Buy or Hire???
by Mark Wilson (Manager)
As a manager at a kit hire company, one would expect me to immediately say hire, never buy. But that is not the case. Don’t get me wrong, it’s never a simple this or that answer. You always have to weigh up the pros and cons for each circumstance. Because every hire is different. It didn’t use to be though. 7 years ago when I first started in the hire industry, you had 5 items that would make up a kit and that was it. The client was happy. The booker was happy. It was an easier time. EX3, tripod, top mic, radio mic and cards. That’s the price. Done. And in that case I would say always hire. But now it’s a completely different ball game with all of the accessories and ‘build it yourself rigs’ that are available. Every shooter wants something different and this does put the pressure on the hire company to be able to stock and supply everything that is requested. So you have to take that in to account when making the decision. Can the hire company supply me with everything I need?
Of course the biggest factor in this question is cost. If you are shooting long term, would the cost of hire be as much, or more than the value of the kit to purchase. If so, then if funds are available for an outright purchase it would be a no brainer to buy, because if the kit was not needed after the production, the equipment can be sold on and you can make some of the initial outlay back. But what do you lose in buying kit, rather than hiring? The main thing would be peace of mind to know that if any issues arose with the kit while on a shoot, the hire company would replace or repair any item where a natural fault occurs, usually at little or no charge. Being able to have a technical team at the end of the phone to help with situations on location is always a bonus. Something that you may not have access to if you are not using a suppliers kit. It’s also good to be able to build a kit list with someone who knows all of the various kit that is available. If you have a PD who is so well versed in all equipment that is on the market right now, then great. But if your PM or Coordinator is working from a loose kit list that they have to bring together for a production, being able to speak and liaise with a booker at a hire company allows for a much fuller kit list to be built.
If you do come to the point of measuring up costs between hire and purchase, do take into consideration all of the extras that may not be as obvious when purchasing. It’s not always as easy as googling the cost of a C300mkii body, lens, tripod and mic because more often than not there will be a lot of extra bits you need to purchase just to get the kit up and running. Things like batteries, memory cards, bags, grips, cables and all of the fun little bits that actually turn out to be quite expensive. Things that would normally come as standard with a kit when hiring or at a smaller price. This is again a pro to hiring, because more often or not, the little things have been thought of.
So my advice to those who are gearing up for a shoot or production and may face this question is do your homework. Get together a complete kit list of what your shooter will need and get the quotes from a hire company to rent, and sales company to buy. If the quotes come back and it’s a close call, then ask yourself, what will we do if there is a problem at any point with the kit? And can I afford to buy all of the equipment and related accessories upfront? The thought of buying and owning can be a tempting one, but from my experience of long shoots and productions is that items are constantly added during production that may not be thought of in pre-production. So purchase costs can inflate, whereas the cost to hire is often lower. And there is nothing like knowing you can call on someone to sort out any equipment problems that may arise.