Congratulations on getting into college! As a college student, you'll quickly realize that textbooks are one of the most expensive expenditures in higher education, costing over $1,200 a year on average. If you're wondering whether you should buy or rent textbooks, consider the many benefits of renting. Fortunately, there are many amazing college textbook rental options available!
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Why Rent Textbooks?
There are tons of reasons why renting a textbook online makes more sense than buying a new one.
Extra money is always nice
The biggest and most obvious benefit is that it saves you money. New textbooks every semester eat away at money that could be spent having fun, eating better, or just saving. You'd be lucky to get 1/4 of the price of a new textbook if you try to sell it at the end of the semester. Even compared to buying old textbooks, renting is a way cheaper option.
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Renting textbooks online is also incredibly convenient. The books are delivered to you before the semester starts so you don't have to go on a panic-buying spree the first week you get back to campus. Most websites allow you the freedom to choose how long you want to rent the book for, and sending them back is easy and free.
You might get some free notes
Sometimes you might be able to benefit from previous students’ hard work. Some companies allow students to highlight important sections of the book, so you might stumble onto a textbook that already has the most critical information easily accessible.
It gives you safety
If you buy a brand new textbook only to find out that it's the wrong one you might not have any option but to spend more money and buy the right book. When you rent a textbook though, most companies have a return policy, so even if you choose to drop a class, or the professor changes the reading list on you, you won't lose money.
It makes moving around easier
Moving dorm rooms or moving to off-campus housing is a regular part of student life. Lugging around a bunch of heavy textbooks every year or semester isn't fun. By renting textbooks you lighten your load when moving.
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Considerations Before You Rent College Textbooks
With all these benefits you might be tempted to immediately browse websites and start renting textbooks, but there are a few things you should think about before you do that.
How long are you going to need the textbook?
Renting a textbook makes the most sense when you need it for a few weeks or a semester. Some books might be needed for several courses over a few years. In that case, it's actually more cost-effective to buy one. You may not have every course you’re going to do over the next few years planned out, so ask a TA, upperclassmen in your specific field of study, or your professor if there are some books that you should hold onto for a while.
How long are you going to want the textbook?
If you're the kind of person that likes having textbooks around for reference then renting may not be the best option for you. Buying a textbook also lets you do whatever you want to it, notes in the margin, highlights, folds, rip pages out, literally whatever you want!
What kind of guarantee or return policy does the company have?
It's always a good idea to go over all the terms, conditions, and policies of the website before you buy or rent anything from them. Most websites offer a no-questions-asked return policy (the timing varies but it's usually a minimum of 7 days), but if you're hunting for a real bargain you should definitely check what to do if you get a damaged textbook.
Does the company provide all extra materials?
Textbooks often come with supplementary materials like worksheets and CDs or codes to online learning modules. Make sure to check that these are included when you rent from a website. Sometimes if you rent a textbook that's all you're getting, no extras.
The Problems With Renting
Like with most things in life, nothing is perfect, including renting textbooks. So here are the major problems that you should be aware of.
You have to keep it in good condition
If you're the kind of person who gets stains on their clothes all the time, every piece of paper you receive gets crumpled, or every book you own looks beat up, then renting may not be the best option for you. Renting from a company means you have to give it back in a similar condition otherwise you may face penalties or lose a deposit.
You don't own it
This may be pretty obvious but it's still worth mentioning. You don't own the book, which means you can't cover it in notes, or doodle in the margins, or rip pages out to make your own study materials.
You could end up paying extra fees
Maybe you forgot to send the books back in time, or maybe you lost one of the books during a really intense late-night study session at the library. Maybe your friend accidentally spilled an entire cup of coffee over the book, anything can happen in life. So make sure you factor in any potential costs when making your decision to rent.
The Best Textbook Rental Sites
All right! Now that you know the pros and cons of textbook rental let's go over some of the best options online.
eCampus promises easy, fast, cheap services and they keep their word. It's one of the few textbook rental sites that has a rewards program that gives you points for the money you have spent, along with regular promo codes and other discounts. Another way they stand out is by providing international shipping, so if you're a student in a foreign country this is a good way of getting your textbooks. Apart from college textbooks rent, these are some of the other cool things they offer:
- Free shipping both ways on orders over $35
- Flexible rental duration. Short-term, quarter, and semester with options to extend your rental at any time
- The option to sort by book condition from best to worst
- 25-day return policy
Knetbooks is also one of the few textbook rental sites that offer free delivery on any shipment without a minimum purchase amount. This is very useful if you need to do a one-time order, but the trade-off is that they are slightly more expensive than many other websites. You can find great deals on it, especially if your order doesn't match other website’s minimum free delivery amounts. Apart from that, they stand out by having a helpline that you can reach between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. between Monday and Friday. Their website design could be a little more clear but they have a lot of benefits like:
- 25-day no-questions-asked return policy
- Very flexible rental duration options as well as extension options
- Option to buy a book you rented
- Coupon codes and discount offers
- Text message reminders to return your books
Renting books already saves you plenty of money. But if you need to go a step further - Biggerbooks can help you with that. It is a US-based website that will look for the best deals the web can offer. All you have to do is decide which one works best for you. It's usually a no-brainer. But you should keep in mind that such factors as delivery time and book condition can also be important. On average, Biggerbooks usually manages to get you the book you need for a much cheaper price than most rental services out there. And this makes it an invaluable companion for all types of students regardless of major. Don't be shy to use it - it's reliable and very cost-efficient.
