I just looked on the internet and it is often the case the rent-to-own
contract frequently includes a clause stating that the owner
pays for repairs. The same web page listed an advantage of RTO
was that it allowed people with little cash for a down payment
to buy pricy items like home appliances and large TV's. Of course,
that doesn't explain why you just wouldn't get a bank loan
or just take it out of a credit card. 

The FAQ, maintained by the University of Illiois @Chicago "Consumer
Education dept," adds that RTO frequently has no credit check,
so it seems tailored for people with no money and bad credit.

The FAQ also said that RTO totals about 2-4 times the price of the 
appliance - which seems like it would be more expensive than
a regular loan plus buying a service contract. The FAQ is at:

http://www.ag.uiuc.edu/~disaster/replace/rent-own.html

Fabio

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