Should I Buy or Rent My Textbooks?

Should I Buy or Rent My Textbooks
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Back when I started college (I know I make myself sound older than my actual age), which was ten years ago, the option of being able to rent a textbook wasn’t as popular as it is now. I remember my first semester I only had the option to purchase a book new or used. Eventually renting books became a popular thing and I found myself deciding to rent some books so I didn’t have to purchase all of them.

Of course the popular question that college students often ask of “whether I should buy my textbooks or rent them?” was always on my mind each semester as I found out the list of textbooks that I’d be needing.

Fortunately for everyone, I’ve come up with a list that can help you figure out which option is the best one to go with.

Why should you buy your textbooks?

  • Option of New/Used

    If you decide to buy your textbook, you have the option of being able to buy it new or used. It’s not to say that this isn’t an option if you rent it but if can be quite difficult to be able to rent a new textbook, unless you get lucky and are the first to rent it. What’s so special about it being new? If it’s new, you know no one has written on it and if you’re one to write on your textbook and highlight it, then this is an option for you. If you don’t mind it being used, you might still be able to find textbooks that have not been written on (you’d of course have to check with whoever is selling it to make sure that it hasn’t been written on).
Some people like to write or highlight on a textbook and if you do, your best option would be to buy the book. Some places do allow you to write or highlight on a rental book but it would be a hassle to have to highlight or write over other peoples notes.
  • It’s Yours To Keep!

    If you decide that the book is one that you want to keep forever, especially if you feel like you’ll be referencing it later in your career, then buying is of course the best option for you as it’s yours forever. It might seem hard to believe that you’d be keeping a textbook forever but there are some out there that do provide a lot of great information that you might want to reference later on.
  • Possibility of Getting Your Money Back

    If the book that you bought is a new edition that just came out or if it’s a book that is still going to be used for the next semester, then you’ll likely be able to sell it to another college student and get back the money that you paid for it. It’ll be like you borrowed the book for free!

    You do have to be sure that the book will be continued to be used though because the worst thing that could happen is that you happen to be in the last semester that it was used for but you may still be able to get some money for it if you sell it in an online marketplace or directly to Amazon and other book resellers.
100 Dollar Bills
If you know you have a good chance at getting your money back by reselling the book after the semester is over (especially if it’s one of those books that a lot of classes use) then buying is the book is the best option.
  • Options to Choose From

    Some books have the option of being in softcover, hardcover, loose-leaf, etc. and by purchasing the book you’ll be able to find the book in the style that you prefer. It’s not to say that you might not be able to find it if you rent it, but for say a book that’s loose-leaf it’ll be tough to find it in that style.

  • Access Codes

    If your class needs to have an access code to do your homework online or access other features, then you’re better off buying the book because if you rent it, there’s a high chance that code won’t be on the book. You would also want to buy it new or if it’s used, make sure that that code hasn’t been used yet.

    I wouldn’t think they’d keep the code on a rental book, even if you were the first person to rent it so choose to buy it new (unless of course you want to buy the access code online and have the book to have a physical copy to reference to, then yeah rent the book.)

Why should you rent your textbooks?

  • Great Savings 

    If it’s a textbook that normally costs $200, it might just cost you like $90 to rent, therefore making it a better option to simply rent it rather than buy it as you won’t have to spend as much upfront.
Piggy Bank
If you’re looking to save as much money as possible on a book that you will only need for the class, then renting will provide those savings.
  • Lose Less Money

    If you know the edition you’re purchasing seems to be a couple of years old, or know that there is a newer edition out there and your course is likely going to be changing soon, then renting would be your best option. It’ll mean that even though you might not be getting back the amount that you spent to rent it, you’ll be better off than buying the book and losing money or worst of all, not being able to sell the book (which is something that happened to me once).

  • Free Return Offers

    Some online marketplace sellers like Chegg, offer free returns and conveniently allow you to use the same box the order came in. It helps you save money on shipping and they conveniently send you a prepaid shipping label to send your book back. I’ve used them before and can tell you that the whole process is smooth. You just have to make sure that you don’t lose the box it comes in so that you don’t have to go out looking for a box later.
Shipping Cardboard Boxes
Having to buy shipping supplies to return a book can add up, but fortunately there are some places that offer free shipping and let you use the box the book came in to return it.
  • Useful for Class, but just that

    If the book is going to be for a class subject that you know you likely won’t be taking again (i.e. a general education course unrelated to your major) then renting is definitely the way to go as there likely won’t be a chance you’ll want to keep the book (unless of course you decide after taking that class you’ll be switching majors, which could happen).

  • Money Back Guarantee

    Sometimes you take a class and decide that it’s not interesting or maybe you have a new job and they won’t work with your schedule (which if you have a job like that you should consider working for a retail-store lol) and you decide to drop your class. Luckily some rental sites (again like Chegg) offer a money back guarantee. Chegg in particular offers a 21-day money back period in which they’ll refund you if you return the book within the time of purchase. You might be able to find some online sellers that will accept your return if you buy the book but you might run into some that don’t accept returns. If you bought the book from another college student on campus then there’s a high chance they won’t accept returns (unless “they regret selling the book” – no college student ever).

So these are just some of the benefits of buying & renting textbooks. We are fortunate to be in a time when we’re able to buy or rent most textbooks out there and have the option of going with either. When I first started, there weren’t many options to buy textbooks online and when I first heard of renting textbooks, they’d charge a fee to return them and so you had to factor that cost in the cost of the book to see if it made sense to rent it.

Do you prefer to buy or rent your textbooks? Do you have more benefits to either that you’d like to add to the list?


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