Should I rent or buy a violin?

Ah, the age-old question!  Many parents struggle with the decision.  You have an aspiring young violinist, but should you rent a violin, or buy it?  This can be a big financial commitment either way.  Learning to play the violin does come with a bit of expense.  So, what is the best decision for your family?  Should you rent a violin, or buy one?  In this post, I’ll go over a few of the major considerations, so that hopefully, you can make a better-informed decision.

What size violin will your child need?

Is your child going to need a violin that is 1/4 size, or smaller?  If you answer ‘yes’ to this question, then renting an instrument might be your best bet.  Children who are small enough to need a 1/4 size violin or smaller are still growing fairly rapidly.  You are going to be changing out instruments pretty often, and you’re going to go through several instruments before your child is big enough to consider buying.

On the other hand, if you’re going to be starting out with a full-sized violin, there’s really no reason to rent.  Buying an instrument would be a far better choice.  Rental fees add up fast, and if there’s no size changing to worry about, well, it really isn’t worth all the extra expense!  Choosing to rent a violin in that situation probably isn’t the best idea.

Is your child sure he or she really wants to play the violin?

Many children get really excited about learning to play a new instrument…this week.  Next week, they may be really excited about learning to play the tuba.  Or maybe your child knows they want to play an instrument, but they really aren’t sure which one…there are a lot of choices out there!  If this sounds like your child, renting a violin may be your best bet.  Many shops that offer instrument rentals will allow you to switch the kind of instrument you’re renting without any penalty at least once.  However, if you’ve already invested in a violin, you’ll have to sell it yourself when you get that tuba!

What are the rental terms available from your local shop?

We have a few shops around here where you can rent a violin.  They each have similar rental agreements, but do have a few key differences.  It’s important to do your research to find out what features each shop offers on their rental agreements before making a final decision on whether to rent or buy your instrument.

Most shops have different rental levels, and price ranges for their rental instruments.  Our local shops range from approximately $15/month all the way up to $40/month for a rental violin.  Now, this price obviously includes the violin itself, but what else is included? 

Usually, the rental price is for a whole rental “outfit”.  An outfit usually includes at least the bow and the case in addition to the instrument.  Often, it will also include the shoulder rest and a collapsible metal music stand as well.  Some shops even throw in a method book of choice.

But often, that’s not the end of the story. 

Since many rental shops cater to the school orchestra market, your rental fee will sometimes also cover basic instrument maintenance and repair (string replacement, bridge straightening, etc…pretty much anything that isn’t due to your child mistreating the violin), along with delivery back and forth to the child’s school.  Obviously, if your child isn’t a member of the school orchestra, this portion of the rental agreement won’t apply to you.  But it is rather convenient if your child is a member of their school orchestra.

Often, your rental supplier will also offer a rent to buy option.  It’s important to fully research this option before deciding on a provider.  Some shops allow you to put all of your rental fees toward buying an instrument.  Some only allow a percentage.  A few will allow you to switch instruments once without losing your prior accumulated principal, others won’t.  These are the options where different shops really vary a lot from one another, so it’s really important to find out exactly what you are getting before signing on that dotted line!

These are really just a few of the major things to consider before deciding whether to rent or buy a violin, but I hope this has been helpful in giving you a few points to think about.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments section.  I try to answer all comments as quickly as I possibly can!