Should I Buy or Rent a Trade Show Exhibit? Help!

Categories: Trade Show Booth Rentals

We get this question a lot from our customers. “Should I buy or rent?”

Deciding on a trade show exhibit, especially one with a sizable investment, can sometimes be a tough decision as to whether to purchase it outright or rent it for each of your shows.

Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, but ultimately, you’ll find the right decision will be unique to you and your company. However, in this post I want to cover some key considerations that will hopefully help guide you toward making that final determination.

Key questions to consider before choosing to buy or rent your exhibit.

#1 How many trade shows do you plan to exhibit at each year for the next three years?

#2 What will be your booth sizes across each of the shows?

#3 Who will be setting up your exhibit at each show? (Your company team, exhibit house, show site labor, third-party labor company)

#4 How do you prefer to ship your trade show exhibit? (UPS/FedEx, freight – LTL and crates are on a pallet)

#5 What is your trade show purchase or rental budget?

#6 Are you okay storing your own exhibit in a company location or do you prefer to have your booth stored by an exhibit house?

The answers to these questions will help point you in at least the general heading as to which one makes the most sense — purchase or rental.

Take booth sizes, for example. If you have one large booth space at a show annually, it really makes sense to rent. It will be if a fraction of the cost of purchasing a new exhibit — especially a large exhibit — and you won’t have to worry about where to store it and pay storage fees.

Now that you have some key considerations, let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Advantages of Purchasing a Trade Show Exhibit

  • Upfront investment but no ongoing cost for the exhibit itself
  • You and your team will be familiar with your exhibits since it’s yours
  • You can control all the logistics, such as to and from the show, storage, etc.
  • If you ever outgrow it or need to get rid of it, you can sell it and recoup some of your investment

Disadvantages of Purchasing a Trade Show Exhibit

  • Expensive upfront costs
  • Inability to switch to another booth system without spending additional money (In other words, you’re stuck with it for a while which can be a good or bad thing depending on how happy you are with it)
  • You need to find a storage solution in between shows

Advantages of Renting a Trade Show Exhibit

  • It’s generally much less expensive than purchasing
  • Ability to switch to another option easily
  • You don’t have to store it after the show
  • You’ll typically still own the graphics since these are custom printed, you just need to rent the hardware
  • Exhibit rental companies (like ours) often help with logistics like booth set up and shipping to the show and shipping back
  • Of course, there is the “try before you buy” where you can initially rent the system and if you love it, then you can purchase it
  • Great for infrequent large booth sizes

Disadvantages of Renting a Trade Show Exhibit

  • Lots of coordination with the booth rental company and not having as much control over the process
  • If you exhibit at a lot of trade shows, renting your booth can also become more cost prohibitive over the long run
  • You’ll usually have to purchase your graphics since those are custom and unique to your company and can’t be resold. When we talk about trade show exhibits, it’s usually the hardware that is rented


As you can see, there’s a lot to think about.

The more shows you do, the better off you are financially to own your exhibits. Conversely, for the infrequent exhibitors, rentals become more pragmatic.

There’s no one right or wrong answer and in the end, you have a lot of options, either way. Heck, you can even design and build a DIY trade show exhibit!

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