrument you have chosen.
The advantage of rental over rent-to-buy are that it is generally a cheaper option, with a lot of rentals giving you the option to buy later anyway. We would advise that you avoid pure renting in a majority of cases, however, unless you really don't think that you or your child will be playing for long, or expect to be able to outright buy a new instrument shortly anyway.
Rent-to-buy is the much more common form on instrument rental, allowing you to pay in a pre-set number of monthly instalments, at the end of which you will own your instrument. This will usually last anywhere from 12 to 24 months, with most agreements only allowing you to cancel only after 3 months.
Obviously, a rent-to-buy scheme is always going to be more expensive than buying an instrument outright. However, there are a few advantages for renting in this way:
Aside from these, though, buying is almost always a better option.
If you can afford to buy an instrument outright, it's almost certainly the better option for you. Buying an instrument gives you a better reason to stay committed, which means you're more likely to keep up practice. It's cheaper than renting in every circumstance, and if you buy a brand new instrument you can be sure that it hasn't been mistreated.
If you can't afford an instrument brand new, you can also find good second hand options, which will keep the price down, and buying from a reputable store means they will have been well taken care of and properly cleaned.
Once you've decided what instrument you want to play, and have managed to get hold of one, you should make sure to find a good quality music teacher. You can read our advice on finding a good quality music teacher here, or visit MusicTeachers.co.uk, an online database of music teachers in the UK.