Renting vs. Buying a Commercial Espresso Machine

Your cafe’s espresso machine is the center of your coffee operation. That makes your choice of machine — and if you’ll rent or buy it — two important decisions for your business.

Once you’ve identified your ideal espresso machine, there are several factors to consider as you determine if renting or buying is the right path for you. Both offer multiple advantages.

Recommended: Read our full, in-depth How to Start a Coffee Shop Business guides, inspired by coffee professionals, they will help make your coffee dreams real, from sourcing beans to hiring baristas, choosing the best POS system, forming an actual company, and everything in between.


Here are a few tips when deciding to rent or buy:

  • Price quotes and qualifications will be different depending on seller and machine. If you are choosing to rent a machine, see what quotes you can get from different companies in order to weigh your options.
  • Look into payment plans offered by various sellers and compare to the cost of renting.
  • Go see the machine in person, if possible. Get a feel for what you are investing in and decide if its right for you and your business.

To help you make an informed decision for your cafe, we’ve outlined the key differences and similarities between these options.

Key Differences:

  • Upfront Cost – Buying an espresso machine often requires you to make a higher outright payment, if not the total cost of the machine. This can create a huge financial strain for many new business owners given all of the other costs associated with starting a specialty coffee shop. Renting requires a much smaller upfront cost followed by predictable monthly payments. For example, you could easily spend $10,000 to buy an espresso machine or around $300 a month on a payment plan. Alternatively, renting a machine costs about $150 a month or less depending on your rental company.
  • Liability – Renting typically eliminates your liability when operating an espresso machine in your coffee shop because most rental company contracts include service. However, that service can mean higher monthly rental payments. On the other hand, if you own your machine, you must pay out of pocket for all services not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty or past the warranty period. Keeping up with routine maintenance on your machine can help lower your risk of costly repairs.
  • Flexibility – Renting allows you to swap your espresso machine for another fairly easily if you decide your existing model doesn’t meet your business needs. If you own your machine, switching equipment is a more costly move.

Key Similarities:

  • Payment Plan Options – The recent introduction of loans and payment plans for higher-cost business equipment makes it increasingly easy to buy an espresso machine at a monthly price comparable to renting. Rent-to-own plans provide another option, allowing you to make installment payments on your machine until you choose to buy it without requiring a large, upfront payment. Typically, rent-to-own plans feature monthly payments similar to renting a machine while allowing you to maintain full ownership.
  • Routine Maintenance – While you may carry more liability if you own your espresso machine, that doesn’t change the amount of daily maintenance required by you or your staff to keep your machine up and running. Rented or owned, your espresso machine will need an end-of-day backflush with proper tools such as Puro® cleaning powder as well as a midday backflush without chemicals. Regular machine maintenance also can help you maintain the taste and quality of your coffee.
  • Variety – Whether you opt to rent or buy your espresso machine, you likely can choose from among the same wide variety of brands and styles. Either approach will enable you to secure your preferred machine so that need not factor into your decision — beyond its price.
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Pro Tip: List the pros and cons of the espresso machine options available in your area. The more research you do, the more confident you’ll feel in your final decision.

Buying a Used Machine

Buying a used machine from another coffee shop can mean big savings, especially for the more expensive machines. However, it is important to make sure the machine is still in tip-top shape before purchasing. Most wear is internal caused by lack of maintenance, a trained eye should be able to spot if these damages are worth the potential discount.

If you aren’t confident in your ability to look for imperfections, specifically inside the machine, we recommend hiring a local professional to look at the machine before purchasing to ensure you are buying a machine that will work well for your business.

Where to Rent

Seattle Coffee Gear

With a variety of quality commercial espresso equipment perfect for specialty coffee and leasing options for those who qualify, Seattle Coffee Gear is a great option for business owners to rent high-quality equipment.

Kaldi

Another quality coffee equipment supplier, Kaldi stocks great espresso machines- many espresso machine lease options do not include La Marzocco or other top-rated brands- with rentals as low as $120 per month.

Making a Decision

Here are a few key questions to ask yourself before you make a final decision to rent or buy your espresso machine:

  • Are you a trend-follower? If so, renting can be a great option because it allows you to switch machines if you decide a newer model will better suit your business.
  • What other investments do you need to make to open your cafe? This can help inform your financial ability to buy a machine while budgeting for other big-ticket items.
  • Do you have a favorite machine? If you’re loyal to a certain machine, look into the manufacturer’s purchase and rent-to-own options because you know you won’t regret choosing this piece of equipment.

Ultimately, how much you feel comfortable investing may be your biggest deciding factor. For smaller shops that anticipate a lower level of foot traffic in the first few months, renting can be a smart choice to avoid high upfront costs. Conversely, larger coffee shops in high-traffic areas may benefit from buying a machine outright because they have a better chance of paying off that initial investment quickly due to customer volume.

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Recommended: Still wondering if you should buy an espresso machine for your cafe instead of renting? Check out our review of the top five commercial espresso machines for coffee shops.

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