You know about renting films, cars, even handbags or bridesmaids dresses. But how about renting toys for your kids? Is this a good idea? Certainly several sites and some news outlets have been buzzing about this as a new trend. While it might seem a good idea, there are some things you’d probably want to consider before signing up for one of these programs.
There are at least three sites (toygaroo.com, babyplays.com and toyconomy.com) that are aggressively marketing to parents as an alternative to purchasing toys that kids will eventually grow out of. They all say that their services save parents money and time, while giving kids a variety of toys. In fact, they promise tons of new toys every month, for a fraction of what it would cost to buy them.
So let’s start with the costs. The average U.S. household spends about $300 per year per child on toys. Rental sites will cost you at least $120 a year, and as much as $600 a year for membership. In return, you get to pick from a catalog of toys that you can keep for a month in some cases or till you return them in others—but sometimes with surcharges if you keep them longer. You won’t necessarily save money unless you’re constantly inundating your kids with new toys, and we know very few parents who do that, and we’re not so sure that redoing the toy box on a monthly basis is even a good idea.
Kids tend to get attached to toys for a certain period, and that should happen naturally, not on a calendar. Yes, you can keep the toys your kids love from the rental companies, and even buy them at a reduced price, but what happens to the other toys that sit in the box ignored during the rental period? It also assumes that kids don’t return to toys again and again. They do, and if younger siblings come along, you can pass toys along and use them as bonding between older and younger children. To me, this also assumes that kids don’t have relationships with their toys and that volume and newness is a more important value than ongoing play.
Looking at the various listings online, they are heavy on preschool and infant toys and very short on things with pieces like LEGO or MegaBloks—for obvious reasons. But since you won’t be able to solve all your child’s toy needs and desires from renting, you’ll still have to spend money on toys not in the rental libraries.
All of the rental sites devote considerable time to talking about cleaning and sanitation. They probably do a better job than you do. But these are also used toys, and they have not been re-tested to meet all safety standards before being returned to the rental pool. Moreover, manufacturers’ warranties typically only cover the initial purchase—one of the reasons the CPSC discourages purchasing used toys at yard sales, etc. On the very slight chance that a toy should prove defective in manufacturing, you as the renter and not the purchaser are not covered. The rental company bears the liability. However, I could find nothing on the three sites noted above that address this issue in any way.
Moreover, news reports cite parents talking about how great this is, but parents I’ve spoken with have been concerned about breakage and the time and care it takes to manage the process. They would just as soon have fewer toys and not have the responsibility of managing a process. Most of them think that it’s just one more thing to keep track of.
Of course, you’ll decided what’s best for you, but if you’re considering renting your toys, you might do well to look at the entire process, how much you really need or want for your kids, and, of course, the final cost for what you get.