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How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Tent (And if You Should Buy One Instead)

Nowadays, mostly everyone wants to celebrate their most important occasions outside.

Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, company events and plays - you name it, they want it done outside.

This is a good thing because the great outdoors can turn any event even better. But this also means you need to invest in a temporary shelter to make sure that everything goes well. Everyone wants to get to know Mother Nature but they don’t want her all up in their faces.

And so party and event tents become the most important part of any outdoor function. Without it, you risk getting trampled on by both the weather AND Murphy’s Law. For the uninitiated, Murphy’s Law states that if something can go wrong, chances are it will.

What can go wrong with outdoor events? Well, a lot of things. Your guests could get soaked in the pouring rain, your wares could get blown away by harsh winds, and your entire body could be burnt to a crisp by the sun’s unforgiving rays (the last one was an exaggeration).

But before you can even decide on what type of tent to purchase, you first need to decide whether you’ll actually purchase your tent, or if you’ll rent it instead. Today, the Kingpin gives you a breakdown of all the purchasing options you have when it comes to party tents. What’s better? Renting tents? Or buying it outright?

Hopefully with this guide you’ll find the right answer! So, what are ya waiting for?! Read on...

Kinds of tents

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Before we delve into specifics on how much do party tents cost to rent or buy, let’s first differentiate the different types of tent. Each tent serves a specific type of purpose and occasion, so it’s important to know which is which so you can buy the right one.

  • Frame Tents - These are tents that are supported by a system of metal poles. Because of its extensive framework, it is freestanding, meaning it doesn’t need to be anchored to the ground using stakes. For windy days, they may need weight bags for extra stability. They are used for big events like outdoor weddings, birthday parties, and company and community celebrations.
  • Pole Tents - It’s easy to distinguish pole tents by the central poles on their structures Pole tents have one or two huge poles at the center, and several, smaller poles at the perimeter. It is tensioned and anchored to the ground using ropes and stakes.
  • Pop-Up Canopies - Pop-up canopies are just like frame tents because they are held up by a framework of poles and bars. Unlike frame tents; however, the bars and poles of a pop-up canopy are attached together. The frame needs to be pulled from both ends to extend it fully, and it can be collapsed to make it suitable for storage after use. Most are made of an aluminum frame, making them lightweight. Pop-up canopies are used as makeshift patios, beach tents, and stalls at event and fairs.
  • Tension tents - Tension tents are better known as sail cloth tents. Instead of being supported by a framework of poles, tension tents are suspended in midair and connected via links and extensions to structures called fixing points. It can be used as a carport, a makeshift patio, and outdoor dining areas.

These are the most common types of tents available in the market nowadays. Of course, there are several other tents out there, but most of them are hybrids of these four basic types.

So, how much does it cost to rent a tent? Well, this question is not something you can answer easily. For the most part, you just don’t show up at a tent rental store and go, “how much does a tent cost?” Before you even step foot outside your house, there are some things you need to do to prepare for it.

Renting Tents

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Know Your Purpose

Ask yourself, “Why do I need a tent in the first place?”. Is it for a birthday celebration? A flea market stall or an outdoor wedding? By answering this question, you already narrow down your needs to more specific ones.

For example, if you need it for a wedding, then you know it’s going to be white and the size would depend on how many guests you have. For flea markets, it would be the smallest size, and its color should be noticeable and eye-catching.

Determine Your Budget

The second question you need to ask yourself is, “How much is my budget?”. It’s not really about how much does it cost to rent a party tent, but rather how much can you afford. And just because you have the budget for it doesn’t mean you are going to spend all of your money on it.

Why is it so important to set your budget even before stepping into a rental place? Because their staff will almost always get you to purchase more add-ons, and get bigger and better tents that are way out of your price range. Don’t blame them; it’s their job. By determining your spending budget, you can protect yourself from splurging too much.

Get Quotes Online

If you can, go online and look for online rental places first. Sometimes, you might find something you want online and you won’t even need to go to a physical store initially. Of course, most rental companies have their own websites now for your convenience. Websites have nifty things like tent size calculators and estimates of your total fee. If they don’t have widgets like this, go ask a customer service rep for help.

