Feb 09 2011

Renting a Rug Doctor vs. buying my own carpet cleaner


Note: I’ve updated this post to include additional review info, since we’ve now used the machine dozens of times in two apartments, a house, and have loaned it out.

Is renting a Rug Doctor worth it?

I’ve rented Rug Doctor carpet cleaners periodically — usually once per year because of the hassle and expense, but my floors need attention more often.

Our dining room carpet was filthy, and it’s no surprise. “Dining room” and “carpet” shouldn’t go together, especially when there’s a little messy boy involved (and his messy mama)!

I thought I’d look into the price of carpet cleaners to see if buying one would be worth it.

I used this Rug Doctor calculator to get the going rate on rental and many of their products. It’s an average of $25/day to rent a regular machine, plus $3 for the upholstery attachment.

There’s printable coupons available: $3 off 17 oz. cleaner, and $5 off machine rental (at the time of my original post).

The cleaner prices are expensive: $18 for a bottle of their regular cleaner, plus they have a bunch of specialized products for spots & stains, pet odors, high-traffic areas, anti-foam solution, and upholstery. I don’t want to have to buy a ton of different products, and I’m annoyed that you pretty much have to buy the anti-foam. Why can’t they formulate it so it’s a low-foam soap to begin with?

Anyway, let’s say you just rent the machine and attachment for one day. That’s $23 with coupon, plus the cost of cleaners.

Not too terrible, but you do have to go to a store to pick it up, lug it in your car, do the job in a day, and take it back.

I didn’t like how clunky the machines are, and I didn’t think they did a great job. I cleaned my living room/dining room in one apartment with a Rug Doctor, and I didn’t get my full deposit back because my landlady said they had to have the carpet professionally cleaned. Oy.

Is buying your own carpet cleaner machine worth it?

I was surprised at how affordable some highly rated options were.

I found this model from Hoover* on Amazon for $136 with free shipping. Check out other carpet cleaners available from Amazon*. I chose that specific Hoover because it had a lot of positive reviews and the price seemed reasonable. (There are some good deals right now!

We used it on our dining room, living room, and hallway carpets and also our couch and chairs. I should have taken some before & after pictures, because the results were impressive!

And for the price, as long as we use it 6 or more times, it’s a better value than renting a Rug Doctor. I think it’s a better buy anyway, because we will use it more frequently and for a lot less hassle than renting. If we can keep the carpets cleaned more often, it won’t allow for set-in stains to do their damage. It should prolong the carpet’s lifespan.

The cost of soap is a better value with the Hoover (though I just use water + white vinegar sometimes).

I think in this case, buying beats renting by a lot.

Update: 1.5 years later

We’ve used our Hoover about a dozen times in two apartments and our house, and I’m glad we have it!

I also loaned it to someone who had a few dogs (and a living room floor that reflected that). It didn’t make her living room carpet look brand new (I don’t think anything would) but it helped tremendously. There was a lot of pet hair inside the machine after she used it, and I used an included tool to get it out of the water-suck-up-area. I know she used her Dyson a few times on that area, so I just think the Hoover pulled more hair trapped deep down in the carpet. Ew.

I also used it at my parent’s house in a heavily trafficked hall that had dirt stains from people walking on it repeatedly with their shoes on. Even if you think you wiped your shoes at the door, apparently there’s still dirt on your shoes (I’m talking to you, Dad!). Anyway, I went over that area a few times and each pass, the reservoir water was black. Eventually it cleared out, and it was such a satisfying thing to see the carpet become so much cleaner.

The Hoover is simple enough to use and you get good results, and it dries fast. You have to make sure the water is sucking up properly, by making sure the water reservoir box is properly attached. You’ll see the water being pulled up from the carpet on the front of the machine, and if you don’t see that happening, stop immediately and adjust the reservoir box.

Unplug it, take the reservoir completely off, lift the blue little “door” and slide it down again, making sure it has a good seal. Latch the side levers and then carefully roll the plastic cover on top of the reservoir. It needs to be on securely to pick up water.

Our house has stairs, and recently I had the need to use the machine on a few steps to remove some stains. I used the spinning brush attachment with the hand tool and it worked ok, but I had to scrub at it. I pre-cleaned the stains with a towel and vinegar first. The hose isn’t long enough to go straight up a flight of stairs.

