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What to Ask Before You Rent

Are you getting the most for your rental money? It may sound like a great deal now, but what happens to your account in the future?

It may take some planning and research to figure out which rental plan works best for you and your needs. Listed below are some questions you can ask to help you decide which rental program is right for you.

What is the "out the door cost" for the first rental period? What is the rental per month (both to start and to continue)? You may find a program with a low introductory rental rate with the cost per month going up significantly thereafter. This may seem like a good plan for you but remember to calculate the total cost for the amount of time you intend to rent. A $35.00 three-month initial rental plus the $27.00 per month thereafter will cost more than a $20.00 per month rate for a 9-month rental period. Lashof Violins violin rental rate breaks down to $15-22/month (based on instrument value) per month paid quarterly with no surprise rate changes.

How much of the rent applies toward purchase? With some programs, the rental credit accumulating toward the instrument purchase may have a maximum allowable amount or cut-off date. Make sure this fits your needs. Some programs will offer a 9, 12, or 18 month maximum credit and sometimes only a percentage of that amount can apply toward purchase. Lashof Violins' policy is 100% rent applicable until you have reached the full rental value.

What happens when my child grows and needs the next size while I am renting? Will my rental money I have paid in transfer to another instrument? Your child will grow. When it is time for a larger size, what will be your financial responsibility? One common type of rental program has rental credit which applies only to the initial rental instrument. With that type of program, if your child grows and needs an instrument in a larger size, the amount you have accrued goes away. While you are renting from Lashof Violins there is never a charge to change sizes to instruments of equal value (excluding damage without insurance coverage)

Is there a Maintenance or Insurance Plan available? What would the plan cover? What would the plan not cover? Check what would actually be covered under a potential maintenance/insurance plan; many policies exclude theft or limit what maintenance items are covered. Lashof Violins maintenance/insurance plan covers a large variety of repairs and instances, including theft, damage, gluing, rehairs, touch-up, etc. Insurance costs are $15.00/quarter for standard violin/viola rentals and $30/quarter for cello rentals (per 3 month period.) Coverage does not include intentional or malicious damage, such as carving or writing on the instrument, or applying decals/stickers/moleskin; nor disposable accessories such as strings or rosin.

Does the store carry other items I may need? Along with your rental or step-up quality instrument, you will need some other accessories. Does the store carry a wide variety of violin family products or just the very basic beginner products? Will the staff be able to offer advice or opinions on the different products available on the market and help you find the right products for your needs? Lashof Violins carries dozens of different types of rosin, many styles of shoulder rests/pads, and numerous types of strings, as well as music and instrument stands, sheet music and etude books, and everything else dedicated to the violin family. We have 1000's of in-stock violin family specialty products.

What happens if my instrument needs an adjustment? Does the store have an on-site repair department?Check to see if the store does their own repairs on site or if they have to send them out. Even if they have their own repair department, check to see if it is on site and if they have specially trained violin family repair personnel. A guitar repairmen may not have the same training or experience as a violin repairmen. Many teachers will have individual specifications and requirements. Not having direct contact with a repairman can be a very frustrating and confusing experience. In addition, it could take several weeks to get your instrument repaired if it needs to be sent out of the building to another location.

For example, a now long-time Lashof Violins customer had taken their violin to a local store (without an on-site repair department) to have the strings changed. Due to the lack of string experience of the employee at that store, when the employee removed the tension from the entire instrument to replace the string set (this is not advised), the soundpost fell inside of the instrument. Because no one on staff knew removing all the tension from the instrument could result in the soundpost falling, the staff informed the customer the instrument would not only have to be shipped to the repair location to have the soundpost reset, but the soundpost reset would take two weeks and would cost an additional (shocking) $50 fee on top of the string purchase and string installation fee. Had the customer come to our store initially, they would have received free installation with the purchase of the strings and, had the soundpost fallen for other reasons, could have had their soundpost reset for free, all done while they waited.

Lashof Violins does all of its own repairs on-site and is a repair facility for MCPS and other area schools and music stores which means we know what your teacher wants. All our instruments are set up to exceed MENC standards for orchestral instruments.

