Should You Rent a Trade Show Booth?

At some point in their marketing life, trade show exhibitors take a long, hard look at their booth and realize the magic has gone out of the relationship. They may wonder if the time has come to rent a trade show booth. That realization and self-questioning can be based on numerous factors:

1. Your Booth Has Seen Better Days

Are you currently the laughingstock of the trade shows you attend? Is your existing exhibit being held together with duct tape, twine, and a prayer? Maybe it even has coffee stains from three years ago.

A worn and battered booth does not favorably represent your organization and deters prospects from visiting and taking you seriously.

Ready to rent a trade show booth? We have a wide selection of trade show booth rental options

RE-2099 20ft Rental Display

2. Your Booth No Longer Matches Your Message

Your organization may have recently done some re-branding, launched a new product, or entered a new vertical market.

Whatever the reason may be, it is possible your old booth no longer matches your new corporate image or collateral.

If this is the case, you may need to set that booth out on the curb with a big FREE sign taped to it.

3. Your Booth Is Too Small

It’s fine to exhibit from a cozy booth when you’re just starting out, but as your business grows, you’ll most likely discover you could use some more booth space for meetings, presentations, storage, and demos.

It also doesn’t hurt to have a larger footprint and make a bigger impact at these events.

4. Your Booth Is Too Big

Maybe your marketing budget has shrunk, and you now find yourself wishing you had a smaller exhibit (at least for the next few years) to bring down your operating costs.

Maybe you’ve simply decided that your best strategy is to attend more small shows instead of a few colossal ones, and you need something… quaint, but something that will still make you look like a leader in your industry.

5. You Need an Extra Booth for Those International Shows

Look at you, you hot shot – insinuating yourself into those overseas markets!

Instead of paying huge shipping costs and hassling with customs to send your booth over there and back, you’ll probably want to get a dedicated trade exhibit that you can store over there.

6. Conflicting Schedules Warrant Another Booth

As you find more trade show events you want to enter, you’ll likely find some are scheduled at the exact same time, or the shows are too close together and don’t give you enough time to ship and set up for the next event.

If this has been happening, it may be time to pick up another booth.

7. A Certain Shipping Company Has Yet to Locate Your Exhibit

The sad reality is each year, numerous trade show displays get lost during shipping.

What are you going to do? Mistakes happen…

The good news is your shipping company might even admit responsibility and agree to pay for a replacement. If that happens, you may be able to afford a bit of an upgrade.

8. Your Current Booth is Extremely Hard to Set Up

When you were shopping for your last booth, you focused more on glitz and glamor and didn’t really pay attention to how difficult the darn thing is to get up.

Maybe you got a “portable” display that is ridiculously heavy to carry around (you just love all the terse phone calls you get from your salespeople) (and don’t even get started about the ridiculous shipping and drayage fees).

If one or more of the above had you fervently nodding your head, then you are ready for a new booth. BUT…

Now you have to decide whether you will buy or rent a trade show booth.

Considerations: Purchase or Rent a Trade Show Booth?

So, you have decided your old booth just isn't cutting it for whatever reason. Now is the time to act ahead of your next trade show event.

Below, you will find a few considerations to keep in mind when it comes to choosing between a booth rental or a booth purchase.

Custom Island Rental Booth

Custom Island Rental Display

The Number of Trade Shows You Exhibit at Each Year

This is one of the biggest deciding factors.

If your organization exhibits at a good number of shows per year (five or more), buying your booth may make the most sense. When shopping for a new display, just remember to factor in those additional costs like shipping, drayage, insurance, storage, and maintenance.

If you typically only exhibit at two or three shows each year, then deciding to rent a trade show booth is probably more cost-effective.

In general, renting a booth is about 1/3 the cost of purchasing, plus you don’t have to tack on storage, maintenance, and insurance fees.

But that’s not the end of the story. There are lots of other factors to consider!

You’re New to Exhibiting

New businesses typically attend only a few shows a year and operate under small marketing budgets. These organizations might benefit from renting their exhibits in a couple of ways:

  • Renting would stretch their budgeting dollars, which could then go toward marketing collateral, giveaways, and show graphics.
  • Renting allows new businesses the ability to try out different exhibit configurations and a new exhibit design. Once they find what works, they can then buy their booth and repeat their success.

