Rent or buy your on-the-job equipment?

See which option makes more sense when it comes to bridge construction, maintenance, and inspection projects.

According to data reported by Statista, the equipment rental market in the United States has grown significantly over the last two decades and is expected to continue to do so in the years ahead. After falling slightly to $48.5 billion in 2020 because of a reduction of construction activity due to the pandemic, the value of equipment rentals is expected to jump to approximately $53 billion in 2022.

Rental equipment is used in most types of construction, and it’s common to rent rather than buy in the bridge sector. 

There are more than 600,000 bridges in the United States, and no two are exactly alike. Even twin bridges sit on different sites. All the variations of design and setting make it necessary for construction, inspection, and maintenance teams to have access to a wide array of equipment of different shapes and sizes to do their work. 

The need for all these different equipment types — and the variations within them — make renting equipment a necessity. Still, there are times when it could make sense to buy.

Why rent equipment for bridge work?

If you’re building a new bridge, rehabbing an existing one, conducting an inspection, or doing maintenance, you’ll need various equipment to get the job done. Most areas, especially cities and larger metros, are home to many types of bridges. Therefore, construction companies, municipalities, and inspectors all need a huge fleet and inventory of equipment to support all the work that they do. In most cases, it would be too expensive to purchase all of it. It also doesn’t make sense to own a costly piece of equipment that gets little use. Renting gives you cost-effective access to the right equipment, and if you plan ahead, it will be available when you need it.

Another benefit of renting equipment is logistics. What if you need the same piece of equipment at multiple locations or you must have it at two sites that are located far from each other on the same or subsequent days? Renting equipment and having it delivered to the site by the rental company solves both issues. If you work with a dependable rental company like Bridge Masters, you can rest assured knowing that your equipment will be waiting at your job site when you need it.

If you rent, you’ll always have access to the latest equipment models. If you buy, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to purchase a replacement for a long time. Newer equipment is safer and will help you work more efficiently. It also lets you avoid the accounting hassle of depreciation.

Bridge construction, inspection, and maintenance equipment.

Which equipment does it make sense to own, and which is better to rent? It depends on your unique situation, but here are a few opinions from our experts.

Aerial lifts

Aerial lifts make it easy to work on and inspect hard-to-reach areas of bridges. They provide access to areas above and below the bridge deck. Common types of lifts include:

Rent or buy: The exact type and model of lift that you need depends on the specific bridge, where it’s located, and the space available to you. Lifts are expensive to purchase and may need specialized equipment to move them around. That’s why most organizations opt to rent them from a reputable provider like Bridge Masters. It will help ensure that you have the lift you need when and where you need it.

Vertical masts and hydra platforms 

In many cases, it’s possible to find the right lift to reach underneath most bridges. When it’s not, people turn to vertical masts and hydra platforms. A vertical mast attaches to the sides of bridges. A hydra platform is attached to the bottom of the vertical mast and runs horizontally underneath a bridge. 

A popular example is the Anderson Hydra Platform.

Rent or buy: Much like lifts, vertical masts and hydra platforms are situation specific, costly, and hard to transport. Renting probably makes sense unless you do a large amount of work over water, where investing in a hydro platform might be worth considering.


There are times when inspectors and maintenance crews want to take a quick peek at a hard-to-access part of a bridge. It may not make sense to rent big equipment like a lift, vertical mast, or hydra platform. This is  where leveraging technology powered by a drone makes sense. It enables you to virtually see what’s going on. If there’s an issue, it could be time to bring in a lift or another heavy piece of equipment.

Rent or buy: There are drones that come equipped with specialized technology that could be worth renting, but most organizations that do bridge inspection, maintenance, or construction work will want to own drones with cameras and other features.


Whether you’re building a new bridge or doing work on an existing one, you’ll need to move big items. A telehandler, which is basically a large and powerful forklift, can help you do just that. It’s a must when it comes to getting materials and equipment to where they’re needed on a job site.

Rent or buy: Most construction companies should probably own a few telehandlers and rent additional ones as needed.


One of the first things that happens in the bridge construction process is excavation. Rocks, dirt, and other things must be removed to make way for the foundation, or substructure, of the bridge to be constructed. Excavators are used to remove these things on a job site.

Rent or buy: Excavation is a universal part of the bridge construction process, so it makes sense for companies that do a great deal of that kind of work to own a few excavators and rent additional ones for larger-scale projects.

Skid loaders and backhoes

Similar to excavators, skid loaders and backhoes play a necessary role in the bridge construction process. Without them, it would be impossible to complete site development and finish foundation work.

Rent or own: Similar to excavators, bridge construction firms should likely own several skid loaders and backhoes and rent additional ones for large sites or during busy periods.


Cranes are workhorses on bridge construction sites. Not only do they lift critical components of the substructure and superstructure into place, they also help load equipment onto trucks and provide access to hard-to-reach areas of bridges throughout the construction process.

Rent or buy: Bridge construction companies may want to have a few cranes in their fleets, but since there are so many types available to serve a range of needs on different kinds of projects, this is a piece that makes sense to rent.

Air compressors

Air compressors play a limited but critical role on bridge sites, cleaning debris from joints to ensure that they function correctly.

Rent or buy: Even though air compressors play a limited role on bridge sites, it makes sense to own them because of their relatively low cost.


Bridge construction, maintenance, and inspection projects use a large amount of electricity, which is typically supplied by generators. They power tools, keep the lights on, and deliver electricity to trailers.

Rent or buy: All bridge construction, maintenance, and inspection firms should own several generators so they’re always handy. Additional ones can be rented for big jobs or during busy seasons.

Concrete saws

Concrete saws play a limited but critical role on bridge construction and rehabilitation sites. It’s great to have one handy when you need to cut a chunk of concrete to make it fit.

Rent or buy: Concrete saws are relatively inexpensive, and it’s important to have one on hand when you need it, so this is a good piece of equipment to own.

Pressure washers

Clean-up is an ongoing part of most bridge construction and rehabilitation projects. Dirt, dust, and debris constantly pile up on surfaces, making it difficult to work on them and leaving them looking unsightly. Pressure washers make clean-up fast and easy.

Rent or buy: This is a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment that makes sense to own.


Welders are used on both bridge construction and repair projects. It’s great to have one handy when the need arises.

Rent or buy: This is another piece of equipment that makes sense to own.

Light towers

Light towers are a necessary part of doing bridge work at night. They keep workers safe and help them get the job done.

Rent or buy: Does your company do a great deal of night work? If so, it makes sense to purchase some lighting. If not, rent on an as-needed basis.