Now why go online first? Well, you may already find the perfect rental provider there. But even if you wish to go to a physical location, knowing the average cost for the services you want makes for good leverage. Online, you can ask “how much are tent rentals?” and get a straight answer instead of being subjected to sales pitches.

Like I said, sales representatives in stores are trained to try and get customers to spend more. If you already have an idea of how much everything costs, you can even go “but there’s this rental place at blah blah blah that will charge me only this much for everything.” Information is a valuable tool in negotiation.

Do Research On Potential Providers

Now that you’re swimming in rental quotes, go through them all and whittle down your list of potential providers. This is the hard part: conducting research. Thankfully, the Internet is on your side and there are many reviews online about different rental companies. Look for reviews and testimonials from previous clients of your potential provider.

Also, the provider website should be filled with pictures and videos of previous work. Now, go compare these pictures with Google to see if they’re genuine and not just random pictures they took from other websites. You think that might be unthinkable, but believe me, a lot of providers upload media that are not theirs in the first place.

Make Plans with Your Chosen Provider

Once you’ve decided which provider to go with, start planning and scheduling everything. It’s not just about the party tent because providers offer many services apart from that. It’s good to take advantage of package offers if it has everything you want. For example, some providers will transport, set up and remove the tent for you for an extra fee. If you can’t find anybody else to help you set up the tent, this extra service will be convenient for you.

Make sure to confirm the schedule with the provider. Make sure to look over every detail and every cost. If there are some fees on your bill that you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to bring it up. If the total cost is noticeably higher than the initial price quote, ask about it. Instead of simple questions like “how much do tents cost to rent?” ask specific ones like, “how do you determine the price? By square feet or do you charge by the hour?”.

Follow Through

Just because the transaction is over doesn’t mean you put your guard down. The only time you should relax is when the event if already over. Make sure to keep your contact numbers and email open in case something comes up and the provider needs to contact you. On the day itself, make sure to call your provider 2-3 hours earlier to confirm that everything is okay.

Tips and Tricks

Here are some additional tips that can come in handy when you’re renting tents:

  • Some rentals offer cheaper rates during weekdays, which is their non-peak days. If you have a company conference, why not have it during the week instead of the weekend. Not only will you get cheaper prices, but your employees will also love getting a break from work.
  • If you can, take care of the delivery, pickup, and installation. You’ll save a lot of money that way.
  • Rental companies charge more the farther from ground level your event is. A wedding at the roof deck of a building is romantic and all, but those extra floors that the crew has to traverse will add more money to your labor costs.

How Much Do Tent Rentals Cost?

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To give you an idea on how much to rent a party tent, we looked at several popular rental companies and checked out their estimates. Now, estimates will vary according to your location, so keep your expectations realistic.

  • Tents - It depends on the tent type you rent. For traditional frame tents, a 10’x10’ tent would cost around $150 - $180. A 20’x40’ frame tent would cost you around $500 - $700. Pole tents, which are much cheaper, cost around $1200 - $ 1500 for the 40’x40’ one.
  • Labor - If the rental company is also in charge of transporting, the installation and removal of the tent, it would cost you around $50-$70 per hour for labor. As for delivery and pickup charges, they also cost around $50 one way.
  • Deposit - Fortunately, you don’t have to pay everything at once. This reduces the burden on how much to rent a tent. Most rental companies allow you to give a deposit first and then pay the rest after the event is over. Usually, the deposit is 30-50 percent of the total tent rental cost.

Buying A Used Tent

Renting a party tent is a practical move if you simply need a tent for one lone occasion. However, what if you need a tent regularly? What if you’re a merchant who loves to participate in trade fairs and flea markets? Renting a tent each and every time can get expensive pretty fast.

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For cases like this, it’s more practical to buy a tent. If you are on a tight budget and new tents seem too much for you, then you can go with used tents instead. Before you go and purchase the first tent you see, here are some considerations on how to buy a tent that’s pre-owned.