Either you’ll have to start at the bottom and work your way as high as you can, and then lug it upstairs and work downstairs (and hope you can have all your stairs within reach), or you’ll need a helper to hold the machine on a stair while you use the hose.

If you have stairs and expect to need to clean them regularly, you might consider something like the Bissell Lift-Off Deep Cleaner* which has a removable cleaning component that you can use for spot-treatment or stairs.

I love the convenience of having my own machine because good grief, gross things get on the floor in a hurry around here. It’s nice to quickly pull it out of the closet and hit a stain, or periodically go over the living room floor.

2017 Updated to add:

Our carpet cleaner is STILL going strong, about 6 years later. Absolutely worth owning.

Also, we’ve added a robot vacuum to our lineup. I chose the Roomba 690 as a mid-range vac from iRobot’s offerings, and it has done a great job. It can handle our higher-pile carpet, laminate floors, tile, and our throw rugs. I ran it three times while visiting my grandma’s house where there were two dogs visiting, and it kept filling up with pet hair. We couldn’t visibly see pet hair on the floor, but whoa. It was there.

The Roomba is a bit pricey, certainly more expensive than my Shark Professional lift-away when you can catch it on sale, but not having to push a vacuum around and running the robot more often? Worth it. I love clean floors, what can I say?

*Amazon Affiliate link. I did not get a free Hoover!  If you click through and buy a carpet cleaner, I get a few bucks. Thank you!

22 Responses to “Renting a Rug Doctor vs. buying my own carpet cleaner”

  1. I think that sounds like a great idea as long as your willing to store it in between uses. I feel like vacuums and the like take up so much space and there never seems to be a sensible place to store them.

    We go with the rent option over buying right now. We’ve only got three area rugs, so whenever they need vacuumed we have the university housekeeping come and it’s so much cheaper than buying a vacuum. Plus, you don’t have to do the work!

  2. We did the same thing. I thought about renting the Rug Doctor and then decided with dogs that I’d rather have my own that I could use whenever. Then we ended up ripping up all the carpet in the house and replaced it with hardwood flooring. THEN when we ended up cleaning our sofa and loveseat we rented the Rug Doctor because of the larger attachment! So… yeah. ;) My mom has the carpet cleaner right now.

    Oh!! And you don’t HAVE to use that soap to clean your carpets. Use about 1/2-1 cup of white vinegar instead. It will clean, disinfect, and it’s all natural! I used to use it exclusively when we had ours. The smell will go away after it dries, I promise.

    And I end my novel right here.

  3. Yeah…storing it is something to consider! We have such minimal storage space in this apartment, that my vacuum and carpet cleaner are just in my bedroom along the wall. Oh well. I don’t even have a coat closet here!

  4. Thanks for the tip on vinegar! I think for maintenance cleaning that might be a good option for me.

  5. We have an older version of your Steamvac and have used it quite a lot. My husband is a “floor specialist” at work and would agree with Mrs. Money to not use the cleaners. He has told me to never use any carpet cleaners (especially Resolve) because the residue is virtually impossible to remove. While your floor will look pretty good right after the cleaning, the spots will show right back up and look worse than they did before. It’s best (and cheapest) to use just hot water or mix in a cup of vinegar to the hot water.
    Oh, and be sure to go over (and over and over) to pull up all the water you can.

  6. I think if we were in a place with carpet in more than one room, we would definitely buy one. Especially when you have animals. :-) But now, with the hardwood floors, it probably isn’t worth it.

  7. @Ashley – I completely disagree! We have about half carpet and half hardwood floors…and a dog. My husband found one that you can use on carpet and wood floors and we use it at least twice a month (yes, we like the house really clean!). It works great on the carpets, and is what we use to “mop” our floor regularly. For us, it’s means the floor gets mopped a lot more than with a traditional mop.

    I don’t remember the exact model, but know he found a deal on it at Costco.

