I've Had Rent the Runway for Five Years — Here's What My Experience Has Been

The service keeps my wardrobe fresh with trendy, high-end pieces for every day and special occasions.

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Online shopping order unboxing

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I love fashion. I love throwing on a fancy dress for a night out with friends or nailing the perfect polished outfit for an important work meeting or interview. However, I don’t love spending hundreds of dollars on clothes I’ll only wear a few times. Or worse, finding items with tags still attached hanging in my closet months after I purchased them, only to donate them to a local shelter or list them on a resale app. 

So a few years ago, when I noticed many of my stylish friends tagging Rent the Runway in their Instagram photos, I was curious. Could a rental plan be the solution to my wardrobe woes, impulsive purchases that wrecked my budget, and fast-fashion guilt? Is Rent the Runway worth it and does it make sense to spend almost $100 a month to borrow clothes other people have worn?

Turns out, the answer is yes. I’ve been using Rent the Runway regularly for almost five years, and the service has not only helped me discover plenty of new designers (turns out, I love Scandinavian fashion as much as I love their television shows and interior design) but also plan — and stick — to a regular clothing budget. Knowing that I get a few new fresh pieces a month keeps me from purchasing more clothing than I need, and has helped me expand my style beyond basic denim and neutral-hued tops and dresses.

With Rent the Runway, I literally get to try on fanciful patterns, bright colors, and bold new trends, and if something doesn’t work, I’m out less than $20 and don’t have to hassle with mail or in-store returns. Both the website and app are refreshed with new styles and designers regularly and are super intuitive to use. Plus, the more clothes you rent, the better tailored the suggestions are to your size and style, making it easy to sort through the thousands of options and hone in on picks that not only fit but wow your friends and coworkers. 

How I Tested Rent the Runway

I have subscribed to Rent the Runway off and on for almost five years, using the service to augment my wardrobe for vacations, special occasions, and the rare times I need to head into the office for meetings. While I have often paused my subscription and even considered canceling it due to the lack of availability of certain items or just not needing new looks at the time (I really embraced dressing down during those isolating early days of the pandemic) the company keeps me coming back due to its affordability, quality brands, and exceptional customer service.

Member perks like the free spot recently added to each subscription plan and special sales, as well as exclusive collabs with top designers like Pamela Love, Esteban Cortazar, and Derek Lam, are also worth the investment. And I love that if you find something you just can’t part with, you can purchase it at a fraction of retail cost. Plus, Rent the Runway’s dresses and gowns are great for special occasions and events, and I always get compliments when I wear them. 

Rent the runway tester bag

Laura Scholz / InStyle

Key Specs

Base price $94/month
Free shipping Yes 
Delivery frequency  1-4 shipments per month 
No. of items per shipment 
Size range  00-22W 

How Does Rent the Runway Work?

Rent the Runway has two services: membership plans with five, 10, 15, or 20 rental items per month and one-time, single-item, four- and eight-day rentals. The cheapest plan gives you access to one shipment of five items per month of everyday clothing and accessories with a retail value of $350 from designers like Hunter Bell, LoveShackFancy, Maje, Reformation, and more. For more items, upgrade to a 10-, 15-, and 20-spot plan, which gives you two, three, or four monthly shipments of five pieces each.

The more expensive plans come with access to higher-end designer accessories and clothing, including formal wear and accessories, from designers like Haider Ackermann, Oscar de la Renta, and Zac Posen, which retail up to $3,500. In total, Rent the Runway offers over 18,000 styles from more than 800 designers in sizes 00-22W, plus a large selection of petite and maternity wear. 

Rent the Runway Plans

Rent the Runway

While there’s no quiz or personal stylist to assist you in picking out looks, you can search both the website and app by designer, season, color, occasion, and other filters to tag any favorites. You can also sort customer reviews that match your height, weight, body type, and usual sizes to help you filter the thousands of available options. As you use the service, the algorithm will continue to recommend new looks based on your past rentals, personal profile, and designer and fit preferences. 

One-time rental and regular membership items arrive freshly dry-cleaned in two to three days (or the date of your choosing with one-time shipments) inside a zipped, reusable garment bag. While one-time rentals are due back after four or eight days, spot plans allow you to keep items for a month. At the end of each billing cycle, you can opt to extend the rental of items or purchase them for a discount. 

Rent the Runway members also get access to exclusive sales of used items at steep discounts and sneak peeks at new collections and exclusive designer collaborations. While only one-time rentals come with backup sizes, you can adjust the monthly plan to add another item if something doesn’t fit. Plans can be paused, canceled, or adjusted at the end of each billing cycle. While Rent the Runway ships to all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, it cannot ship to PO Boxes or APO/FPO addresses or ZIP codes overseas.

How Much Does Rent the Runway Cost?

I subscribe to Rent the Runway’s basic closet, which includes five items and costs $94 per month. At a rate of less than $20 per piece, I find the cost is worth the investment, as long as all the items I want are available and the ones I receive fit me well. Occasionally, I pay to add on one more item to my basic plan, but there is no option to roll over spots or save them for another month.

