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Exhibit Rental or Custom Build – Which Way to Go?

Exhibit Rental or Custom Build

Sometimes it makes more sense to rent than to buy. Maybe you have a short window for turnaround in terms of design and set-up, or maybe you can’t handle the logistics to send your equipment and materials to the location in time.

Perhaps you have been spending so much money renting that it would save you money just to invest in your own equipment or materials. Which option makes sense for you? Both renting and buying have pros and cons, so let us break it down.


Why Use Rentals

Exhibit Rental

  • Budget Restraints - Small or start-up companies new to the trade show scene, exhibit at only a few shows, and/or subject to a small trade show budget, renting can achieve more bang for your buck (larger exhibit and/or add more design elements).
  • Flexibility - Greater ability to change booth design, layout, and size as often as needed. Less commitment when adding or subtracting exhibit properties.
  • Concurrent Shows - Avoid schedule conflicts and/or tight deadlines when you exhibit at more than one trade show at the same time.
  • Unusual Booth Size or Requirements – For a significantly larger or smaller booth size which is not expected to repeat, or one-time requirements (like a big presentation stage) it may make sense to rent – at least some components.
  • Eliminate Fees - A rental program allows you to sidestep pull/prep and storage fees.
  • Maintenance - Wear and tear is almost always a certainty every time an exhibit booth is deployed.  Renting gets you an exhibit that looks brand new at every show. You also avoid refurbishing and repair fees.
  • Organizational Changes - Easily adapt your booth in the event your company is subject to mergers, acquisitions, rebranding, and other similar occurrences.
  • Environmentally Conscious - Re-use of rental properties is eco-friendly. Also, you avoid any potential disposal or recycling fees. 


When a Custom-Build Exhibit Makes Sense

Custom Designed Exhibit

You could be ready to invest in your own custom-built booth, supplies, equipment and more. Here’s why that might be the best route:

  • Impact - Custom design of exhibit booths tend to achieve a much greater visual response and draw more attendee attention and foot traffic than rentals. They often appear to be of higher quality workmanship and more sophisticated design – giving an impression about your company.
  • Corporate/Brand Consistency/Recognition - To achieve your precise standards and recognition by show attendees, go custom. The look, feel, and colors of your exhibit booth are tailored to order and will be more consistent with your various other marketing messages and advertising efforts.  Your company/brand can have a consistent and recognizable appearance around the world, while adapting to the unique look and feel of the brands.
  • Return - Displaying your business with a custom booth greatly increases the chances of a return on your investment. The greater initial cost you have invested in a custom exhibit can pay great dividends for years to come. Various requirements and configurations are figured out at the front end, minimizing design and engineering costs for subsequent uses. Careful consideration goes into how the properties are crated, using cost effective materials and minimizing required assembly work.
  • Volume - If your company is a heavy hitter on the trade show circuit, purchase of your exhibit properties is for you. If you use an exhibit three times or more a year, you should own.
  • Broad Use of Properties & Familiarity for Cost Savings – A custom exhibit is the better option for a large U.S. convention program as properties are generally transshipped from one location to another, resulting in significant savings on shipping and handling. Set-up drawings are created for various configurations and re-used (or modified), saving on CAD drawings. Labor crews become very familiar with the nuances of the properties and very efficient while shaving hours off with continued use. Brand teams and agencies know what to expect and are able to multi-purpose graphics.


To Rent or To Build – Pro vs. Cons

The best way to make this kind of decision is to break down the options into pros and cons. Here we go!

Rent vs. Custom Build -- the High Notes



  • Flexibility to customize to individual needs
  • No capital expense
  • No storage charges
  • Typically appropriate for smaller programs


  • May result in an inconsistent brand presence
  • New solutions show over show result in increased account, design, detailing, and I&D time
  • Larger programs typically benefit from owned/reuse property strategy
  • Lack of property options due to potential inventory limitations or availability issues

Custom build


  • Greater consistency in brand presence
  • Show over show cost savings
  • Transport: Ability to transship to multiple shows 
  • Larger programs typically benefit from owned/reuse property strategy 
  • No property inventory limitations or availability issues 


  • Reduced ability to customize to individual needs
  • Some capital expense may be required 
  • Quarterly storage charges apply 
  • Some refurbishment needs to be built into annual budgets