Rent vs. buy: Video equipment for online course creators

Rent vs. buy: Video equipment for online course creators
Estimated reading time:

Are you getting more serious about creating video content? If so, chances are you’re grappling with the age-old conundrum of whether to rent or buy your video production gear.

Truth be told, it’s a big decision, and the choice between investing in your own equipment or opting to rent it can affect everything from your budget to your timelines to your video quality. 

And video quality is a huge consideration. Whether you are producing quick tutorials or an elaborate online course, high-quality visuals and crisp audio aren't just nice-to-haves; they're crucial for keeping viewers engaged and making your video content look top-notch. 

So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both renting video gear and buying video gear, so that you can make an informed decision that feels less like a gamble and more like a strategic move.


Types of film and camera equipment that course creators may need

Before we dive into the pros and cons of renting versus buying video production gear, let's unpack the toolkit of a typical video creator. While there’s no set standard of what you’ll need for your specific project, most productions that make online video content will need:

  • A camera and accessories (battery, lenses, etc.)
  • A tripod
  • Lights and lighting equipment (stands, meters, etc.)
  • A microphone 
  • An audio recording device 
  • A computer or laptop
  • Video editing software

As you see from this list, your gear can easily extend beyond just a camera and a microphone. The camera you need can range from your smartphone, to a camcorder, to a DSLR that needs interchangeable lenses, to an action camera that allows you to get footage whether skiing down a mountain or swimming in the sea. 

No matter what camera you use, you’ll likely also need a tripod of some kind to hold it steady while you film, as well as lighting to ensure that your video subject is easy to see and is portrayed in a flattering light. 

Your audio gear will make sure that you record crystal-clear sound, and a computer loaded with the right production and editing software will piece your content together. (You might even need to book some studio time if your home setup doesn't quite cut it, but that’s a whole other conversation!)

Each piece of equipment plays a role in how your video content is produced and received, so it’s worthwhile to give some careful thought to what you need. 

Related: Creators’ top video gear to invest in for your first online course


Understanding your video equipment needs

The first step of deciding whether to rent video equipment or buy video equipment is to get clear on what kind of content you want to create and what gear you’ll need in order to bring it to life. 

Here are a couple of questions to consider:

1. How often will you film? 

Think about how frequently you plan to record your content and what your video production needs are. If you're cranking out videos every week like clockwork, then it might be smart to own your gear. After all, nothing beats the convenience of having your equipment ready to roll whenever inspiration strikes. 

On the other hand, if you create video content infrequently rather than on a fixed schedule, the financial commitment of buying video gear might not make sense just yet. 

2. What are your technical needs?

This question is twofold, because it involves assessing your video content needs, as well as your technological prowess and intent. 

Tackling the first part of that, does your video content need Hollywood-level cinematography, or will a simple setup do? This depends largely on the kind of videos you’re making—for instance, TikTok videos in your car versus full-scale online courses. So depending on your video content, simpler gear may do the job for you, or you might need higher-end gear to produce cinema-quality video. 

Switching over to your technological prowess, how capable do you feel when it comes to handling video gear and using it to its full capability? Are you a gadget geek who loves tweaking settings… or does "automatic mode" sound more your speed? Be sure not to take on more advanced gear than you’re prepared to handle, especially if you’re buying it. And keep in mind that high-tech gear often comes with a steeper learning curve, so you’ll have to learn it in order to operate it.

3. What’s your budget?

Let’s talk money: how much is the video gear going to cost you… and how much money do you have available to spend on it? 

Figure this out, and then do a detailed cost-comparison between how much it’d cost to rent the gear and how much it’d cost to buy it, in order to clarify which option aligns with your financial bandwidth. Renting can minimize your initial expenses and lower the barrier to entry, while buying often reduces costs in the long-term, especially if you're frequently planning to hit the record button.

4. Do you prefer the latest and greatest?

Tech these days evolves faster than a New York minute; today's cutting-edge gadget could be tomorrow's paperweight. So keep that in mind as you consider whether to rent or buy your video equipment.

Renting gives you access to the latest models, and allows you to try out cameras and lights, etc., without making a full investment in them. Buying your video equipment, however, is helpful if you plan to use the same gear consistently over several years… but do keep in mind that it can sometimes leave you with outdated equipment as new technologies emerge.

