Portable Oxygen Concentrators: Rent or Buy?

If you or a loved one has recently been prescribed oxygen therapy, you’re most likely wondering how much portable oxygen concentrators cost, and the best way to get a portable oxygen concentrator.

Did you know you can choose to rent rather than buy an oxygen concentrator? Both options have their pros and cons, so let’s jump right in and take a closer look.

Who Is Prescribed Portable Oxygen?

Portable oxygen is prescribed to people who are struggling with low blood oxygen levels. This might be because of a condition such as COPD or asthma, or it could be due to an infection or following an illness or surgery.

You need a prescription to get a portable oxygen concentrator, and most reputable sellers will ask to see your prescription. The reason for this is that it takes a qualified physician to diagnose the need for oxygen and to decide on the exact amount you need. This figure is measured in LPM's or liters per minute.

What Is A Portable Oxygen Concentrator?

A portable oxygen concentrator is a piece of equipment that’s small enough to carry around with you as you go about your day to day activities. Unlike large oxygen tanks or even today’s stationary concentrators, portable oxygen machines are light enough to take from room to room, out of doors, or even on an airplane.

A portable concentrator draws in air and increases the oxygen saturation of that air. It does this by passing the air via an inlet filter into a compressor, and then on to a sieve bed. This process removes nitrogen from the air, leaving it with a much higher oxygen concentration (95% as opposed to the usual 21%).

The portable concentrator gets hooked up to a tube and the oxygen is delivered via a nasal cannula or a mask. The result is a boost in blood oxygen levels.

How Much Does It Cost To Rent Or Buy A Portable Oxygen Concentrator?

You can expect to pay around $2500 for a decent concentrator, though some models cost around $2000 and some of the more advanced ones closer to $3500.

If you’re worried about the upfront cost of buying a portable oxygen concentrator, renting is one way to spread the cost a bit. Fees vary between suppliers, but in general you’ll pay around $250 weekly to rent a portable oxygen concentrator.

For those with lower blood oxygen levels, a portable oxygen concentrator can make a big difference and is an essential piece of equipment. The cost can be a worry though, so let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of renting and buying.

Things To Know Before Deciding To Rent Or Buy

Before you go ahead and rent or buy a concentrator, there are a few things we recommend checking out:

  • Be sure you’re clear on the LPM you need, so you can make sure your chosen unit delivers that.
  • Also, check with your doctor about when you need oxygen. Some people need it continuously, while other people need it only when sleeping, first thing in the morning, during exercise, or when out walking.
  • Finally, be sure to ask whether you need a pulse or continuous flow. The former releases oxygen only when you breathe, while the latter supplies it constantly. Please note that if you need to use it at the same time as a BiPAP machine, you will need a continuous flow unit.

As well as being clear about your oxygen therapy needs, double-check:

  • What kind of batteries the unit takes and how often you’ll need to charge or replace them.
  • Whether there’s a warranty and how long it lasts.
  • Whether the unit is FAA approved if you plan to fly with it.
  • What kind of cleaning or maintenance the unit needs.
  • The volume level if you’re concerned about noise (most portable concentrators have a similar volume to a quiet indoor conversation).
  • The size, weight, and dimensions of the unit. Most portable concentrators come in at around 5lb, which makes them easy to carry anywhere, but you need to be sure you’re happy with the size and weight.
  • Which accessories are included, such as spare batteries, cannula, or a carrying case? If these accessories aren’t included you’ll need to budget for them separately, so remember to factor that in when estimating the cost of renting or buying a unit.

Renting A Portable Oxygen Concentrator – Pros and Cons

Renting a portable concentrator is a good choice if:

  • You only need it for a short space of time, such as post-surgery, or in order to go on a flight.
  • The cost of buying outright is prohibitive.
  • Most places let you extend the rental period if need be, making it a flexible option.
  • You’re not sure if the model you’ve chosen is exactly right for you and you want to try it out before committing to buy.
  • Your insurance covers renting but not buying a concentrator (as is sometimes the case).
  • The supplier you’re renting from offers extras such as maintenance or savings on spare batteries as part of a renting deal.

Renting may not be a good option if:

  • If you do end up needing the concentrator in the longer term, renting can end up costing you significantly more. If you pay $250 weekly for a $2500 concentrator, for example, you’ll have paid the full cost of the concentrator in just ten weeks. As most oxygen concentrators are under warranty for at least a year, this isn’t cost-effective.
  • Some suppliers don’t offer much in the way of accessories if you’re renting, so do check that out.
  • Finding the money to pay for a rental week on week can be stressful.

You’ll need to ship everything back in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions when you’re done renting.

Buying A Portable Oxygen Concentrator – Pros and Cons

Buying a concentrator is a good choice if:

  • You know you’ll need the concentrator for an extended period of six months or more.
  • You already know which model is the right choice for you, either because you’ve used it before or because the sales staff have helped you figure out which one you need.
  • You would find it less of a burden in the long term to own the equipment outright.
  • The manufacturer includes accessories and suchlike in a bundle that makes it worth the investment.
  • You can get a good financing deal from the supplier that makes it worth your while to buy (always check the small print before signing up.)

Buying may not be a good option if:

  • The upfront cost of buying a concentrator can be prohibitive.
  • If you only need oxygen therapy for a short amount of time.
  • Some suppliers offer ongoing maintenance for rental units but not sold units.
  • If the machine ends up not being a good fit for you for any reason, it will be a hassle to return it or try to resell it yourself.

When it comes to buying or renting a portable oxygen concentrator, there’s no right or wrong answer. The best thing is to be armed with a list of your needs and concerns and chat with more than one supplier. A good manufacturer will be more than happy to answer your questions and guide you when making a decision.

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