The cost of college textbooks is a significant expense. In fact, students spend an average of $1,280 a year on books, according to The College Board. If you’re relying on student loans to pay for college, textbooks can add thousands to your overall debt.
Many students depend on the campus bookstore to find used books at a discount, but even used books can be prohibitively expensive. The National Association of College Stores reported that most used college textbooks cost 75 percent of the original retail price.
Luckily, there’s another way you can save money on books. Instead of buying, rent college textbooks.
Why should I rent college textbooks?
Some students love seeing their stack of books grow year after year. However, those books often go completely unused, gathering dust over time. Because that pile of books can be useless later on, renting can be a budget-conscious alternative.
Rather than buying a book, you pay a much smaller fee to rent the book. You’ll have the same book as everyone else in your class; you’ll just pay a fraction of the cost.
When renting, you can decide if you want to borrow a print copy of the book or a digital edition. If you have a full day of classes, you might appreciate having all of your books on a computer or tablet rather than lugging around a backpack stuffed with textbooks.
How much can you save by renting textbooks?
According to Chegg, a leading textbook rental company, you can save as much as 90 percent by renting a book rather than buying it.
For example, you would pay $176 for a copy of “School Law: Cases and Concepts” at Barnes & Noble. If you were willing to buy a used copy, you could get one for $115 on Amazon. However, you could save even more by renting it.
On Chegg, you can rent the eBook for just $43.99 — 75 percent less than the purchase price of the new book.
If you rented all of your textbooks, you could save hundreds each year. This strategy can help reduce the amount of money you need to borrow for college expenses.
What are the drawbacks to renting?
Although there are many benefits to renting, there are a few disadvantages to keep in mind:
- Late fees: Every book you rent will have a return due date. If you miss the deadline, the rental company might charge you late fees.
- Damage penalties: If you rent a print edition and you’re clumsy, you might spill a drink or smudge chocolate on the pages (understandable during finals week). Those accidents can cost you; some companies require you to pay for a replacement if you damage the original.
- No resale value: If you buy new textbooks, you might be able to recoup some of your expenses by reselling them online or to your college bookstore. By renting, you pay a fraction of the purchase price, but you can’t resell the books later on.
- Temporary use: If a textbook is valuable and useful beyond a single course, renting might not be a good option. You have to return the book after a semester, so you’ll lose out on a reference resource if you take a similar course later.
Where to shop for textbooks
Just like purchasing a book, it’s a good idea to comparison shop if you intend to rent college textbooks. The prices can vary from company to company.
For example, if you needed to rent the “History of Modern Design,” the fee is about $35 on Barnes & Noble. Chegg has it for just $26. Comparing prices from multiple companies can help you save even more.
These four sites are reputable and can be excellent resources for renting textbooks:
- Amazon: The online shopping behemoth has a robust textbook rental section. If you sign up for Amazon Student, you can get free two-day shipping. If you need your books quickly and want the print version, Amazon can be a great place to start.
- BigWords: BigWords compares prices from multiple companies at once, which can make researching your options much easier. Because they pull from several different companies, they can find rentals for even obscure textbooks.
- Chegg: Chegg is one of the few sites that allows you to highlight sections of your rental (but no writing). And if you drop a class, you have a 21-day risk-free window to return the book. If you need a book longer, you can extend or purchase your rental.
- ValoreBooks: ValoreBooks offers a price-match guarantee. If you find a book at a lower rental cost elsewhere, they’ll match the price. Also, they offer free return shipping for your rental.
New rental companies are popping up every day; some are more reliable than others. Before paying for a book, make sure you check reviews of the company and understand all of their policies regarding late fees, returns, and damage to books.
Saving money while in school
College tuition and school fees are rising, so you have to save money where you can. Although textbooks can be a major financial burden, deciding to rent college textbooks rather than buying can save you a substantial amount of cash.
If you’re looking for other ways to save money while in school, learn how to create a college budget.
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