Random Business Idea: LCD/DLP Projector Rental Service

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Recently, I got placed in charge of trying to obtain an LCD projector for a family event. Has anyone else out there had to do this? What kind of prices did you get? I found that renting an LCD projector directly from a higher-end hotel costs at least $500. An hour. Then I searched for local or online stores, and found the cost was around $200-$350 for one day. The high end was including delivery and pickup, but neither place actually would help me set things up. Finally, we worked something out with a friend of a friend.

Is it me, or is the highest ratio of renting/owning of any product? I can rent a car for $50 a day, but not an LCD projector?!

This got me thinking – wouldn’t this be a great business? You can buy a solid 3,000 lumen DLP projector for about $1,000. Basic ones start at $500. You don’t need a HD or home theater version, most people are just doing PowerPoint presentations or picture slideshows. You can also pick up a screen and stand (many places just let you use the screen they have) for another couple hundred dollars. After some quick brainstorming, here’s a rough plan of attack:

1) Set it up. Pick a name “AnyTown Speedy Projector Rental”, and put up a professional-looking website with your phone number and nice description of your equipment. Help out some friends and add some testimonials and references. Definitely put up a “Best Price Guarantee”.

If you need a business license for your area, grab one of those for $50 or so. Get a merchant account so you can accept credit cards.

2) Do cheap guerrilla marketing. List your service on Craigslist. Tell everyone you know. Put a big sign on your car. Maybe start a highly geo-targeted Google Adwords search engine advertising campaign. Contact some wedding coordinators and offer a referral fee or reciprocal marketing agreement.

3) Price aggressively and offer extras. On most days, you could simply require them to pick up the day before the event, and drop back off at your house the day after. Take their credit card information and make them sign a damage waiver stating that they will be liable for replacement. Charge… say… $100 per day (ignore the pick-up and drop-off days). In 10-11 rentals, you’ve broken even. After that, it’s all profit!

(With the “Best Price Guarantee” you could simply ask them their lowest quote, offer 10-20% less, and charge even more than $100.)

My idea is that on weekends (when most people need it), you can also offer “professional setup” by bringing your own laptop and speaker system, and running the show yourself for an additional price. Lots of times the projector part only last for less than an hour. Maybe charge $250 for the delivery, rental, and the first 2 hours of work. This is cheaper than any other person I’ve talked to. As long as you’re pretty good with computers, you could be a one-man show.

For someone looking for ways to earn some extra cash on the side, I think this could be very viable. People are already doing it on Craigslist. You could even use it at home to watch movies when it’s not rented out. Poke holes in my idea in the comments! 😀 Got your own instant biz ideas? Share those too!

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  1. A friend of mine needed one of these for a big affair at a hotel in downtown Chicago. He was using it for a power point ‘this is your life’ type presentation. $600 to rent from the hotel. The problem is that the hotel REQUIRED you to rent it from THEM if you were going to use one in their hotel. Talk about rip-offs!

  2. Umm… great idea Jonathan! I’d be tempted to include PA systems in there as well, also good for weddings and they cost like $1000 each. I’m searching local listings in my other browser tab.

  3. In consider myself a bit of a projector offciaionato. I have written a few posts on home theater projectors on my blog.

    Which home theater projector to buy

    What to look for in a home theater projector

    I am fairly familiar with business projectors as well. If you need any advice on projectors to buy let me know.

  4. Mark,
    What if you already owned a projector? Would the hotel not let him use it?

  5. I like this. Some questions:

    How do we make sure that the projector is returned in good condition? Especially in cases where they don’t hire us (the renter) to do the setup?

    And how do we handle the risk of a customer returning damaged projector, which may look good outside, but is damaged inside? (Coffee spill, soda spill, dropped on the ground etc)

    Another random though not exactly new idea: Teach someone interested how to drive stickshift. What are the legalities and technicalities?

  6. What happened to the site? I couldn’t access it early today :-s

    This is a great business idea Jon! You might also want to see if the local companies similar to rent-a-center does this, to scout the competition. Another marketing gimmick is to partner with the owners of hotels, and other community spaces to promote your services.

    Gates VP: I’m 100% with you to thinking of other items you can do this with. Now, if only my day job allows me to do this… 🙁

    Fresh Mexican Food:
    I am not familiar if there are insurance for such cases. If not, another way to protect your investment is to include it in the agreement clause that the responsible party will have to fork it over. But I think the insurance way is the less hassle one.

    If someone out there does this, I would like to hear from you!

  7. MONEY BLUE BOOK says:

    If you want to be sneaky, you could always buy it and then return it later. I think many places have restocking fees for projectors however.

    – Raymond

  8. Yeah, most people needs this at hotels and such, and they lock you in to renting from there, and bringing in your own is usually a no-no. Also, if you rented these out for private parties, you may be liable for copyright infringement if they choose to play a dvd for their friends and family. Yeah, crazy right?

  9. Kevin Spring says:

    This is a good idea. The cheapest rental in my area is $100/day. Don’t forget to have them put down a deposit. This may cover any deductible the insurance company may charge to replace the unit.

  10. Enticing idea. I agree that there should be a lower cost way. Here is my calculation: projectors cost $1,000 and run for about 2,000 hours. New bulbs cost $300. Assume you buy a projector and replace the bulb three times before you need to replace it (so a total of 8,000 hours). This means the projector costs about 25 cents per hour, or just under $6 per 24 hour time period.

    If you charge $50 it seems like you’d make a killing.

  11. Yeah my server went splat for much of today. 🙁

    As for insurance, I just figure you could charge the credit card like I imagine other rental companies do. Might have to get more familiar with the dispute process, however. A deposit would probably be a good idea as well.

