THE TRIAL RUN OPTION
How many times have you considered a large purchase but wanted to try the item before committing? With a number of products, from expensive camera lenses to cars, houses, and even bras, you can do just that. The terms and conditions vary so be sure to check the specifics of the agreement.
There are several ways to test the product waters before jumping in. Rent-to-own deals let you buy the product at any time, often at a discount because it's "used," usually with some or all of the rental payments applied towards the purchase price. Lease-to-own agreements are the most complex, with lots fine print to wade through and interest rates that can significantly boost the effective price. Try-before-you-buy arrangements may be the most rewarding for consumers; with little to no money down, you can try a product before deciding whether it's a good fit. By contrast, payment and layaway plans often limit the opportunity to back out or return a product, require a fee to do so, or prohibit this option altogether.
True and Co tries to guarantee the fit for bras and lingerie based on an extensive "fitting" questionnaire and data culled from past customers' experiences. The approach isn't foolproof, though, so you can order up to five bras and try them for up to five days before deciding what to keep. There's no deposit or promise of purchase and shipping is free both ways.
CHILDREN'S TOYS AND LEGO SETS
SparkBox Toys is a subscription service that sends four educational toys intended for children age 4 or younger. Four new toys are shipped once the original four are returned, but loved toys can be purchased at below-retail prices. A similar service, Pley rents Lego sets and lets you purchase them at discounted prices. The set comes with the manual but not the original box.
Cameras and lenses can be incredibly expensive and it's hard to find retail stores that let you test the goods before making a purchase. LensRentals rents videography and photography equipment with an option to buy. Equipment is discounted from its retail price depending on age and wear. The entirety of the rental payments can be applied towards the purchase during the first week, with 30 percent counted after that. One downside is that product warranties often don't transfer.
The items Trunk Club carries aren't cheap, but this clothing and accessory service aims to help you find your groove. Customers work with a stylist to define their look and then receive a box (trunk) of picks. After a 10-day try-on period, you return the unwanted items. There are no membership or shipping fees, even if the entire box goes back.
Women on the lookout for the latest designer jewelry can sign up for the $19 monthly subscription service from Rocksbox. Borrow three pieces at a time, keep them as long as desired, trade one or more for new pieces, or purchase the jewelry at a discount.
Interested in a pair of Warby Parker's iconic eyeglasses? The virtual try-on app is fun, but consumers who are still unsure which frame looks best can request five frames to test for free. There are no fees or shipping costs in either direction, and you have five days to decide if you like what you see. All five frames must be returned and if one works, you place an order.
HOME FURNISHING, APPLIANCES, AND ELECTRONICS
Aaron's, a large department-like store, sells home furnishings and appliances through a lease-to-own program. If you choose to buy the leased item within 120 days (90 days in California), expect to pay the full price plus 10 percent on the payments already made; after 120 days, all payments go towards an ultimate purchase -- or you can return the item and stop paying. This type of plan is a decent option if you have no other way to finance the purchase or buying just isn't feasible. Note, though, that monthly installments at Aaron's or similar lease-to-own stores come at a premium -- how much depends on the item, lease duration, renter's credit score, etc.
Rent-to-own, or lease-purchase, home agreements help buyers who can't afford a down payment or don't have enough credit for a mortgage. Generally, though, this is not a recommended pathway to homeownership. Tenants often have some or full responsibility for maintenance and repairs but are bound by the lease rules (e.g., no pets). They also pay an option-to-buy fee, which is set aside as a deposit, and pay higher than usual rent. A portion of the rent goes towards a down payment if you exercise the option to buy. If not, you may forfeit the option fee and extra rent when the lease expires.
Leasing a car or truck is an option for drivers who are short on a down payment or don't want to own the vehicle outright. When it's returned, you must cover any damage, even small scratches and dents, and pay fees if the mileage allowance was exceeded. Some leases, though, can be turned into sales at the end of the term. But if you missed even one payment, that option may be forfeited. A sale price may be quoted at the start of the lease, but CarsDirect recommends negotiating when the time comes.