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Poor drivers go to tyre rentals

2013-06-24 20:36

LONG-TERM FLEECING: Tyre rental companies know that once they have you in their grips you're not going to rescind on the deal - giving back your tyres means you won't be able to drive to work.Image: RNR TYRES

Ken Bensinger

With soaring tyres prices, many poorer Americans are turning to a “cheaper” alternative – tyre rentals.

Don and Florence Cherry couldn’t afford a new set of tyres for their Dodge Caravan and the tyres were so worn the steel belts were showing, reports the Detroit News.

The couple decided to pay Rent-N-Roll the equivalent of R544 a month for 18 months in exchange for four basic Hankook tires. That works out to R9960, almost triple the price a similar set would have cost if purchased with cash in the US.


Florence Cherry said: “I know you have to pay a lot more this way but we didn’t really have a choice.”

Rent-to-own tyre shops are among the newest arrivals focus on the US economic underclass. Customers pay huge premiums for their tyres, many times above the retail price. Those who miss payments may find their vehicle stripped of their tyres by dealers who aggressively repossess. Tyre rental contracts are so iron-clad that even a bankruptcy filing won't make them go away, the DetNews adds.

However, with payments as low as R141 a week, rent-to-own tyres are proving irresistible for people desperate for a safe vehicle. Tyre rentals are a booming business for specialised tyre and wheel dealers - see what Larry Sutton, founder and president of Rent-N-Roll, had to say: “We see tremendous opportunity serving people who are just looking for dependable tyes to get to work.”

Sutton registered the trademark RNR Tyre Express at te end of 2012 and has been re-branding many stores to focus on tyes instead of the oversized chromed rims that were the chain’s mainstay. In June 2013, Sutton said, tyres made up two-thirds of his sales.


A host of economic factors are pushing the growth of tyre rentals. The average price of a passenger tyre in the US increased 57% in 2012, according to data from trade publication Modern Tyre Dealer. Prices on some popular sizes have more than doubled.

With more people shut out of traditional financing, the rent-to-own industry has flourished.

Promising no credit checks, a small down-payment and the option to return merchandise at any time "with no questions asked", chains such as Rent-a-Centre are raking in huge profits from a customer base that’s swelled to 4.8-million people, up 67%, since 2007, according to the Association of Progressive Rental Organisations.

Tyres account for just a tiny slice of the R861-billion US rent-to-own market. University of Houston law professor, Jim Hawkins, said: “Tyres are a necessity. These customers are vulnerable because they have no choice.”

The first rent-to-own tyre and wheel dealers appeared in the mid-1990's, targeting young urban males looking to boost their vehicles.
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