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Mihai Nicolau

Starting a rental service

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Hello everyone! I've been wandering about the forum for a few days one and it is a great learning resource. Keep it up!


My question is this: i want to start a rental business and i'm in the equipment aquiring phase and research. It's gonna be a small renting service at first and my first ideea is to buy a dolly system. The problem is that I want a quality system that will appeal to the potential customers but i also don't have the buying power of a big rental company.

I have a GFM dealer in my city and understand they are top of the game in the industry but also very expensive. The dealer made me an offer for a small dolly system (the simple thingy with skater wheels type) at about 5000Euros - this price is without including the tracks which are also very highly priced.

Can you guys give me some other quality manufacturers that have lower prices. I searchd the internet and there are many indie type companies with very low prices but unfortunately i need something more professional. Is it a good ideea to search second-hand grip equipment ? Maybe i can at least find some cheaper tracks to work with the GFM dolly, because the track width is industry standard right ?


Any advice appreciated. Thanks! :ph34r:

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As a equipment owner and rental owner my advice is DONT DO IT unless you already have a solid client base. Esp. if you have a dealer in town. Why rent from you if they can rent from the dealer? Also dont buy the cheapest, people always want the best and will not pay for a second rate piece of gear. Look for the names you see on set. those are the ones to own.


I can't tell you how hard it is as a small rental company to get going. I have been renting gear for seven years. I got past the dreaded 5 year mark. I am always at the edge of selling it all off, but some how I keep going. I paid cash for everything and dont owe any thing nor lease anything. I am constantly getting passed over because I dont have an individual piece of gear. I have dolly's etc. lighting etc. rigging etc.


I can tell you if you are really set on it make sure you already have clients. I would not have made it this far if I had not already been gaffing and gripping, for several years before investing on this stuff. I also had a small pool of competition and a large group of producers who liked me.


If you have clients, look at matthews, modern studio, premier studio equipment and do a lot of research before commiting to a purchase. also look at a lease option.


Also if you can't afford the best dolly, look at other rental equipment options. Sliders, monitors, dimmers, etc.


dont buy second rate and dont rent it for second rates. remember to add in costs to maintain and store gear.

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As a equipment owner and rental owner my advice is DONT DO IT unless you already have a solid client base.

Which rental house BTW? I'll need to rent some lenses in about 40 days and am trying to locate someone relatively close to where we will be shooting (atlanta)

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I completely second what Robert said. Don't start investing if you aren't sure your investments can pay off. You will be stuck with a bunch of expensive gear, and nowhere for it to go. Unless (1) you have people you can rent to and (2) they have a reason to go to you instead of another rental company, there is no real reason for you to start to take on all the headaches of insurance, liability, trustworthy staff, etc., etc.


I'd also say this: know your gear. If you're at a point where you are describing a dolly as "the simple thingy with skater wheels type" -- it may not be the best time for you to invest in thousands of dollars/euros worth of equipment. Most gear owners/rental houses are run by old veterans who have worked in the industry for many years and know their stuff. They have moved onto the point where they want to run their own business. Part of being a rental house or company is your ability to maintain your equipment, fix it if necessary, service it, etc., and tell others about their specs and how to use it should they need the assistance. If a client wants to know how to change the speed of the boom on a Hustler IV, you (the rental company) should know how to do it. That sets a good company apart from a bad one. And who do you think has the most clients at the end of the day? The good one. Also, if you start buying crappy/cheap gear, people will know, and stop using you. This doesn't mean you cant buy second hand -- a lot of used gear is still in good shape, or at least serviceable shape. A little maintenance will make them fine. However, owning used gear that breaks down in the middle of a shoot, and not being able to help out the production is NOT fine. Word will quickly spread, and clients will quickly be lost.

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