Compare and Contrast

If a used tent catches your eye, compare the price of that tent to how much for a tent that’s brand new and of the same model and make. If the price difference isn’t all that much, then skip the used tent and buy the new one instead, it’ll be much safer.

While you’re at it, look for the brand new version of the tent you want and look at what’s included in the set. Some sellers of used tents usually don’t include stuff like the original storage bag, stakes, and some extra ropes. These small things also have value and if they’re not willing to sell these along with the tent, the price should be lowered further.

Previous Usage (Wear-and-Tear)

Sellers would like to emphasize on how much they spent on the tent originally to try to get the highest price possible. Don’t get pulled into it. It doesn’t matter how much they originally paid for it. Ask how long the tent has been in their possession for. Ask them to disclose details like frequency of use and reason for selling. Even if not used frequently, every asset degrades and deteriorates in value over time.

Seeing is Believing

Most sellers would post pictures of their tents; however, it’s easy to manipulate pictures, like cropping out parts with damage or changing the filters to make the colors brighter and cleaner. Online auction sites are great because you get more options than you normally would if you only scouted for sellers in your area.

Before purchasing it online, check the location of the seller. If it’s possible for you to go check the item out for yourself, go ahead. Actually seeing the product with your own eyes is better than a thousand pictures. If someone is near your area and refuses your request to check the item out personally, it probably means they’re hiding something.

Evaluate the Seller and the Product

First, evaluate the seller. It’s better to shop at sites with a feedback system like eBay, so you can see the seller’s past transactions. Are they prompt with messages? Do they immediately send the product for delivery after payment has been made? Do they entertain queries and post-sale problems in a professional manner? Check past reviews for all transactions that the seller has been a part of. Profiles with no feedback or with lots of negative should be avoided.

After evaluating the seller, look at the product, meaning the brand and make. The seller might be the friendliest, and nicest person in the world, but maybe it’s the product itself that has the problem. Don’t concentrate on how much is a tent and instead, see if it’s worth the price. Who knows? That super cheap pop-up canopy might have the flimsiest aluminum framework ever made. Check product reviews on Ebay and Amazon to see if that particular brand and make is worth the money you’re spending on it.

Tips and Tricks

While you’re out buying a tent, here are some nice tips to keep in mind:

  • Remember to ask for the warranty. You’d think this is a must, but most previous owners will reason that they’ve lost it. You can still purchase the used tent without a warranty, but it’s a lot riskier.
  • If you want to visit the seller to examine the product yourself, try to have someone who knows a lot about tents in tow, or at least research that particular model and make beforehand so you know what to look for.

Buying A Brand New Tent

To be fair, there are a lot of used tent horror stories out there, and it’s difficult to find a seller that you can trust fully. You know who you can trust, though? The manufacturers themselves. Purchasing a brand new tent straight from the market is the only way you can ensure top quality for your tent purchase.

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You can check out some curated lists of some of the Kingpin's favorite new, never before used, party tents by clicking on one of the links below:

Buying them brand new like this is pretty much the only way you can guarantee a tent’s quality. If you’re the first owner, there’s no need to second-guess where the tent has been and how its previous owners have treated it.

However, even when buying brand new tents, you have to be careful. Not because of scams, but because there are so many things to consider when it comes to tents. Sure, you might get the tent that you need, but what if it’s the wrong size and type? When you buy brand new tents, most of the error come from the buyer itself.

Know Your Needs

The question, “how much does a party tent cost?” is pretty vague simply because of how many types and sizes of tents there are in the market. So to narrow it down, think about your needs. What are you going to use it for and how often are you going to use it?

For example, you need a tent for your beach excursions, then you would have no need of grand frame tents the size of a house.

Or what if you need it for a 5-day trade fair, a pop-up canopy might cross your mind. However, most canopies will not last 5 days straight so you might need something with a stronger framework, like a frame tent.

For some situations you may also need to know how much does a concrete tent cost if your venue doesn’t allow tampering and damaging of the grounds. NOTE FROM THE KINGPIN: Concrete tents are not made of concrete mind you, but they’re tents weighed down by bags or weight pads instead of stakes.

