Rental Relief

Equipment Rental

Every project calls for a unique set of requirements: Its own deadline, labor demands and, of course, equipment. When a project on the to-do list needs a machine that’s lacking in a crew’s fleet, rental is a great option to keep the work going.

“Rental houses offer flexibility for contractors to bid and take on larger projects, as well as different kinds of projects,” says Bryce Puckett, Texas Division Rental Manager for Kirby-Smith Machinery Inc. “During the transaction, our [rental houses] service and fleet size allows the contractor an uptime advantage over traditionally owned contractor fleets. We can provide factory-trained service, routine telematics reports during and after the rental, and finally, the ability after a project to move on to the next project without restraint to equipment capital requirements.”

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Aside from filling the equipment gap, some other advantages of rental include the ability to switch up machines as a project’s needs change and to keep the cost and upkeep of a machine on a rental house rather than your own books.

“Once the project is underway, renting offers the flexibility to change equipment, add or subtract units or even reconfigure the entire equipment plan mid-stream, if necessary,” says Brett Sondergard, Director of Sales and Marketing for United Rentals Trench Safety. “This kind of fluidity can be extremely cost-effective, as can the savings represented by shifting the costs of maintenance, repair, parts and storage to the rental provider.”

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Picking a Partner

When the decision to rent is made, the next step is to find a quality rental partner. Although there may be many options out there, it’s important to do your homework and find a company that’s reliable with an up-to-date equipment fleet.

“It’s important to find a rental company that’s professional, knowledgeable, experienced and trustworthy — one that takes safety seriously and can furnish verifiable safety results,” says Sondergard. “Ask about the rental fleet: how large is it, does it include the latest equipment models and is it diversified enough to offer the optimal solution, rather than one-size-fits-all? Ask the company to show you its performance metrics for on-time delivery and pickup, and explain its preventative maintenance process. If you take on jobs in multiple regions, ask about the availability of branches in those areas. Will you get access to technology you can use for account management, and what other ancillary products and services are available? In other words, look beyond the equipment. Every rental company offers equipment in some form — your comfort level should have much deeper roots than that.”

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Being upfront in the beginning of the rental relationship is necessary and ensures that a customer will get exactly what he or she needs and wants. Puckett points out that transparency and engagement are key to cultivating a good working relationship with a rental house.

“Most dealers are more than willing to come alongside as a business partner and help contractors with their fleet needs,” he says. “We [dealers] have the ability to provide service contracts for existing contractor-owned fleet and auxiliary equipment capacity for overload needs when necessary. We love it when a contractor comes and lays it all out for us. It allows us to understand the contractor’s business needs and fill gaps where needed. With our industry expertise, we occasionally pull a rabbit out of our hats as well, saving the contractor large sums of money by utilizing a new equipment type or method.”

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Kirby-smith Machinery Inc.Sondergard agrees that honest communication starts the rental relationship off on the right foot and that customers need to be aware that quality equipment and service does come at a price — but it’s all in the name of productivity.

“The best way to get the relationship off to a good start is to be up front and candid about what you’re looking for in a rental supplier,” he says. “Also, understand that well-conditioned equipment, expert service and availability-as-promised can appear to cost a little more and still be the best value, because your crew will be more productive. The price you pay should be in line with the total package, meaning the safest and most cost-efficient solution for the job.”

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In addition to helping a customer select the right equipment, a good service experience also relies on a dealer helping out when equipment is out on the job. Reputable rental houses will be able to address any problems a customer may encounter with the machine and respond in a timely fashion — avoiding costly downtime.

“A customer should always call the local rental branch immediately to report an issue,” says Sondergard. “Never continue to use the equipment, because its safety could be compromised. It’s the rental supplier’s responsibility to dispatch a service tech quickly and keep the customer informed. Depending on the issue, a replacement unit may be provided and the original unit returned to the branch for service.”

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Finding the perfect rental partner may seem like a difficult task, but it’s one that will pay off with great rewards. Having access to equipment when needed and a helpful, dedicated staff to assist you will make the process hassle-free.

“Your dealer strength is of utmost importance,” says Puckett. “If your renting dealer can’t back up your project needs with the fleet required, parts needed or service capacity desired, then they aren’t the dealer for you. A rental relationship is much like dating, if it doesn’t work out you can break it off at any time. If your dealer takes care of you, there may be a chance for you to purchase a unit and be ‘married up’ to them for a while.”

Pam Kleineke is Managing Editor of Utility Contractor.

New to Rental?

Bryce Puckett, Texas Division Rental Manager for Kirby-Smith Machinery Inc., breaks down the three main types of rental agreements:

Pure rental
This type of rental is the most common and is basically an agreement to pay for usage of a machine for a period of time. Since the time extends into perpetuity until a unit is returned, a renter is going to pay fees — whether it’s a day, week or even longer.

Rental-purchase option
This option is similar to pure rental except that during the rental, the contractor has the option of purchasing the unit with a portion of the rental fees applied to the purchase price. However, Puckett warns that the amount that’s applied varies by company, so it’s something a perspective buyer should know up front.


Although often confused with rental, a lease is a set agreement typically between a bank and a contractor to pay for equipment usage for a certain period of time. Most contracts are for a 24-month minimum lease period, and at the end of that lease, a contractor can purchase the machine for a certain price. The benefit of a lease is off-the-books “ownership” for bonding purposes and the downfall compared to a rental is being locked into a specific term.