Rental equipment can add more muscle to your fleet so you can take on a large project without buying more machines. And borrowing equipment from a rental house can allow you to get into new types of work or grow an area of your business to discover its potential before you invest in buying the tools.

For these reasons and more – like getting a machine in a pinch when you’ve got equipment down – your local equipment rental provider is an important partner.

“Rental equipment can enable contractors to get jobs they might not have before,” says Nick Casale, vice president of Casale Rent-All in Clifton Park, New York.

Casale also says education is an important part of renting out equipment. Not only do rental associates consult with contractors to help them select the most efficient, cost-effective and productive tools for their jobs – they also walk through important maintenance and fueling information so the equipment can perform as expected.

There are dos and don’ts for renting equipment. And the ideal rental customer is one who owns some equipment and needs more machines for a job, says Darren Lewis, branch administrator at Company Wrench in Charlotte, North Carolina. “They know how to take care of equipment and have qualified operators to run it,” he says.

Ultimately, you should run rental equipment like you own it. Here are some pointers to be sure you’re maximizing the possibilities of rental equipment.

Plan ahead.

Last-minute jobs pop up; machines go down. You can’t always arrange rentals a week in advance. But, when that flexibility is possible, do plan ahead. “Even a few days in advance is helpful and will give you opportunities for the best options available from the rental house,” Casale says. “The more notice you can give, the more likely you are to get the best tool for what you need and to be ready to rock and roll for your project.”

Talk about the job.

Explain the project you’re tackling to the rental provider. “Our staff generally asks multiple questions before renting equipment, including what the job will be and what materials the contractor will be dealing with,” Lewis says. “That makes it easier for our sales force to match a piece of equipment for the job if the contractor isn’t sure.”

And sometimes, customers ask for a piece of equipment that might not be the best fit. “There’s no sense in renting out a massive piece of equipment if we can show them something else that will do what they need and save them money,” Lewis says.

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Understand maintenance needs.

Some of the biggest mistakes happen because operators use the wrong fuel or put fuel in the wrong reservoir. “We see quite often where contractors will put diesel fuel in the after-treatment system or into the hydraulic system,” Lewis says. “That can cause a lot of damage – a lot of damage.”

Damage done to equipment during the rental period is fixed by the rental house, and the rental customer picks up the tab for service.

Another issue is allowing diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) to run out, which can cause damage. This fluid is designed to trap nitrogen particles so they don’t release into the exhaust.

Casale advises customers who are renting equipment that will sit out in cold temperatures to use pre-treated fuel. “If the machine is sitting idle in winter, the diesel fuel can actually gel up,” he says. “Then, when you need the machine for a snow storm, (it won’t start).”

So, be sure to find out exactly what type of fuel the rental equipment requires. Ask about other fluids you’ll need to replace during the time of rental. A salesperson at the rental house will walk you through fueling basics because every machine is different.

“Ask the rental company if they can give you an abbreviated list of things you should and should not do for maintenance,” Casale says. “Some machines require that you grease certain points on them.”

The rental company might come to the jobsite to check on the equipment to see if needs service or maintenance. “Depending on the length of the rental, we’ll service the equipment as needed,” Lewis says. “But our customers are required to grease pivot points on a daily basis because of the wear.”

Snap a picture.

Before you leave the rental provider, Casale suggests taking pictures of the equipment to denote any wear and tear or marks and the general condition of the machine. “Just like if you were renting a car, take pictures as you are taking possession of the equipment so you have those for your records,” he says.

Treat it like your own.

“When we supply equipment for rental, it is sent out into the field very clean,” Lewis says. “It has been serviced and all the pivot points are greased. It’s full of fuel.”

When you return the equipment, it should be in the same condition as when you left the rental house with it on your truck.

The bottom line.

A rental provider can be so much more than a place to get extra equipment.

Beyond actual equipment, a rental company can be a great place to network and even find new customers, Casale says. “We get to know contractors and if they come in and are looking to subcontract out work, we can give referrals,” he says.

When homeowners stop in looking for equipment, uncertain if they can actually do the job, Casale says his team can send them to area contractors who specialize in the work they want to accomplish. “We want to be the easiest part of our customers’ day and help them solve their problems,” he says.