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Should I buy an inflatable?

This question is more complex than it sounds.  It is often more expensive to own a bouncer than it is to rent one.  This FAQ addresses owning a bouncer for personal or public use.  For people thinking to go into the party rental business, see our FAQ “Should I start my own party rental company?”  

 

Types of Bouncers

There are two types of bouncers available to the general public:

  • Low Capacity Low-Grade Bouncers
  • High Capacity Commercial Grade Bouncers

Low grade bouncers typically have very low capacity limits, are not suitable for more than 2 or 3 children, and typically have a total capacity of 250 pounds or less.  These bouncers have a life of 1 to 2 years, and are made of inferior materials. They often come with very short warranty periods (30 - 90 days) because the materials are so thin. These bouncers cannot be used for commercial applications or large public events, and will become damaged quickly if they are used regularly, or if they are used in party situations where the capacity is likely to be exceeded.  When stored, low grade bouncers typically take up as much space as a large computer box and weigh 50 to 100 pounds.

 

Commercial grade bouncers have higher capacity limits, typically 8-12 children, are much larger in size, and are made of heavy duty vinyl.  These bouncers have a life of 3 to 5 years and require a lot of maintenance.  In addition, commercial grade bouncers are very expensive to insure, and may become regulated by the state.   Good quality commercial grade bouncers cost between $1,500 and $2,000.  This is very much a “buyer beware” industry where you get what you pay for.  Poorly manufactured inflatables, especially imported inflatables, typically only last as long as low grade bouncers (1 to 2 years).  When stored, commercial grade inflatables take up as much space as a refrigerator and weigh 200 to 300 pounds.  

 

What kind of user are you?

This is an important consideration because certain types of users may become regulated by the state, and others are not.   Users of inflatables fall into two categories:

  • Private Residential Use
  • Public Commercial Use

Private residential users are individuals who buy an inflatable for their own personal use in a residential setting.  The more appropriate inflatable for this group is a low grade bouncer that will need to be replaced periodically.  For parties with lots of kids, it will likely still be more appropriate to rent a commercial grade bouncer to entertain.  If you are a residential user, you should consult your insurance agent before buying a bouncer.  Insurance policies vary as to whether injuries related to inflatables are covered.  Also, consider the burdens of properly maintaining an inflatable, especially a commercial grade bouncer.  Commercial grade bouncers require special cleaning products, and improper maintenance of an inflatable will ruin the inflatable, and is potentially dangerous to the health of all users of the inflatable.

Public commercial users are typically organizations such as churches, daycares, schools, or businesses who invite the general public into their operations.  The more appropriate inflatable for this group is commercial grade.  Use of an inflatable in a public setting may become regulated in the near future.  In addition, most general liability policies for these users DO NOT cover inflatables.  If you are a public commercial user, you need to consider the following before buying an inflatable:

  1. Insurance.  General liability insurance for inflatables typically costs between $1,500 to $3,000 per inflatable per year.  It is extremely unlikely that your current general liability policy covers inflatables.  
  2. State law.  There is a lot of debate in local government about regulating inflatables for public use.  Potential regulations have been considered 3 times in the last decade that would have regulated inflatables, and I'd expect the issue to come up again.  If regulations do pass, you'd need to consider the potential extra costs of regular inspections and licensing.
  3. Inflatables require a lot of maintenance.  Vinyl must be cleaned regularly with an appropriate cleaner, and inflatables must be kept dry to prevent mold and mildew.  We spend thousands of dollars every year maintaining our equipment. 

 All of these things need to be considered before buying an inflatable, or you could be buying a big headache.  For most irregular commercial or public uses, it is more cost effective to rent an inflatable than to buy one.

 

If you have any questions about anything in this FAQ, please feel free to call.  Buying a high liability amusement device should always be done with caution.