6 Cool Online Rentals

Today’s tough economy has consumers socking away cash instead of buying big-ticket items. But all hope is not lost. You can carry a new-to-you designer handbag each week, or get your hands on a jackhammer … as long as you don’t mind giving it back when you’re done. A handful of niche online companies are offering high-demand rentals at an affordable price.

1) Add a little sparkle to a special outfit by renting jewelry and evening bags from BorrowedBling. Three subscription levels – Countess, Duchess, or Movie Star – let you check out two or three items at a time without breaking the bank. And if you absolutely can’t part with an item, you have the option to buy. The gems are faux, but so high quality that many have been used on TV shows, and worn by celebrities. Subscriptions start at $29.95 per month, plus shipping charges.

2) If you dream of Prada, drool over Coach, and covet Yves Saint Laurent, Avelle (formerly known as Bag, Borrow, or Steal) has you covered. This virtual closet is filled with the world’s best designers. Thousands of couture items – handbags, jewelry, sunglasses, and watches – are yours to borrow, with the option to buy. Members also have access to a fashion blog, private inventory sales, and a virtual personal shopper. Subscriptions start at $5 per month, plus a per-item usage fee based on the value of the item.

3) Choose from over 7,000 video game titles when you rent with GameFly. Members can borrow two games at a time, and control the order in which their games arrive by creating a “GameQ.” Keep games as long as you want, and when you send them back, your next picks are automatically mailed. New and classic titles are available for PlayStation 2, Playstation 3, PSP, Xbox 360, Xbox, Wii, GameCube, Nintendo DS, and Game Boy Advance. You’ll also get game reviews, cheats and codes, and the option to buy any game. Subscription cost is $22.95 per month.

4) Paper and water never mix, unless you’re taking a dip over at BookSwim, THE place to rent the hottest book titles. A lit-lover’s dream, BookSwim(mers) can browse around the clock for new reads or old favorites. BookSwim will even purchase a book you’re looking for if it’s not already in their inventory. Keep a book as long as you like, and never worry about late fines. And if you become smitten with a borrow, it’s yours to keep with the click of a button. At the highest subscription level, 11 reads can be borrowed at a time, with free shipping. Subscriptions start at $9.99 for one book a month.

5) If you’re looking for a tour guide in a new city, or a platonic movie friend, find a pal over at RentAFriend. With over 34,000 users in the U.S. and Canada, you can “hire” a friend of any ethnicity, gender, or interest for good old-fashioned hanging out. The site strongly states that it’s not a dating or escort service, and with your subscription you get access to profiles – with verified phone numbers – of everyone registered to the service. But friendship comes at a cost – you pay an hourly rate determined by your new “friend” for the privilege of his or her time. Subscription cost is $24.95 per month.

6) A veritable Ebay for rental goods, Zilok is a clearinghouse for … well … whatever. You can find or offer pretty much anything you can think of (legal, of course) with just a few clicks of a mouse. The site’s top rental offerings include cars, power tools, vacation homes, events and venues – but you can also rent a bounce house or chains for your snow tires. Rental fees are negotiated between the renter and buyer, and there is no monthly subscription fee. As with any site of this nature, buyer beware.