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Should You Buy or Rent Trade Show Displays?

Buy or rent trade show displays

Trade shows are a powerful way for businesses to showcase their products and services to a captive audience. These events provide a unique opportunity to connect with potential customers, network with industry peers, and create brand awareness. However, participating in trade shows comes with its fair share of costs, one of which is the trade show booth display. When it comes to trade show displays, a common dilemma for exhibitors is whether to buy or rent from an exhibition company. So, the burning question is: Should you buy or rent?  

In this article, we’ll explore the factors you should consider when making this decision, including the costs involved, the pros and cons of each option, and valuable tips to help you make the right choice. 

How much does a trade show booth display cost? 

The cost of a trade show booth display can vary significantly depending on its size, design, and features. A simple, portable pop-up display may cost a few hundred dollars, while custom exhibition stands, a large-scale booth with high-end graphics and technology can run into tens of thousands of dollars. It’s essential to determine your budget early in the planning process, as this will greatly influence your decision to buy or rent. 

How much does it cost to set up a booth at a trade show? 

In addition to the cost of the trade show booth display, you need to consider other expenses associated with exhibiting at a trade show. These may include booth rental fees, electricity, lighting, flooring, signage, promotional materials, and staff expenses. The total cost can add up quickly, so it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your overall budget before deciding whether to buy or rent a trade show booth display. 

Is a trade show booth an asset? 

One of the primary considerations when deciding to buy or rent a trade show booth display is whether you view it as an asset or a one-time expense. If you purchase a booth, you own a tangible asset that you can use for multiple trade shows and events over time. However, this also means you are responsible for storage, maintenance, and potential upgrades. 

On the other hand, renting a trade show booth display is a more flexible option. You can choose a different design or size for each event, and you don’t have to worry about storage or maintenance. This flexibility can be advantageous for businesses that participate in a variety of trade shows with different themes and audiences. 

Buying trade show displays



How much should I budget for an exhibition booth? 

To determine your budget for an exhibition booth, you should consider all the costs involved in exhibiting at a trade show, including all pertinent trade show booth accessories, not just the booth display itself. Start by researching the trade show’s booth rental fees and any additional expenses specific to the event. Then, factor in the cost of the booth display, promotional materials, staff travel and accommodation, and any other incidentals. 

Your budget for trade show booths should be realistic and allow for unforeseen expenses. It’s better to overestimate your budget slightly to avoid financial stress during the trade show planning process. 

Pros and Cons of Booth Rental 

Let’s explore the pros and cons of renting a trade show booth display: 


Flexibility: Renting allows you to adapt to different trade show environments and change booth designs as needed. 

Cost Savings: Renting can be more cost-effective, especially for businesses that only attend a few trade shows per year. 

Maintenance-Free: You don’t have to worry about storing or maintaining the booth display. 


Limited Customisation: Rented booths may have limitations in terms of customisation compared to a purchased booth. 

Long-term Cost: If you attend numerous trade shows over the years, the cumulative rental costs could exceed the price of buying a booth.  

Availability: Popular rental booth designs may not always be available when you need them, so you should plan well in advance. 

Booth Renting Tips 

If you decide to rent a trade show booth display, here are some tips to make the process smoother: 

  • Plan Ahead: Rental booths are in demand, so book early to secure your preferred design and size. 
  • Communication: Clearly communicate your branding and design preferences to the rental company to ensure your booth aligns with your brand identity. 
  • Review Contracts: Carefully review rental contracts to understand any additional fees, responsibilities, or limitations. 
  • Transportation: Plan for transportation logistics to and from the trade show venue, including setup and teardown. 
  • Return Process: Understand the return process and ensure that you return the booth display in the same condition to avoid extra charges. 

Buying vs. Renting Exhibition Displays 

Choosing between buying and renting exhibition displays is a critical decision that can significantly impact your trade show experience. Buying offers long-term ownership and customisation options, making it suitable for businesses attending frequent events with consistent branding. However, it requires a substantial upfront investment and ongoing maintenance. On the other hand, renting provides flexibility, cost savings for occasional exhibitors, and hassle-free maintenance. Ultimately, the choice depends on your budget, trade show frequency, and customisation needs, so weigh the pros and cons carefully before making your decision. 

