This paper analyses the role of risk and rate of time preference in the choice of land contracts. The analysis builds on the risk-sharing and imperfect market explanations of contract choice. Unique data from Ethiopia, which contain land contract information and experimental risk and rate of time preference measures on matched landlord–tenant partners, are employed in the empirical analysis. The results show that landlord and tenant time preferences are significant determinants of contract choice. For landlords (but not tenants), risk preference is also significant, indicating the importance of financial constraints and production risk in the determination of contract choice. The results are of particular relevance to land market policy in Ethiopia, where production is risk-prone, financial markets are imperfect, and where there is a major need for the development of vibrant land rental markets.