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Your child wants to join the band, but you’re wondering how much this is going to cost you! Learn when to rent and when to buy that school band instrument.

Your kid runs in from the school bus and throws a paper at you.  She got to see the band teacher today and he brought some neat instruments with him!  Now she’s got her heart set on playing the flute.

But the first thing you think is “How much is this going to cost me??”

Playing in the band is a wonderful opportunity for students!  It’s a great way to feed their right brain, and provides them with lifelong benefits.

But the cost of joining the band can give pause to most parents.  Let’s figure out whether you’d be better off renting or buying a school band instrument, and how you can keep the cost affordable.

Should I Rent a School Band Instrument?

Should you rent or buy a school band instrument? You can save a bunch of money if you choose the right option!

There’s room for a lot of mistakes when it comes to choosing a band instrument.  Too many people jump on Amazon and buy the cheapest flute they can find.

Unfortunately, those instruments won’t work properly.  You’ll most likely frustrate your poor kid and they’ll end up quitting because they can’t get it to make the right sounds.  At best, you’ll end up putting in two or three times what you spent on it to repair it enough that it plays properly.

Just to clarify, I’m a former music teacher/band instructor.  So I’ll give you the straight facts.

Should you rent instead?  Maybe.  Let’s talk about when you should rent vs. when you should buy.

Reasons to Rent

I shy away from renting myself.  By the time you “rent to own” the instrument, it’s going to cost you several times the original price.

People like to rent because of perks like insurance and free replacement.  But you can actually purchase insurance yourself.  Most beginning band instruments only cost a few dollars per month to insure.  Try Anderson Insurance for coverage.  Also check with your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance to see about getting a rider.

Some Reasons to Rent Include:

  • You aren’t convinced your child will stick with band.  (Be sure your rental doesn’t lock you into a long time period.)
  • Your child wants to try an expensive instrument.  (Bassoons or French Horns cost a small fortune!)
  • You can’t tell the difference between a saxophone and a trombone, and you have no one to lean on for help.  (Remember that the band director is usually willing to give you advice, but many of them will recommend you rent no matter what.)

Rent or buy a school band instrument?

Reasons to Buy

There isn’t as much risk in buying an instrument as most you might think.  Instruments tend to hold their value if you take care of them.  Many times you can buy a used instrument and resell it at the same price (depending on the time of year you buy and sell).

So if you buy that flute for Sally and then she decides to quit band at Christmas break, just sell it to someone else.  If you try to sell in January, you won’t make as much as if you try to sell in the late summer.  (When other parents are looking for a deal on an instrument for the new school year!)

Be sure to store the instrument in a dry, cool location and check on it from time to time.  If it stays healthy, you should be able to get your money back on a resell.  Watch for rot, mold, and moths.

Other Reasons to Buy:

  • Your child has wanted to play this instrument for their entire life and you know they’ll stick with it.
  • They’ve chosen a cheaper instrument such as a flute, clarinet, trumpet, or trombone.
  • You found a fantastic deal.

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Where to Buy

While I’m normally a huge fan of Amazon and Ebay, let me repeat myself: Please do not buy your instrument from these places.  The cheap instruments on Amazon will cost you double or triple the original price in repairs (and we’re talking right away, just to make it playable).  I would only buy from Ebay if you’re quite confident in choosing a good instrument (and even then, buyer beware!).

My favorite place to find deals on instruments are Craigslist, pawn shops, and yard sales.  Inspect the instrument to make sure everything is in good working condition.  A pawn shop or thrift store may let you show the instrument to the band director and return it if they don’t like it, so ask.

How Do I Know What to Buy?

Woodwinds (such as flute, clarinet, saxophone) should not show signs of rust or rot.  The keys should move easily.  You should be able to assemble the entire instrument without a struggle.

Brass (trumpets, trombones, other horns) should not have specks, marks, or holes in the body of the instrument. Keys and slides should move freely.  This includes small slides all over the instrument!  Valves (the buttons your fingers push down) should unscrew and pull out.  They may need some oil to work properly, but be concerned if they won’t come out at all.

Only purchase a well known name brand.

These brands make a variety of instruments and are known for good quality.  If you find any of these, you can feel pretty confident about them:

  • Yamaha
  • Selmer
  • Holton
  • Conn
  • Bach

As a flute player, I have to put a plug in here for Gemeinhardt.  This is my favorite brand of flute, and they are well made.  Armstrong flutes are also good.

In clarinets, you can also feel good about a Leblanc or Buffet.

What If It Needs Repairs?

Lets say you found your old clarinet in the closet.  It’s in pretty decent shape, but it could definitely use some love.

Before you buy or rent, take this instrument to the repair shop to find out how much it will cost to bring the instrument back to life.  Very often you’ll find it cheaper to repair than to buy new.  So if Uncle Pat offers you an old, dusty trumpet, give it a try!

These tips will help you find the right school band instrument for your family.

Next step: Enjoying the sounds of Hot Cross Buns as your child learns how to play!

Wish you were better prepared for unexpected expenses like this?

What you really need is a good sinking fund!  Here’s how to start one.

How the Sinking Fund Method Will Help You Escape Debt

Have you ever bought an instrument?  How did you make sure you were getting the best band instrument?

Beginning band instruments can be tricky. These back to school tips will help you decide if you should rent or buy that band instrument.