Renting exhibition stands


Items That Are Better Rented than Purchased 

Renting items for your exhibition booth at trade shows can be a cost-effective and practical choice, especially if you frequently participate in trade shows. Here are some items that are often better to rent rather than buy: 

  • Furniture: Items like tables, chairs, sofas, and display counters are often available for rent. Renting these items can save you the hassle of transportation and storage between trade shows. 
  • AV Equipment: Audiovisual equipment like TVs, projectors, screens, and sound systems can be costly to purchase and maintain. Renting these items can ensure you have the latest technology without the long-term commitment. 
  • Lighting: Specialised lighting setups can enhance your booth’s aesthetics and draw attention to your products. Renting lighting equipment can be more cost-effective than purchasing and maintaining it. 
  • Custom Booth Structures: If you need a custom booth design for a specific show, consider renting the booth structure and graphics. This allows for flexibility in design without the overhead of owning and storing custom booth materials. 
  • Carpeting and Flooring: Exhibition booth flooring can be heavy and cumbersome to transport. Renting carpet or flooring materials can save you the trouble of dealing with this aspect of booth setup. 
  • Plants and Decor: Greenery and decorative elements can add to the appeal of your booth. Renting plants and decor can be a cost-effective way to enhance your booth’s appearance. 
  • Technology and Gadgets: If you need specialised technology or gadgets for your booth, such as virtual reality equipment or interactive displays, renting is often a better option due to the rapid pace of technological advancements. 
  • Storage and Shipping Crates: If you have a need for storage and shipping containers for your booth materials, renting these on a per-show basis can be more practical than purchasing and maintaining them. 
  • Booth Accessories: Items like literature racks, banner stands, and podiums can be rented to complement your booth design without the need for long-term storage. 
  • Labor and Installation Services: Many trade show services companies offer installation and dismantling services. This works well if you travel and join trade shows alone. Renting labor for booth setup and teardown can save you time and effort. 
  • Graphics and Signage: If you frequently update your booth’s graphics and signage to reflect new products or promotions, consider renting or leasing these elements instead of purchasing them outright. 

Before deciding to rent, it’s essential to consider your specific needs, budget, and the frequency of your trade show participation. Evaluate the total cost of ownership (purchase cost, maintenance, storage, and transportation) versus the cost of renting for each item to make an informed decision that aligns with your exhibition goals and budget. 

Buying vs. Renting


Trade Show Booth Items that are Worth the Investment 

Whether you choose to buy or rent a trade show booth display, certain booth items are worth the investment to enhance your exhibition experience: 

  • High-Quality Graphics: Invest in eye-catching graphics that communicate your brand’s message effectively. 
  • Lighting: Proper lighting can make your booth stand out and create an inviting atmosphere. 
  • Interactive Technology: If relevant to your industry, consider investing in interactive displays or touch screens to engage visitors. 
  • Quality Flooring: A comfortable and visually appealing flooring can enhance your booth’s overall appearance. 
  • Promotional Materials: Invest in professionally designed promotional materials like brochures, flyers, and business cards to leave a lasting impression. 

Another very viable trade show booth investment is the light box display. Light box displays are a popular choice for trade show booths due to several advantages that make them a worthwhile investment: 

Visibility and Attraction: Light box displays use LED backlighting to make graphics and images pop. They are visually striking and can draw attention from a distance, even in crowded trade show environments. This increased visibility can help your booth stand out among competitors. 

Branding: Light boxes provide a high-impact way to showcase your branding, logo, and key messages. The illumination ensures that your brand is well-lit and easily recognisable, reinforcing your company’s identity in the minds of attendees. 

Versatility: Light box displays can be customised to various sizes and shapes, allowing for flexibility in design. They can be freestanding, hung from the ceiling, or integrated into other booth elements, making them adaptable to different booth layouts and sizes. 

Easy Graphic Updates: Many light box displays are designed with interchangeable graphics. This means you can update your visuals for different trade shows or promotions without the need for an entirely new display system. It’s a cost-effective way to keep your booth fresh and relevant. 

Energy Efficiency: LED lighting used in light box displays is energy-efficient, which can lead to cost savings on your trade show budget. LEDs are long-lasting, consume less power, and generate minimal heat, making them a sustainable choice. 

The decision to buy or rent trade show displays depends on various factors, including your budget, the number of trade shows you attend, and your customisation needs. Carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each option and consider your long-term trade show strategy. Whether you choose to buy or rent, investing in high-quality booth items can help you make the most of your trade show experience and leave a positive impression on potential clients and partners. 




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