Related: How to DIY home video recording studio setup and video editing


Pros & cons of renting camera equipment

It can be tough to decide what’s right for you, so let’s lay out a few of the quick and dirty pros and cons of renting video gear: 


  • Renting reduces your upfront investment: If you want to rent a video camera, for example, you can gain access to professional-quality options without the hefty initial cost.
  • It’s cost-effective for infrequent use: If you’ve only got one-off projects or need to make occasional updates to your online course, getting the exact equipment you need when you need it is one of the clear advantages of renting. 
  • You get flexibility to upgrade: You can test different kinds of gear before committing to any one model, allowing you to try several and find what really works for your style. Not only that, renting might grant you access to better technology than you could afford to buy, for a fraction of the price.
  • You’ll get the full picture: The more you make videos, the more you may discover other accessories that you need/want to buy, so renting it first may help you realize what your budget might truly be when purchasing, and prevent unexpected sunk-costs. 


  • Flexibility to film: It can be difficult to have spontaneous shooting sessions or act upon last-minute creative sparks when you’ve got to rent the gear first. You’ll need to plan your shoots around rental availability and potentially face delays if the gear isn’t available when you want/need it. 
  • Popular items may be booked: Planning ahead is essential since you need to secure your equipment in advance—sometimes way in advance if it’s a popular item. If your go-to rental shop is out of your desired equipment, you might find yourself scrambling or settling for less.
  • Coordination required: If you need to also book studio time or hire a crew, for instance, you’ve got to make sure it all coordinates with the dates available to rent the equipment; this can sometimes turn into a logistical headache.

Related: Choosing the right camera for your at-home videos made easy

Pros & cons of buying video equipment

There are quite a few advantages and drawbacks to buying the gear outright, so let’s take a look:


  • Availability and convenience: When you outright buy your video camera, for example, you can shoot whenever inspiration strikes—no waiting, no fees. 
  • Long-term cost savings: If you make videos frequently, you may find that buying the gear is more cost-effective than renting it each time. 
  • Full control over your equipment: You can tweak your gear to the settings you need and keep them there, instead of getting a reset piece of equipment each time you rent it. Also, though the rental companies inspect and take care of their gear, if you own yours, then you don’t have to worry about receiving a compromised piece of equipment. 
  • Familiarity breeds content: Owning your gear will lead to you learning it inside and out, improving your skills, and streamlining your production process, making it quicker and less stressful to film.
  • Asset ownership: Equipment can be resold if needed, providing a return on your long-term investment.


  • Upfront investment: That initial price tag for all the video gear can be a doozy, and big purchases can certainly put a dent in your wallet… as well as lead to debt if not managed wisely.
  • Depreciation: Like cars, tech can lose value quickly as new models hit the market. If your needs change or technology leaps forward, you might find yourself with outdated gear. Selling equipment can offset some costs, but it tends to be a hassle and doesn’t always recoup much money, thanks to depreciation.
  • Storage and maintenance: Think about where you’ll store everything and the potential upkeep involved. If you don’t film frequently, the costs and logistics of maintaining and storing equipment can outweigh the benefits of immediate access. 
  • Commitment to learning: Owning equipment means staying updated on its best uses, which can be a steep learning curve.

Related: 10 pro audio equipment upgrades for your at-home audio recording studio

Making the decision: rent or buy?

Choosing between renting and buying boils down to how you balance cost, convenience, and flexibility against your production frequency and technical needs. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here, just the best fit for your particular situation.

Think about how often you're filming, the scale of your projects, what kind of tech you need, and how thick your wallet is. Getting clear on these elements and aligning them with your overall goals will help steer your decision in the right direction. 

Because whether you rent or buy your video equipment, the goal is the same: to create engaging, high-quality videos that resonate with your audience! So now that you’ve read our “rent or buy” guide, give it some careful thought, so that when you hit record, you’re ready to create video content that you’re proud of. 

And when you’re ready to publish your content, be sure to explore Teachable’s resources for online course creators!


Teachable Updates

Your weekly dose of creative chat and Teachable updates. Get our weekly newsletter.