To Rent or To Purchase your Trade Show Exhibit?

To Rent or To Purchase your Trade Show Exhibit?

When preparing for a trade show, you can either design and purchase your own booth or rent one. Both options have their pros and cons. It really depends on your company’s needs.

What is the Rule of Thumb?

If you only need a booth once in a blue moon; or unsure if exhibiting will reap a return on investment; or just wish to test a certain booth design, it makes sense to rent.

On the other hand, if your company plans to participate in many shows; or needs a booth built exactly the way it wants including the choice of materials/finishes used and how the brand is represented, then you probably need to consider purchasing your own booth.

Often, in the fast changing business and exhibiting environment, the decision to rent or to buy may not be so straightforward. It may involve other considerations and makes deciding which way to go a challenging one. Here are some other key considerations you may want to take into account:


Purchasing a booth may involve a considerable capital investment and therefore usually requires more administration and processing time. Depending on the accounting policy, the capital expense incurred would normally be depreciated over a fixed schedule.

With rentals, there is no initial investment and thus more straightforward in administration and processing. You rent the structure and invest in the graphics.

If you are very active in trade show marketing with many shows a year, the cost of owning a booth is very likely be less than renting. However, in some circumstances, depending on your show program, it may make more sense to rent though you have many shows (read on for those circumstances you may consider to rent).

Generally, when it comes to many shows, renting a booth could, over time, cost you more than owning. But you enjoy flexibility that sometimes can be quite costly if not totally prohibited when committed to owning a booth, making it easier to revise and change booth design according to your changing marketing strategy.


When you have multiple shows a year with show dates that are back to back, on the same date or shows in different venues with a tight schedule, it would probably be more viable and cost effective to negotiate a comprehensive rental program with the professional exhibit house. You may even request for a dedicated project management team and multi-show discount.

In addition, with multiple shows, they are likely to have different floor plans, floor space, height restrictions or other discrepancies. A rental program allows necessary changes to be made easily to meet each individual show’s requirements. This could be potentially complicated, costly or totally impossible if you own a specific size booth.

Do you need to make frequent changes to your logo, graphics or marketing message? Do you frequently introduce new products to the market? Is your industry going through rapid changes? Is your business overlaps with more than one industry? If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, a rental program is more flexible to accommodate frequent changes or updates.

To be successful in trade show marketing, it is important for the exhibit structure, the graphics and the marketing strategy to evolve depending on the show and/or corporate goals. In that respect, renting may become your best option.

Shipping, Storage, Maintenance and Repair Costs

These costs are your responsibility when you own the trade show exhibit, not when you rent which save time, money and hassle.

Making the Decision

Making a decision to rent or purchase is not about making compromises. There is a wide range of designs with different price points for different budgets and marketing goals. Just select what works best for the business. It may mean renting and experimenting a structure or design before making a commitment to purchase. Or for branding purposes, to purchase exhibit that gives a consistent look and feel for regular shows; and rent something more elaborate for a one-time need such as to launch a new product or enter a new market with a rented large island booth.

In short, different approach for different need and budget. It is not just about how much you invest but maximizing your return on investment and accomplishing your marketing goals.

Hope this helps. If you are still unsure which way to go, feel free to contact us.