Multiple Shows at the Same Time

As we mentioned earlier, there may be times throughout the year when your organization must be represented at more than one event at the same time, including overseas. In this scenario, it would make sense to own one booth and rent a second just on those occasions when needed.

Different Sized Booths Spaces at Your Shows

Many companies attend one major industry show each year and want to make a grand impression. However, they may also be attending a dozen regional shows, with no place to put their big booth. Often in these cases, it makes sense to own the smaller displays and banner stands but rent the big booth.

Changing Marketing Goals and/or Products

These days, many industries are changing very quickly, and companies may need to change their look, change their booth, and accommodate different products and different goals with almost every show. In this case, it may be less costly to rent because it gives you the needed flexibility to handle your changing needs.

What Does Your Budget Say?

It’s not just the total cost – buying an exhibit means that display expenditure will remain part of your overall marketing budget for several years, while the cost of renting applies to a single budgeted year and doesn’t involve storage, maintenance, or depreciation.

Your budget may also dictate which way to go when it comes to considering your initial investment. Owning may make a lot of sense to you for a few different reasons, but if your budget currently does not allow for a larger upfront cost, you may be forced to use trade show booth rentals for a few years until you can afford to buy. Take heart; renters don’t experience the dreaded depreciation that buyers do.

If you do have a large enough budget, consider what spending a large portion of it upfront will mean for the rest of your marketing year? Will this budget allocation forces you to skip other trade show events throughout the year?

As you can see, both buying and renting have their advantages and disadvantages. As long as you thoroughly assess your organization’s exhibiting needs and take careful consideration of your budget, you’ll be able to make the right decision.

If you got any questions about trade show booth rental options, let us help! We have lots of trade show booth rental options, including hybrid modular booths, turnkey truss display rentals, pop up booths, and overhead hanging signs.

For more discussion, check out why bigger isn’t always better or ways to make your trade show booth stronger.

20x50 Rental Booth

20x50 Rental Booth

Booth Rent and Purchase FAQ

Still not sure whether to go for an exhibit rental or purchase? See our FAQ below.

How do you order a trade show rental booth?

Simply find a company that you like and inquire about their current trade show booth rental opportunities. At American-Image, you get more value for your budget, and you don't require storage after the trade show. You will also not have to contend with lost parts of future maintenance costs. Every rental display has a fresh look. There are also turnkey options available for full turnkey show management. 

How do you compare trade show booth rental proposals?

If you plan on renting a booth, you want to review everything before signing on the dotted line. Renting helps you avoid long term storage costs. A one-time booth rental also usually costs only one-third of an equivalent new booth build. 

To get started, you need a detailed proposal when it comes to your expectations. What kind of electrical and wiring needs do you have? What kind of interactive equipment will you use at the trade show? You will also need to consider your graphics and what kind of equipment you will need to display them. 

Also, ask for line-item descriptions to get a detailed and clear picture of all the costs involved with your trade show booth rental. You want to have all the information possible to ensure that you stay within your budget and still have some wiggle room.

How much is a booth at a trade show?

The total costs of your booth at a trade show will depend on the size and layout of your booth, as well as what you have included. The industry average for trade show booth costs is between $100 and $150 per square foot. This number gets higher with the more customizations you choose. You also have to factor in shipping costs. A larger display (40 x 40, for example) will be much more expensive to ship than a 10 x 10 exhibit display.

How do you care for your rental trade show display?

If you choose a trade show booth rental, you want to take good care of it because you are liable for all damaged parts and components. Be sure to follow all assembly and disassembly procedures and follow all packaging instructions for transporting and storing. 

Wipe down all the surfaces and remove any of your purchased graphics and other components from the display. Once this is done, inspect the display and its hardware for damage, including scratches, dents, and other blemishes. 

Finally, make sure every piece of equipment you rented is accounted for before returning the rented display. 

Can you write off booth rent?

When it comes to trade show costs, the floor space rental and the exhibit account for approximately 40% of all the trade show costs. However, you can deduct trade show registration fees and other expenses from your tax return to offset these costs. 

Can you rent a custom exhibit for a trade show?

Some do offer customized trade show booth rental options. You can also find a cost-effective custom rental exhibit that can easily adapt to your budget and trade show schedule. A custom exhibit rental lets you bypass a cookie-cutter booth design.