What happens after I pay off my rental instrument and need a larger size? How much trade-in value can I get for my purchased rental?Hopefully, you will rent long enough that you will get to own your instrument. If this happens and you need to get a larger size instrument of the same basic quality, you need to find out what your extra costs will be. With some programs, once you own an instrument, it is no longer available to be used as a trade. At Lashof Violins, once a rental instrument outfit (including bow and case) is paid off, there is a 10% devaluation per year to the exchange/trade-in value toward another outfit of similar value (less any loss in value due to damage). If trading for a handmade, step-up instrument the trade-in value will be 70% of rental money paid (less any loss in value due to damage).

Is there a point in the rental program where I have to decide whether my contract remains a " rental" or a "purchase"?Many policies have a cutoff date that turn your contract into a permanent rental after a certain time period. Be wary of that dreaded policy which requires you to decide if it is a "rental only" (with zero credit to apply toward the purchase) or a "purchase" (which may lock you into a specific instrument). Lashof Violins will allow you to trade in your rental instrument (provided it is in resalable condition) either while you are renting or after you gain ownership. At Lashof Violins you rent until you own or rent until you return, never with any obligation - it's that simple.

If I need to return the instrument early, how much money will I get back, if any?If you have paid into a 6 month or a 9 month school year plan, find out what happens to all the money you paid in up-front if you have to cancel your rental policy. It is common on fixed-month policies that any money paid in for a long term rental is lost if you cut the first rental period short. Lashof Violins has a short, minimum rental period of only 3 months and, after that time period, any prepaid, unused full months are prorated back to you.

What am I responsible for when I return my rental? Am I required to return the instrument in re-rentable condition and how much might that cost?Many policies require you to return the instrument in the condition that you rented it in. If you have used a rental for 3 or more months, this will probably include new strings and a rehair at minimum - an additional cost of at least $50.00 when returning the instrument. Many programs even have cancellation or restocking fees. At Lashof Violins a rental return is simple, bring in the instrument outfit and get a receipt. There are no cancellation or restocking fees. Damage charges will apply only if insurance is not taken as an option (does not apply to insurance exclusions or if parts or strings are completely missing).

Are there deposits required in addition to rental costs? Many policies require a deposit or ask for "administrative" or "processing" fees in order to even walk out the door with an instrument. The only thing Lashof Violins requires at the time of rental are: the first three month payment on a major credit card, a picture ID with proof of your current address, and a valid major credit card's information (under the same name as the renter) on file for delinquent payment collection.

Does the facility specialize in violin family instruments or will I work with someone who has never played the instrument?While music stores that carry a variety of instrument families may have string instruments of adequate quality, more frequently than not you will be dealing with someone not versed specifically in the violin family of instruments and their unique needs. The student may not be properly fitted for the correct size instrument and you may be pushed to purchase an accessory that is not the best fit for your child. Many of these stores also have other facilities that set-up and repair the instruments. Lashof Violins employees have a vast experience in the violin family business from teaching and selling, to renting, playing, repairing, restoring, and making. All instruments in our stock are set-up to exceed MENC standards for orchestral instruments and are set-up personally in our store by our highly-skilled staff.

When my child becomes more proficient on the instrument, what are my options to trade-up to a better quality of instrument?If your child practices regularly, they will begin to excel. When this happens, you will find yourself in the situation of needing to get a better instrument to better compliment your advancing student's abilities. Make sure to also ask the following questions: What quality of instruments does the rental store carry? Will that store be able to assist you in the climb to an instrument with a better sound to compliment your child's advancing skill? Does the store have the knowledgeable staff to assist you in selecting a better instrument? How much of your rental equity will you be able to use on the step-up quality instrument? Lashof Violins has a large selection of step-up, high-quality, handmade instruments to take advancing students to the next level and beyond. During your rental contract, 70% of your rental equity can apply toward the purchase of a handmade instrument. Once a rental instrument is paid off, there is a 10% devaluation per year to exchange for another of similar value (less any loss in value due to damage). If trading for a handmade, step-up instrument, the trade in will be 70% of rental money paid minus any loss in value due to damage.

There are many things to consider, but in the end, it is your money and your decision. Your equity and time are valuable and we at Lashof Violins have created a competitive rental program designed to grow with you and your student!