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Rental centers are a valuable resource

Citrus Rent All in Inverness used to rent mostly to contractors, but now business is split about 50-50 between homeowners and contractors, Colette Wilburn says. Homeowners come looking for air guns, shingle staplers and pressure washers to take on jobs they might once have hired someone to do.

Her center covers the gamut from candelabra and aisle runners for weddings to baby furniture to trenchers, concrete equipment and tractors with bushhogs for clearing land. At $135 a day plus a returnable $50 deposit, the bushhog blade is her most expensive item. The cheapest are hand tools, which run a few dollars a day.

Some of her customers are seasonal residents who don't want to invest in a piece of equipment they may use only a few times a year _ fertilizer spreaders, paint sprayers, floor-care machines. Others are contractors who find it advantageous to rent heavy equipment rather than buy: no maintenance or storage, no down time for repairs.

Repeat renters, she says, are the majority of her business.

Some of her customers know just what they want, but she encourages renters who may be less certain to explain the job they're doing so employees can match them with the right tool for the job. Sometimes people ask for the wrong thing, or they may not know a particular piece of equipment exists to help them do a job.

"We always ask, "Have you used this before?' and if not, we take it out and show them how to start it, how to use it," Wilburn says.

_ Times staff writer