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Clark Howard: Why rent-to-own is poison to your pocketbook

The promises made by rent-to-own stores sound alluring. They’ll say you can have this new TV, computer, washer, dryer, even furniture for only $9.99 or whatever it is per week. But rent-to-own is a way to get yourself into so much more financial trouble than you’re already in.

Those places are poison to your pocketbook. You pay what seems like such a small amount per week. But if you miss a single payment — and I’m talking after you’ve been paying on time for months and months — they come and take away whatever it was they gave you.

You have no rights because you’re just renting with an option to own, but at a price that usually will be four times what it costs to own the item. TVs are one of the worst product categories, because you can easily pay five to six times what it would cost you to buy the TV outright.

So what do you do if the TV you have now breaks and you’re tempted to do rent-to-own? Tough it out and, if you need to, go spend $25 on a used TV. Then save the money until you can pay cash for a new set.

Because again, the lure of rent-to-own is that’s it’s so simple. You make that call, you go in the door, and hours later, two very nice guys will show up with a truck at your home or apartment and bring in whatever you signed up to rent. But just because it’s easy, just because it’s friendly -— don’t fall for it. They’ll be back to take it away if you miss a payment.

We’re coming up on layaway season. When there’s an electronics item you want, put it on layaway. You’ll get a very cheap price and pay it off week by week. Sure, you can’t use it until you pay it off in full, but you’ll get a deal.

And because used computers cost almost nothing, don’t ever pay to rent to own a computer.

Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website

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