Monday, March 30, 2009

Trying Before You Buy – Baby Equipment Rentals

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Rebecca Atkinson credits her husband Mark as her inspiration for this week’s post about baby equipment rentals.

It’s not often that my husband and I will cross paths in terms of the work we do since he’s an automotive journalist and I’m a web-type marketer. However, he definitely gets credit for this post idea. Mr. Atkinson is currently working on a story for those not ready to buy a minivan, but who might have to give up the two-seater sports car dream. For this article he tested three different vehicles to better understand their capacity for baby equipment.

Not yet having our own baby gear, Mark tried to get in touch with one of the big baby equipment manufacturers so he could get some items on loan for the test drive and photo shoot. After a disappointing cross-border communications adventure, Mr. A had the bright idea of seeing if there was such a thing as baby equipment rentals.

A short Google search later he was delighted to find several companies in the GTA who did such things. After contacting Wee Travel, (the very first-Canadian baby equipment rental company) he was in business and the story lived to see another day.

In his talks with one of the founders, Lesley Cherry (who might become my new best friend if I ever meet her), he learned that not only do travelling parents rent baby gear, but that it’s also becoming a trend to try before you buy. That’s right – not sure if your car seat/stroller combo will fit in your vehicle with some groceries and no blind spots? Just rent the brand you’re looking to buy and see how it stacks up.

Not sure what monitor will meet your needs? Or what about if that bouncy chair really is a good investment and will put baby to sleep without you thinking she’ll fall out of it? Again, just rent it for a nominal fee and you’ll have your answer, allowing you to make a more informed purchase decision.

As I previously mentioned, we plan on going to the Baby Time Show this coming weekend where we should be able to try out a lot of things (like the –three-in-one stroller/car seat combos – taking recommendations please!) because we honestly have no clue about what we want to buy. However, even though the show might help us get closer to some decisions, we now feel confident that if we’re really not sure, we can always come home and call Wee Travel and rent the items we’re thinking about.

After all, when you think that you’re going to be spending hundreds of dollars on some of this equipment, you want to make sure it’s something you’re going to like and feel right about using. Sure it may not be as expensive as a new car, but that little baby you put in the equipment is going to be worth more than anything to you, so being able to be confident that your purchase decisions will keep your bundle of joy safe make the small rental fees worth it in the long run.

Lessons Learned:

1. Try before you buy
We’ve actually gone to look at a few (more expensive) strollers that have had large sale prices – but not been happy with one thing or another about the product – just because an expensive item is on sale, doesn’t mean it’s a good one

2. Extended trials – Renting equipment
Thinking about your lifestyle or vehicle needs/habits is important so being able to bring something home and try it for a few days without worrying about return policies is worth it in the long run.

3. What was good for the goose might not be good for the gander
What might have worked for your friends may not work for you – perhaps they have a 7-seater and you only have a Civic. With the size of some of these products today you need to know whether or not you can not only fit the products in your car, but whether or not they require a 34-page instruction manual to fold up; or whether one person can handle lifting it on the TTC or up an escalator.

Photo credit: Salsoul
Courtesy of Stock.Xchng

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  1. It's a good idea for sure but seems pretty expensive for the toys portion at least - for example, I picked up a Baby Einstein activity mat for $40 on sale from Babies 'R Us and yet to try a similar mat from the rental place is $24 + shipping per week. Seems like going to a second hand store or watching the sales is more cost effective - you can't really go wrong in the toy department if you check out reviews and such. For car seats and strollers I could see it being useful though.

    I'm a bit confused though - the Wee Travel site only appears to have one type of item for each which doesn't seem to mesh with "try before you buy" - are there other sites you've found as well?

  2. Hi - it's Lesley from Wee Travel - The 'try before you buy' concept is generally used for carseats and strollers. For example, not all seats fit in all cars, especially rear-facing. When my son was born I made the mistake of buying a Britax car seat without thinking that it might not fit in my car...and it didn't. You can't return a carseat, so i had to buy another one to use for the first year. We have a good selection of seats for people to try out. Same goes for strollers -while we don't carry a huge selection, if you are thinking about buying a Bob, for example, you are welcome to try it out for a few days and see if you like it.

    The other thing that people often use us for is advice - unbiased advice! We aren't trying to sell you anything, and we can save you from making the mistakes that we may have made along the way!

  3. @tamera, there are indeed several other companies out there - a quick Google search for baby equipment rentals will bring up at least a couple of other local options.

    I've just mentioned Wee Travel here as they are the only company we've had personal experience with so far. I didn't want to get too much into doing a review, more just posing the idea of these kinds of services are available especially if you're not sure of what you want/need to buy.

    Tamera, I think you raise a good point about the fact there's only one image available for each item - as per Lesley's comment there are several different kinds of items she carries, she and Mark talked about several different kinds of brands and sizes for his article. Lesley, perhaps it might be worth making that a little more clear on the site that the images are not ncessarily reflective of the actual brands available.


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