  12. Kevin Spring says:

    It would be a better idea to have insurance and charge each customer a little bit of the premium. It would be hell trying to charge their credit card $1000 for a broken or stolen projector through small claims court.

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    Good Luck!

  14. Hmmm, very interesting idea. I’ve been looking around for some low key business ideas to take care of my spare time. I’m going to look into this one a bit more. I think insurance is the way to go too.

  15. Kevin Spring says:

    You could also just go to the local courthouse and get your business license, or if you keep your business small there it is not a big deal to get your business license until a little while after you start.

  16. great idea, but this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this. I live in Denver and my cousin was paid $10/hr to drive out from Salt Lake in a budget van, set up a projector and movie screen at a city park and play “The Pursuit of Happyness”. 3 hours later he was at the bar and getting ready to head home in the morning. Turns out he works for a company that does “movie in the park” type gigs for local groups. They pay as much as $1500 per show for these things. Often times they’ll show two movies per night over a weekend and go home with $9000. This is a totally legit business but one of these days someone is going to catch on to the profit margin and it will all crash down.

  17. Dave- that is correct. if you use a projector in one of their conference rooms or ballrooms, you MUST rent it from them. I don’t know if this is a lame, unique policy or relatively universal.

    To everyone – I am shocked that no one blasted MONEY BLUE BOOK for his suggestion that people buy something, use it, and then return it for a refund. This is completely dishonest, blatantly unethical if not outright illegal, and crap like this raises costs for everyone just like shoplifting. I am all for working the system to one’s advantage, but that suggestion goes too far. Shame on you.

  18. Wow, I didn’t know that it costs so much to rent one of those.

    I’ve never heard of a hotel requiring you to use their projector for a conference room…I guess that’s why some of the smaller $700-$1000 models fit into a laptop bag, the hotel doesn’t have to know that you’re using a projector in your meeting 🙂

    Seems like a good business idea assuming you have enough customers and can properly insure the equipment.

  19. filmrental says:

    I’ve been in the motion picture lighting and camera equipment rental business for over 10 years. Here a few things to consider.

    1. What happens when the unit goes down? Can you get a replacement to the venue in 30 minutes?

    2. Much of the rental cost is to cover the globe not the cost of the unit. When these things travel around on a daily basis, on rickety equipment carts, sliding around in equipment vans, getting dropped, shaken, and abused the bulb life is significantly shortened.

    3. Can you offer tech support 24-7 – on demand?

    4. Do you have projector screens, pipe and drape, tripod / pedestal configurations, overhead rigging hardwire, cables / connectors, playback devices. It’s very rare that a customer rents just a projector.

    5. Very typically the rental units are much more robust, have significantly higher lumen output (throw) and cost 5 -100x more than your typical low power “conference room” projector.

    6. Getting Insurance certs from customers is time consuming. Collecting on a claim takes weeks, sometimes months, you have to factor in the replacement cost of the unit, plus lost rental revenue, plus the time required to handle it.

    7. “Low budget” customers are the ones that suck up the most time and are the hardest on the equipment.

    Love the blog, keep it up.

  20. Kevin Spring says:

    Mark, I guess you are not a fan of Will It Blend, link

    If you are doing this business as a part-time thing, I don’t think 24 hour support and buying the top of the line equipment is needed. If the unit goes down during a presentation and it is equipment failure, refund the money. If it seems like it failed for no good reason, like my grandfather would say, SOL.

    Most presenters have experienced the fear when the projector is not compatible with their computer or something else Murphy comes at them with. That is why it is always important to bring overhead projector copies of your presentation. Always have a backup even if you have your own projector.

  21. Another thought – I would also look into the “extended lifetime guarantee” that those people at Best Buy always try to sell you… might be worth it.

  22. Kevin Spring says:

    The extended lifetime guarantee does not count if you blend the item and try to return it.

  23. Kevin Spring says:
  24. We had to rent two projectors for a training session that lasted 2 weeks. Corporate wouldn’t let us BUY them, but they were ok with renting them. After discussing the buy price and rental price with the local guys, we ended up ‘renting’ new ones and just kept them at the end of the session since the buy price was lower. This was a few years ago though and the units were $7000 each. There are much better ones on the market for way less now.

    But as far as renting them goes, if you don’t turn them off correctly, the bulbs will blow and on ours the bulbs cost over $500 each. Granted others may not cost as much, especially if you buy the unit for a grand.

  25. Too late with the rental idea. Computer Rentals and A/V Rentals have been around for quite a while. A big focus is the tradeshow industry.

  26. How about partnering with rental car companies? When a business traveller flies in, the projector could be waiting with the car.

  27. I just did a quick Google search for LCD projector rentals and the competition appeared stiff for the Los Angeles region. Should that dissuade me from pursuing your business idea? What if I attempt the guerilla marketing approach while offering a cheaper rate? I’m wondering if that’ll provide enough of an edge over the competition.

  28. Hi Everyone, I have owned an AV rental company for over 10 years and before you get all excited there a few things you should know. If you are going to rent a piece of equipment you should really have a back up in case the primary goes down, and now the really bad news. Your too late to the party. The industry has seen a significant decrease in LCD projector rentals since the cost went under $1000.
    We went from 15 rentals a month to 3. The new trend is the consumer calls to book the projector then call everyone they know in the world until they find it for free then they call and cancel the insurance policy they took out with you about 2 days before the job.
    The only exception is if your geographically in a very rural area where it is nearly impossible to locate one then you might be able to make it work under the principals of supply and demand. Good luck, Scott

  29. There is enough room in the Rental Industry, start the business and some one will rent from you. Good luck, HB

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