For many years, the rental of almost anything with wheels--cars, trailers and motor homes--was common, and it still is. In recent years, though, enterprising merchants have added tools, machinery, garden equipment and sick-room equipment to the rental market, not to mention the items listed below and many more.
Why rent at all? Some people find it difficult to make a final decision on purchasing an item, and renting gives them additional time; some want or need to preserve their cash. Others may want to try out a product before making a commitment. And many times, an item is not used often enough to warrant purchase.
Here are some of the more esoteric items "For Rent."
Furniture and Accessories: Many companies will rent special pieces or a complete setup for home or office. An office can be custom decorated for about $300 per month. Express Furniture Rental, 15020 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 905-6600, offers renters an option to buy their rented furniture, with the total rental fee applied toward purchase after 24 months; many doctors and lawyers use this service.
Entertainers who travel a lot may prefer renting furnished houses to purchasing homes. Homeowners about to list a house for sale and eager to add just the touch that will make it more attractive may find that renting a single piece, or accessories, is very helpful. Many model homes are furnished with rented furniture. Of course TV and movie studios are good rental customers.
Art: If you want to surround yourself with art without dipping deeply into your pockets, consider becoming a member of the Los Angeles County Art Museum. You can join for $45, after which you will be able to rent paintings by emerging artists for a minimum of two months. Cost runs from $20 to $120, depending on the work you select. For additional information, call the museum, (213) 857-6500, Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Flags: Big productions in your plans? You can rent flags--from 1 to 100--for graduations, conventions and meetings. Jones Decorating Co., 2807 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 413-4060, will rent a flag (standard size is 3 by 5 feet) plus base and pole for as little as $15 per week.
Party Equipment: Renting is a natural for party givers. Tables, chairs, linens, glassware and place settings are common rental items. But you can also rent a wooden dance floor that covers your pool or the ticket drums needed for a raffle. Call American Rent-All, 18251 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, (818) 345-4102, or Rentals West, 21250 Califa St. No. 101, Woodland Hills, (818) 703-7272. Depending on the theme, you can add to the life of the party by renting a man in a gorilla suit, a clown, or a pretty woman who jumps out of a cake. If you're planning a party for youngsters, you can rent a pony or a yard full of farm animals by calling Rent-A-Pony, 8225 1/2 Tampa Ave., Reseda, (818) 341-6805.
Photo Equipment: When you need specialized photographic or TV equipment on a short-term basis, Sherman Oaks Camera and Sound Inc., 14005 Ventura Blvd., (818) 981-2510, rents video cameras, VCRs, overhead projectors, still cameras, lenses and lighting equipment.
Camping Equipment: Outdoor enthusiasts who don't want to make the cash investment or simply don't have room to store the gear can find all the essentials, from stoves ($6 to $9 per week) and tents ($16 to $45 per week) to backpacks and lanterns, at Hume's Sales and Rentals, 1024 W. Burbank Blvd., Burbank, (818) 848-4457.
Chain-Link Fencing: Ever wonder how the many feet of fencing around building sites go up so quickly when the digging begins and come down so suddenly when construction is completed? It's rented! The enclosures for rodeos, carnivals and movie location shootings are all temporary and are rented from companies like S&S Rent-A-Fence, based in Sylmar, (818) 362-9321. They charge by the foot for periods from a few months to several years.
Baby Furniture: Equipment for hosting grandchildren or infant guests is available on a rental basis. Cribs (including mattresses), strollers, car seats and highchairs are offered by the Juvenile Shop, 4402 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 937-0660. Most items rent for $11 per week--cribs for $23.
Tropical Fish: If you would like tropical fish to add to the decor of your home, lobby or office but know little about maintaining an aquarium, you can rent the tank, the filtering system and the fish, and contract for regular maintenance. Aquarium Design International, 7020 Hayvenhurst St., Van Nuys, will set you up for any size operation (fresh or saltwater). Call (818) 781-6057.
Guard Dogs: Concerned about intruders and interested in protection other than a security system? Contact Golden West K-9. Fred McNabb has 28 teams composed of a bonded and licensed security guard and a dog--either a Rottweiler or German shepherd--trained to patrol private homes, construction sites, shopping centers and recreation parks. These man-dog teams live and train together and are available for as brief a time as four hours or on a long-term contract. Call (818) 897-5965 for further information.