BooksRun is one of the easiest to use and clearest textbook rental sites. They are also one of the few that offer absolutely free delivery for any order with no minimum amount necessary. They have a large selection of books and various options for the duration of rental as well as options to extend. They don't offer supplementary materials when you rent a textbook but they do have an extensive selection of online e-textbooks. These are some of their major benefits:
- Free delivery with no minimum order amounts
- Rental options from 35 days to 90 days
- Prepaid shipping labels for free return delivery
- A focus on eco-friendliness
- A customer loyalty program
- Option to buy books you have rented
Campus Book Rentals
Campus Book Rentals is one of the oldest companies in the online textbook renting market and is one of the best places to rent textbooks. Founded in 2007, they claim to have saved students over 117 million dollars over the years. It's been featured in high-profile publications like the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek. One of the ways it stands out from other companies is that it has no limits on how much you can highlight, in fact, they encourage it! Other benefits include:
- 3 standard rental time periods. Semester for 130 days, quarter for 85 days, and summer for 55 days, but you can specify exactly how many days you want them for as well.
- Live online support 24/7
- Free 21-day no-questions-asked return policy
- 15-day grace period after due dates
- Free shipping both ways
- Massive collection of books
Amazon has become an absolute monster of a company and a place where people now go to buy basically anything and everything, but it started out as just an online bookstore! So it's no surprise that Amazon is a great option to rent college textbooks as well. You get all the normal perks of Amazon, like verified dealers and guarantees but also some of the downsides. You could be charged the price of the whole book if they decide it's overly highlighted. If you miss the return deadline they charge you for a 15-day extension, after which they charge you the price of the book and you have to buy it. They only offer free shipping for orders over $35 or if you have Amazon Prime or Amazon Student. Finally, you might not get all the additional supplementary materials. On the other hand, there are tons of benefits!
- You can find some of the best deals possible on Amazon
- There's a 30-day money-back guarantee
- E-textbook feature that gives you access to electronic textbooks and other materials( needs the kindle app)
- School lists that allow you to enter your school name or zip code to access book lists uploaded by teachers
Chegg is one of the most popular book buying and rental websites for students. Not only does it provide massive discounts it also has several unique features that make it stand out from the competition. When you buy or rent a book from Chegg you get access to a free ebook of it while you wait for delivery. They also provide a free one-month trial for Chegg Study, which gives you access to online tutors and other services. The only real downside is that they are pretty strict about highlighting, but apart from that, benefits include:
- 21 day no questions asked returns
- Free shipping for orders over $50
- The option to purchase your rental
- Free return shipping using the provided prepaid label
- Free ebooks while you wait for delivery
- A one-month trial. 2 Chegg study which provides online tutors and step by step solutions to your questions
Valorebooks stands out by comparing prices across various different websites and showing you the best options. They position themselves as ”the Student’s Marketplace” (their tagline) and if you find a cheaper option within seven days of ordering, they pay you the difference. One of the downsides is that it's sometimes difficult to find older books but the biggest downside of Valorebooks is that they have a shipping charge of $3.95 per item (return shipping is free). A unique benefit is that they show options for alternate versions of textbooks (previous editions or International editions) that are much cheaper. Here are some of the other features they offer:
- 30-day money-back guarantee no questions asked
- Ability to track your order
- Easy and extensive search options
- Rental options of a quarter or a semester
TextbookRush offers all the standard services you can expect from an online textbook renting website. It prides itself on offering some of the cheapest rental options, up to 90% off the retail cost of textbooks. They are a young college textbook rental company that's eco-friendly. They send their books in a green reusable box that they ask you to keep and send the books back in. Apart from the ability to rent cheap textbooks, they offer features like:
- 30-day money-back guarantee no questions asked
- Free shipping for orders over $35 and free return shipping
- Easy to use website
- Free same-day delivery with purchases over $35
Tips for Using Textbook Rental Websites
These are the websites that we like the most, but there are tons of places to rent textbooks online. Here are some tips in general for navigating college textbook rental sites.
Know and use ISBN numbers
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a unique number that identifies a book including its specific edition. Every textbook will have an ISBN number and if you need a specific version of a book, it is best to search for books on college textbook rental websites using their ISBN number.
Check for access codes and supplementary materials
Access codes for online materials that come with the textbook are usually not available through rental services, so if you need an access code it might be better to buy a new textbook. The same goes with supplementary materials; some websites offer them and others don't so make sure you check your course requirements and the website policy.
Carefully read the fine print
Every company has different policies with some being more flexible than others. In an effort to save money, you may just go for the cheapest rental option, but you might end up spending more if you don't look at shipping costs, late fees, options to extend rental or buy the rental, etc.
Keep the book in good condition
The biggest downside of renting a textbook means that you have to return it. Most companies understand that a little bit of wear and tear is normal but you may be charged the cost of a brand new textbook if you severely damage the one you've rented.
Renting textbooks will absolutely save you thousands of dollars over the course of your education. Most of the best websites have made things easy for you by having excellent options for delivery, extensions, refunds, and more. If you make the effort to compare textbook rental sites and read their policies, you will definitely find incredible deals.
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