Let’s face it. When it comes to exhibiting at a trade show, you’ve likely got quite a bit on your mind. Things like, which staff to bring, what products to highlight, how you’ll sort and qualify your leads, and which strategies you’ll implement before, during, and after the show to make it a success.

With all that going on, it can be a little difficult to devote some time to the trade show booth itself. And while you might think it plays a minimal role in your company’s success at the exhibition, your trade show booth is actually a key component to how your brand is perceived by potential clients; communicating aspects of your company in terms of professionalism, marketing prowess, and overall success. The question is, should you rent or buy your portable display?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, it’s important to note that there’s really no universally right answer to this question. The right answer, if there is one, is the solution that meets your needs, falls within your budget, and helps you accomplish your goals at the show.

The Ability to Change is Good

Trade show marketing is itself a very expensive enterprise. While owning your own display might be a good idea in terms not having to locate a rental display each year, it does somewhat limit your ability to alter your display to meet a change in your needs or if you noticed a particular element of your display wasn’t well received at a previous show. Having said that, owning your display does give you complete control of your display’s design, but it’s important to remember that if you do own your display, it should have enough customizability built into it that it can be changed from one year to the next, if need be.


Unfortunately, your budget might make the decision for you. A custom trade show booth design can be really expensive; if your rate of conversion is unknown or your goals for the show are modest in scope, shelling out for your own display this year might not be feasible. That doesn’t mean you should completely scrap the idea of owning over renting, just be mindful that your cost to exhibit at the show doesn’t cut too deeply into what you hope to achieve in terms of derived sales.

Storage Fees

If you own your own display, you’re going to have to pay to store it. Even if you store it on site, it’s going to take up room that you could be using for something else, and that equates to opportunity cost. Depending on the size of the display, off-site storage could cost you anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 annually, so it goes without saying that storage costs should definitely be considered when you’re making your decision.

Since buying versus renting seem to encompass two sides of the same coin, it should be noted that there’s a benefit to always having a display on hand that you can use whenever you want. This allows you to take advantage of show opportunities that arise (perhaps a show you weren’t going to attend). If you rent your display, taking advantage of such opportunities will depend largely on availability.

Cost of Ownership Diminishes Over Time

Yes, ownership can cost a lot, but if you’re able to use the same display year after year, you should be able to amortize a portion of the cost each year. Rental costs, however will only remain consistent or increase as time rolls on. Depending on your business, your brand, and the products you typically highlight at a show, using the same display year after year might work just fine for you.

Rentals Can be a Gamble

Rentals, by their very nature, see a lot of use. That means that even though it might only be a few years old, it can begin showing its age prematurely if proper care hasn’t been observed when storing, transporting, etc. In most cases, rental displays will look and operate just fine, but there’s always the risk that a worn, striped, or scuffed component will keep it from functioning the way you need it to.

To summarize, the rent versus buy discussion is one you might continue to have for some time, and your choice may change from one year to the next. Before you make your decision, spend some time to figure out how much you’re willing to spend, and what you need your display to accomplish, and you’ll be on the right track.