Plastic or metal barrels can be used to collect rainwater from your roof to get free soft water for your plants. While there are companies that sell new rain barrel kits, there are ways to get used barrels, that can be converted to rain barrels, for free or a small fee.
When looking for a free rain barrel, first check for local city or water department programs where you can get a rain barrel kit, and sometimes even have it installed, for free. Los Angeles, Tampa, and Cleveland are a few of the cities with free rain barrel programs.
There are many businesses where you can get barrels for free. Check with soda pop manufacturers, car washes, car dealers, food processing plants and animal supply outlets. Watch ads online and in your local paper for free barrels. You may find inexpensive barrels on dairy farms, at garage sales and auctions, and in salvage yards.
Make sure any barrel you use to collect rainwater did not hold anything toxic. For example, most windshield wiper fluid is toxic to plants and other life. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection suggests disinfecting used barrels with 1/8 cup bleach in 5 gallons of water.