If you’re like me, when I started out back in 2002, you will spend a lot of time thinking about your first inflatable purchase. You don’t have experience in knowing what is going to rent, which makes it tough to decide. You will ask your kids and their friends for opinions on what they like. That might give you some ideas, but probably the wrong ones. They are not going to say, “get that plain red, blue and yellow castle”, in most cases. Here is what I’ve learned throughout the years of owning a bounce rental business.

How to choose your inflatable rental equipment

Keep it Generic

I would go with generic (no theme) inflatables first. The standard red, blue, yellow castle moon bounce or bounce & slide combo is always in style. Since they are generic, they can fit in with any party theme. Once you choose a theme, if it’s too specific, you are really limiting the amount of potential customers you have for that inflatable.  

For example, I have a SpongeBob bounce & slide combo from Ninja Jump. My kids used to love SpongeBob (actually still do). I loved SpongeBob.Who doesn’t love SpongeBob? Turns out a lot of people. At the same time I purchased a generic castle combo, also from Ninja Jump. That one rents out like crazy, so I added a second. The SpongeBob combo rents, but too often I hear from a parent looking to reserve that they think it’s too “babyish” for their kid. And their kid is 8! I thought that’s exactly who SpongeBob was for?

I also have a SpongeBob slip-n-slide. Same problem. By the time the kids are old enough to have the coordination to run and dive onto the slip-n-slide with enough velocity to travel 30 feet to the end, they have outgrown the theme.

I’ve had similar issues with a few other themes over the years. The classic birthday cake bounce seems like an obvious hit considering that most of your backyard rentals are for birthday parties. But my experience is that this would rent for 1st birthday parties and not much else. I guess the older kids didn’t care for the theme, but a one year old doesn’t have much say in the matter.

A princess bounce also seems like a no-brainer. Fifty percent of your customers are going to be girls, you figure. What I found is that most girl birthday parties and still going to have boys invited, and there seems to be a reluctance to order a princess bounce if boys are going to be there. Not to mention neither of these themes are going to work well at a public event.

Adding some themes may be good down the road, but probably not for your first several purchases. When I go with themes now they are what I would call a general theme, such as tropical for water slides, sports for combos, or camo for obstacle courses.

Don’t Go Cheap

I highly recommend not going cheap. My first two inflatables were purchased from eInflatables and they lasted for years. They were built extremely well and looked great.

The following year I bought two more from a manufacturer (no longer in business) because they were half the price. The inflatables from this 2nd manufacturer looked nice. The vinyl was heavy duty. They were definitely commercial grade, but the seams stretched allowing too much air to escape. This caused them to be soft, which is a safety concern.

When a moon bounce is not sturdy enough the kids can cause the columns to buckle and basically fold in half. This really looks bad as it appears the bounce is falling down, or tipping over. It’s not tipping, because it’s anchored to the ground, but that’s what it looks like to the parents watching. When this happens the kids tend to pile on top of each other in the netting. 

These two lesser quality inflatables were out of my inventory in less than two years versus the more expensive eInflatables bounces that I had for about 10 years.

So it’s not just that the higher quality inflatables last longer, they are also safer and you can rent them out with pride knowing you’re offering top of the line equipment. I prefer to have top quality and charge the customer a higher price. Win Win.

Buy New

I would be careful buying used inflatables. If seller is a rental company that is still in business, there is a reason they are selling these inflatables. You will just be taking on their problem. Maybe the piece has too much wear and tear to rent for top dollar. Maybe it has stretched seems making too soft. Maybe it is just a theme or style that does not rent. But if the seller is still in business, there is a reason they are selling it that you probably don’t want to take on. 

However, if the seller is shutting down their business, it may be a different story.  I’ve made some good used inflatable purchases in this situation. But even then, they may not have maintained the equipment well, so you really need to check it out in person and test it out.

Prices of new inflatables have come down so much since I started my business in 2002 that it hardly seems worth the potential aggravation of buying used.

Combos Over Basic Bounces

Kids seem to expect more than a standard bounce house these days, which is why I would recommend purchasing mostly bounce & slide combos.

I haven’t purchased a new basic bounce for several years and I’ve sold some of what I had. The basic bounces seem to rent well for public events, where the kids do not have a real input into what is being rented. But for birthday parties where the kid is probably part of the inflatable selection process, and where their friend just had a bounce & slide combo at their party last week, they are not going for a basic moon bounce. Classic “keeping up with the Joneses”, but it’s good for our business, so I’ll take it. 

The combos have a higher rental rate, but only take about the same amount of time to set up and breakdown as a basic bounce.


I’m not saying never buy a themed inflatable, but I do think you should have a solid inventory of non-themed units before you do. And even then, I’d keep the theme somewhat general. So instead of SpongeBob, go with a more flexible under-the-sea theme that will still work for a SpongeBob themed party. 

The idea is to buy what is going to rent and not have inventory sitting in your warehouse collecting dust until that next customer who happens to want a Dora The Explorer bounce.

About the Author

Rob Wright is Founder & CEO of Bounce Rental Solutions and Co-Owner of Boing! Bounce Rentals