By knowing your needs, making the decision on which tent to go for becomes a lot easier.

Choose Tents with the Right Features

You can purchase the most basic of tents if you only need the bare necessities. Ordinary tents do a good job of protecting its occupants from light, rain, sunlight and winds (if it has a sidewall). However, most tents are just water-resistant, not waterproof.

If you feel like you need more, you can always get tents with more features. For example, a water resistant product is okay if you only have your tent set up for a few hours.

However, if your tent is up for most of the day and the weather in your area is particularly rainy, then a tent with waterproofing layers is the best choice.

If the tent will be near bonfires, grills and other sources of fire, you might want fire retardant properties on your tent. You might also want corrosive-resistance and rust-resistance if you feel like your tent is going to encounter really harsh weather or if you will use it in muddy or dirty locations.

Read Testimonials

People will always share a bad experience, either with a vendor or with the product itself. Word goes around quickly on the Internet, so play devil’s advocate with yourself and look for negative reviews and testimonials about the tent you have your eye on. If you see that the product is a solid purchase and the only problems people encountered with it are delivery errors made by the seller, just change vendors and order the same type of tent.

At the same time, don’t believe everything you see on the Interwebs. You might have seen several reviewers on Amazon who were given discounted prices on tents in exchange for a review. While most of them do give an unbiased review, you never know. It’s better to check the reviews of regular consumers who weren’t contracted to do a review.

Check All Inclusions

Know exactly what you are paying for. You can’t put up a tent with just the canopy alone, can you? Double check all inclusions with the seller. How many poles are included? How many stakes? How many guy ropes? All it takes is one missing vital part and you won’t be able to install your tent properly.

Tips and Tricks

When you’re out buying your new party tent, make sure to keep the following in mind:​

  • Buy during off-seasons. For example, if you’re looking for wedding tents, chances are you’ll find it difficult to do so during months where a lot of weddings take place (June, October, September). Likewise, buying a small EZ Pop-up canopy during summer beach months will also see you competing with other buyers.
  • Don’t be afraid to opt for delivery insurance, especially if you’re buying a fairly large tent.
  • Always keep the warranty and instruction manual in a safe place.

Pricing Matters: New Versus Used

We did our research on tent prices for both used and new tents are compared them side by side for your convenience.

Type of Tent Used Tents New Tents
10’x20’ EZ Pop-Up Canopy $50-70 $100-150
10’x30’ Wedding frame tent with canopy $80 -100 $100-120
30’x30’ Commercial party ten $2500-3200 $3800-$4500

Making A Decision

So which is the best course of action - renting a party tent or buying it outright? To make the decision easier for you, the Kingpin has compared and reviewed each option using important factors like price, design, availability, ease of use and others.

Tent Rentals Buying Used Tents Buying New Tents
Price Depends on provider rates, the cheapest option More expensive than rentals, cheaper than new tents. Can be resold or rented out to other people. Most expensive of all three options. Can be resold or rented out to other people.
Durability Depends on the quality of your provider’s service With damage, ranging from minor to major. Gravity of wear and tear depends on previous owner’s treatment of the tent. At the start of its lifespan. The product is at its best.
Design Limited to what your provider is offering. Limited to what is being sold by other individuals. More choices, can order straight from manufacturers.
Availability Busy seasons may mean no slots available for you. Depends on how many people are selling tents. More flexibility
Ease of Use Rental company can send men to transport, install and take down the tent for an extra fee Tent may have hiccup or quirk that only the previous owners know of Guides are easy to follow

Conclusion

Hopefully, you know by know how much does a party tent cost if you rent it, versus how much it costs if you buy it. The Kingpin also hopes that the side-by-side comparisons presented above have made the decision-making process a lot easier for you because let’s face it, the process doesn’t need to be that difficult.

So, cut yourself some slack and quit researching on what tent to buy and worrying about how much to rent a tent for a party is. Instead, the Kingpin suggests you spend more time actually enjoying the tent that you purchased or rented! Life is short... #YOLO!!!

Happy tent hunting canopy lovers!

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