On of the most common questions I've seen posted in forums where beginners or come-backers are common is the one covered by the title above. Let's break the possible customer into three types: youth beginner, adult beginner, adult comebacker. Youth Beginner...frequently the parents are trying to get "Jr." an instrument that they can "see if they'll stick with it" on for a year or two. Virtually all of the larger music stores will be more than happy to "rent" you an instrument with different options (insurance, buy-out price) etc. What happens to the dollars is this: 1) the horn is inevitably a student horn...probably not too bad quality for the price (some better than others). Mom and/or Pop will be plunking down somewhere in the range of $15 to $20 a month, maybe $5 more with insurance on it. What does it cost you for that beginner horn for a year? $20X10 is $200 a year. What have you got at the end of the year? NADA!!! NOTHING. Expect slightly lower prices for two, three, or four years "locked-in" contract. Your cost for four years? $700 if you're lucky. 2) rent to purchase (actually a useless option). After a time period (say 4 years) the horn is yours to keep. You (or your parents) have paid somewhere around $900 to $1,000 (they charge slightly more for this option) and you've got a well used student horn on your hands that is "maybe" worth $200 on EBAY. Your cost for the four years? $700 if you're lucky. 3) buy a decent, used "pro" horn with help from a teacher or someone else you trust who knows what's good and what isn't. Expect to pay $600 to $800. In four years you can probably sell it for around $500 to $700. Cost? $100. OK, so much for the youth beginner. The adult beginner is in a better position...he or she most likely has some income and already knows that he or she is going to stick with it. Two viable options here: buy pro used or buy pro new. You've already done the math and know that the rental deals are for those who prefer to lease rather than buy under the mistaken impression that it's cheaper. In reality, leasing means paying someone else to undertake the financial risk. That doesn't come for free. Comebacker: has had some time on the horn, realizes that what he's working with is probably his old, student horn (which may very well be of excellent quality). He or she knows that there is always better out there but wants to get his or her face back in shape so that they can actually EVALUATE PROPERLY the purchase of a "new baby". Doesn't need any advice from this hack. Personal experience goes like this: Eldest daughter is going from piano to band in Grade 7. Uses a student grade, school owned french horn for two years. She decides she wants her "own" horn (and has a small inheritance from a distant relative to finance it). We evaluated a well-beat up old King Eroica....hardened bumpers, loose valves, dents, etc. No way. We then heard that one of the local music shops was transferring across the border and delivering to Banff (for an international French Horn Symposium) a collection of 5 Conn pro horns (8, 9, and 10 D for those who know horns). Price is about $3,200 each; that was 8? years ago. We managed to get all 5 tested, she picked out one...we paid a deposit and wrote down the serial number. The horns went to Banff, came back a week later and we picked it up, paying the balance. This same daughter competed in Canadian National Music Festival competition this summer, is graduating in Music Peformance in the spring, and is still playing the same instrument. Bottom line? TANSTAFL. That means "There Ain't No Such Thing As Free Lunch". Get thee to a forum, ask questions, listen to the answers, and go with what your brain tells you. Most likely the people in there will have had enough experience to guide you towards the right purchase...which may very well be a horn priced in the student/intermediate range but actually of "almost" pro quality; I can think of several including Yamaha 23XX, Kanstul 6XX and 7XX, Getzen Capri, and "possibly" the Zeus G or the B & S "series I" although I've personally never tried either of those. Oh...and read Jim Donaldson's "The Trumpet Gearhead" website. You can find it at: http://www.dallasmusic.org/gearhead/ . Jim is a trumpet teacher who has amassed a huge amount of general information in addition to his obvious addiction to Schilke products.