  8. The one you bought looks just like the one I used to borrow from my mom. It really did work well for us. I just bought a Bissel and it works well too. We toyed with just renting but figured between 2 kids and 2 dogs it would be worth investing in one. I’ve only used ours once but really like it. Like Sarah, we bought a model that can go on hard floors as well and I’m (nerdily) excited to try it in my kitchen and bathrooms soon.

  9. I bought one as my best purchase ever. Mine looks similar to a vacuum and tends to run similar. i have it in my closet next to the vacuum. its much easier then the red cleaners at the stores for rent. we only have carpet in the den but still love it. our carpet guy only charges $60 but this way i can get spots in between. mine only cost us about $70 at Walmart. with pets including a puppy its great.

  10. Um, hi…I could “store” it for you for a week or so sometime. I’ve been meaning to rent a carpet cleaner for a couple months now, but it hasn’t happened yet, mostly due to the lugging factor. We can talk about the storage fee, as in what I’d pay you to let me store it! :) You know how much carpet I have…I could never get it all cleaned in one day with 2 little ones under foot.

  11. I broke down and bought one a couple years ago…very similar to the one you have. I LOVE it! To be able to clean my carpets whenever I get the urge instead of having to rent is a deal for me. If I had to go lug one from a store I can tell you for sure that my carpets would get cleaned a lot less. We clean ours about every 3 to 4 months…basically every season change. It has helped up extend the life of our carpet greatly.

    And I am so doing the vinegar from now on….I never knew that tip so thanks everyone for that one!

    I think you made a wise choice. You will definitely get a lot of use out of it with two small kids around!

  12. We have a bissel. We love it. My husband bought one at best buy, and it was an ‘open box’ special. When we opened it up, it had dirty water in it. Yuck – someone had used it and returned it without emptying it! I told my husband to return it but he just tossed the dirty water and kept it. I will tell him about the vinegar. He does all the carpet cleaning!

  13. I don’t know how I missed this post. ANYWAY, I’ve thought about this many times. I think renting the machine is SO expensive, and yeah, they’re old and clunky and probably not that great compared to newer models.

    Good to know you can get your own machine for such a good price! I’ll probably invest in one before my little baby turns into a mess-making toddler.

    Plus! It’ll be really nice to have that machine when you own a home. Because then you’ll own your carpets instead of just renting them, and keeping them nice will help maintain the value of your home.

  14. P.S. Can I just say that dirty-looking carpets is one of my number 1 pet peeves? I can never relax in a house with dingy carpet. Our last apartment really needed a carpet upgrade, but we were in a huge hurry when we moved in, and they gave us an unbeatable deal on rent, so we couldn’t complain. But the carpets were trashed, and I was NEVER comfortable there. The place just never felt clean no matter how much I scrubbed everything. So for me, being able to clean the carpet whenever I want would be a huge deal. I would probably use the thing once a month.

    Thankfully, the carpet in our new place is in really good shape. But I’m considering investing in a carpet cleaner to keep them that way!

  15. Thank you for the recommendation! I’ve looked at carpet cleaners before but couldn’t settle on one, and finally I was going to rent one at the market but it would have been about $50 just for one use, and only for 24 hours – we have multiple stories and carpet throughout so I was stressed out thinking about how to clean the whole house in one day. I’m going to get this and save myself a lot of stress (and money in the long run)! Thanks again :)

  16. I have this same dilemma right now with a roto rooter for snaking our drains. Having rental property it is something good to have. It is only like 300 bucks if we wanted to purchase but 60-70 to rent. It seems our drains always clog in the middle of the night too when having one would be great!

  17. An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a friend who has been conducting a little research on this. And he in fact bought me dinner due to the fact that I found it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this issue here on your site.

  18. This type of machines will really help to clean the carpet and floors very fast and accurate safe cleaning which cannot harm the environment and atmosphere also.But also consider the price and the efficiency of the machine.Thanks for sharing.

  19. Interesting story! Lucky you found a cleaning machine that can help you do the chores. :-)

  20. I just bought a hoover and am happy with it. The thing that got me to purchase one was the idea of the rental and not knowing who used it before me. It may not matter, but the thought of someone cleaning pet poop and pee makes the rental unit very un-appealing.

  21. I agree, Rick. I do wonder how sanitary the machine is, because even though there’s soapy water inside it’s still really gross to think about!

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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