Sears entered the rent-to-own business on May 15, rolling out the program to their 900 stores nationwide. They are referring to it as lease-to-own and are partnering with existing rent-to-own company WhyNotLeaseIt to offer another option to their customers who can’t qualify for credit or wait for layaway. 

Under Sears’ program, customers are charged the same price as someone buying the item outright, and all rent payments are deducted from the final purchase price. After five months of payments, the customer has the option of paying the balance and owning the product. If they’re not ready to do so, they can continue making payments until 18 months after the time of purchase.

Customers who can’t pay off their balance within 18 months or who decide they’d rather not own the item can call to have it picked up.

But therein lies the danger: If you ultimately can’t afford to own the item, you’re out whatever rental payments you’ve paid up to that point. The last thing you want to do is make months of payments on an appliance and not even get to keep it.

And according to the Association of Progressive Rental Organizations, only 25 percent of customers rent a product until it is owned.

According to Consumer Reports, rent-to-own deals can end up costing the buyer up to three times the original retail value of a given product. They say the best thing to do is to “avoid rent-to-own, even if it means postponing purchases until you can better afford them.

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