“Expanded closet” membership plans give you more items and deliveries but are more expensive and start at two shipments of five items per box for $155 per month, and max out at four shipments of five items per box for $235 per month. All rentals include free shipping and returns, and while Rent the Runway customer service does not have a live chat, it does respond to emails and phone calls seven days per week and is generally very responsive and helpful.

Delivery and Packaging

Rent the Runway items are shipped in a soft, branded, and reusable garment bag, although sometimes they arrive in a polybag or cardboard box. Expect monthly rentals at your doorstep two to three business days after ordering. One-time rentals arrive one to two days prior to your delivery date, so make sure to leave some wiggle room if you need anything for a big event or vacation. If purchasing a used piece directly from the site, items take a bit longer to ship and arrive within two to five business days. 

Rent the runway sample clothes

Laura Scholz / InStyle

Each item comes sealed in a plastic polybag, which the company requests you ship back with returns to be recycled. All orders come with a pre-addressed shipping label, and you can drop returns at a UPS store or for select ZIP codes, schedule a home pickup via the web or app. 

Quality and Ease of Use

In almost five years with Rent the Runway, all of my shipments have arrived on time, and I have never had the company deliver an incorrect size or item. For the shipment I scheduled for this review, the fabric on one sleeveless printed Ulla Johnson shirt looked a bit faded, although I ended up not liking the fit and would not have worn it anyway. My other items — including a slouchy plaid Ganni blazer, a Staud floral demi-dress, a tiered hot pink Xirena dress, and a Peter Som Collective one-shoulder cut-out dress — all looked high quality and brand new. I even wore my Staud dress for my new headshots.

While I regularly go into the app and bookmark my favorite items, sometimes they are “sold out” in my size when it’s time for my swaps, which can be frustrating and time-consuming. I rely heavily on customer reviews and accompanying photos to avoid selecting items that might not work for me, like pieces with a tight bust (I’m a D cup) or a see-through fabric, or a large cutout that wouldn’t be office-appropriate.

Laura Scholz in RTR dress

Laura Scholz / InStyle

Pros and Cons


  • Online closet of more than 18,000 pieces from over 800 mid- to high-end designers
  • Can opt for multiple shipments per month
  • Offers short-term rentals for special occasions and one-off events
  • Easy-to-navigate website and app
  • Extensive customer reviews, many with images 
  • Customer service is available seven days a week via phone and email
  • Ability to schedule at-home pickup 


  • Basic, five-plan subscription doesn’t give customers access to more expensive items
  • Limited availability of certain sizes and styles
  • Some items look more worn and faded than others 
  • No live chat for customer service

Who’s Rent the Runway Good For?

Rent the Runway is a great subscription rental service for those who want to mix up their wardrobe regularly with quality pieces. Curious about the latest trends but not sure pastel hues, denim dresses, or Y2K revival pieces work for you? Throw one of the items in your monthly shipment, and if it doesn’t work, you’re only out $20 to $30, not a few hundred. Additionally, you don’t have to fill out return forms like you would if you had purchased it.

The service is also a good option for one-time rentals, especially if you have nonstop parties or weddings and don’t want to be seen wearing the same outfit twice. My pregnant and new-parent friends also love Rent the Runway for filling in wardrobe gaps while they’re between sizes. The company has several great maternity looks ranging from casual — and stretchy — jersey dresses and designer denim to statement coats and formal wear. 

Final Thoughts

With thousands of pieces from top designers and flexible membership plans, Rent the Runway is an easy way to refresh your closet on a budget. It’s also a great service for one-time rentals for special events or seasonal items like heavy winter coats or festival outfits that you don’t want to invest in long-term by purchasing them. 

While some items are more miss than hit, I have used Rent the Runway consistently for everything from date night outfits to casual weekend wear, and I keep coming back because the selection and the price can’t be beat. I would definitely recommend it to friends who equally love mixing up their looks, as long as the membership fee fits their budget.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Long Can I Keep the Items Before Returning Them?

    Rent the Runway has several membership tiers, with the option to receive five items anywhere from one to four times per month. At the end of that time frame, you can opt to swap out items for new ones, purchase them at a discount, or keep them a little longer. However, there is no option to extend items with one-time rentals — you have to return them within four or eight days or purchase them.

  • Do I Have to Wash the Clothes Before Sending a Return?

    No, you don’t have to wash clothes before sending them back to Rent the Runway. Between customer uses, the company cleans each garment with biodegradable, fragrance-free detergents. Some items are steamed at high temperatures to eliminate wrinkles, and all pieces are immediately sealed in recyclable plastic after washing to keep them spotless for the next customer. 

  • What Happens If I Damage My Rent the Runway Clothes?

    Rent the Runway examines all items after they are returned. General wear and tear and minor damage (think a missing button or malfunctioning zipper) are covered in the cost of the rental item and membership fee. However, if you lose or severely damage a piece, you may be charged up to full retail price to cover the cost of replacing it, so treat items with care when they are in your possession.

  • When Can I Cancel My Membership?

    You can cancel your Rent the Runway membership at any time in the app or on the website. Make sure to cancel the membership before your next billing date to avoid being charged the next monthly payment. Once you’ve canceled, you must return all items within 24 hours, or you will be charged a late fee.  

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