What is Better - Buying or Renting a Water Heater?
Comparing Pros and Cons

Tank-type water heaterTank-type water heater
Tankless water heaterTankless water heater

The question "buying or renting a water heater" is not equally present in North America or Canada. Renting as an option is so poorly represented in the market that many consumers don't even know that it exists. So, they never called the utility company to ask about the rental program or have been approached by the sales rep.

Meanwhile, when you move into a new house in Ontario, it is not quite unusual to sign a water heater renting agreement or take it over from the previous owner. It looks like homeowners prefer renting, without further analysis.

Over the last few years, however, things are changing. If you compare costs for renting vs. buying a new heating appliance, you may find that the second one is more economical. Water heater renting is starting to be called "fad," let's cite the mildest word.

At the same time, renting companies in Canada and United States are arguing that their offer is superior.

How to make a smart decision or, what are the advantages and disadvantages of buying vs. renting, let's compare the options.

Is buying a water heater better? Or, renting maybe?

Things to consider

When it comes to deciding between buying or renting a water heater, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Upfront cost: Buying a water heater outright can be more expensive upfront than renting one, as you will need to pay for the unit and the installation costs.
  • Long-term costs: Renting a water heater may be more expensive in the long run, as you will be paying a monthly rental fee over the life of the unit. On the other hand, if you buy a water heater, you will not have any ongoing rental fees to pay. I pay approximately one hundred dollars every three months for the Rheem 50-gal power-vent gas water heater from Reliance.
  • Maintenance: With a rental water heater, the rental company is responsible for any necessary maintenance and repairs. However, with a purchased water heater, you will need to cover the cost of any repairs yourself.
  • Ownership: When you buy a water heater, you own it outright and can do with it as you please. However, with a rental water heater, you are essentially borrowing the unit from the rental company and will need to return it when you are no longer using it.
  • Long-term investment: When you buy a water heater, you are making a long-term investment in your home. A high-quality water heater can last for many years and can add value to your home if you decide to sell it in the future. This is especially true for tankless and hybrid water heaters.
  • Flexibility: If you choose to rent a water heater, you may have more flexibility to switch to a newer or larger unit if your needs change. However, if you own a water heater, you will need to pay for a new unit if you want to upgrade.

Why should I buy a water heater?

Once you buy a water heater, it is in your ownership, and no one could take it away. There is no additional obligation.

A new appliance has a warranty. For the tank-type water heaters, the range is commonly five to ten years, for tankless even 15 years. Vendors also include some extra maintenance assistance to attract their customers.

Retailers often offer flexible monthly payments even without a down payment. If you want to pay off the remaining balance, it could be done at any time, usually without penalty.

Why should I not buy a water heater?

When you buy a new water heater, the installation cost is yours. It may be high, in some cases almost half the cost of a water heater. Our advice is - do not try to install a water heater yourself. It may be dangerous, or if there is a problem, the warranty is void.

Hire a licensed plumber who knows about gas, electric, and plumbing work and has a good knowledge of the local and national codes.

You have to calculate and predict your household's hot water needs (sizing) accurately before buying. Appliances decrease value quickly, and you will be at a loss if you want to replace it with a more efficient model years after.

Once the warranty expires, the owner pays all the repairs, as the water heater is old enough to develop problems.

Buying and installing a tankless water heater is not cheap, but there are many advantages:

  • Tankless delivers an endless supply of hot water fast and on-demand.
  • Tankless are ultra-efficient (such as condensing models) and Energy Star, saving you money.
  • Tankless are small and are installed on the wall.
  • Some tankless such as Rinnai have a voice activation system, recirculation system and are Wi-Fi compatible.
  • Due to on-demand heating, hot water is always delivered fresh.

Is renting a water heater better?

Why should I rent a water heater?

If you rent a water heater from local or national companies such as Direct Energy, Reliance or any other, you will have a free installation, lifetime service, maintenance, repair, and replacement.

The monthly rental rate is the only payment. For example, for a 40-gal Rheem power vent water heater, I was paying approximately 25 CDN per month in 2019 (Ontario, Canada).

You can expect a quick response to any problem and customer service with a 24/7/365 emergency phone number.

Why should I not rent a water heater?

The rental provider's agreement is very detailed and must be considered carefully. There are circumstances in which the services and repairs are not free of charge. Ask what is included in the standard installation. Read parts of the agreement called "policies," "cancellation terms," "limitations of liability,"... and be sure to understand them correctly.

Expect your monthly payment to rise. A standard rental term is 15 years, and an annual increase is typically between 3.5% and 3.8%.

If you decide to buy out a water heater from the rental company, it is not a good deal. The price is always high.

So what is better, buying or renting a water heater?

As we can see there are many pros and cons of buying and renting a water heater, so you need to decide taking into account your needs, plans, wishes, budget...

Some calculations show that after 8-9 years of usage, buying becomes more profitable than renting. We add – most of the time. A water heater needs to be maintained regularly to reach its full lifetime. Repairs and maintenance may be more or less expensive, regardless of the factors under our control.

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