Beyond paying for tuition and room and board, buying college textbooks can quickly become one of the most costly aspects of getting a college education.
Required textbooks for courses can often be extremely expensive, and when you pay full price for them, it can add thousands of dollars to your total yearly cost.
This is why reducing the costs of your college textbooks is a great way to save money in college.
In this article here we’ll explore some of the best cheap college textbook rental sites that can help you to save hundreds of dollars this semester. So let's get started.
Reasons To Rent Textbooks Or Buy Used
Brand new textbooks can be very costly, with some estimating that it can cost an average of $1200 a semester for new books. This is perhaps the most compelling reason to consider renting textbooks or buying used; you can save a lot of money. Even if you use a buyback service at the end of the semester, you can only expect to recoup approximately 25% of the cost.
Another reason to consider renting your textbooks is that renting can be an easy way to get your textbooks before the start of the semester. You can choose the exact book and get a price for the entire rental period rather than walking around all the bookstores in the area to find the best deals.
Finally, renting your textbooks means that you won’t need to relocate an entire library every time you change your dorm room or when you travel home. Of course, you’re likely to accumulate stuff while you’re at college, but do you really have room in your car for boxes and boxes of books that you may not read again.
Things To Consider When You Rent A Textbook
While renting textbooks can be a great way to save some cash, there are a few things that you will need to consider before you make any agreement.
First, you need to think about your style of learning. If you’re the type of student who likes to refer back to textbooks to confirm a theory a few semesters after you took the initial class, you are likely to be better suited to buying your book. Additionally, if you find that information sinks in a little easier if you can highlight passages in your books, then renting might not be for you.
You will also need to consider your long term requirements. While many courses only require a textbook for just one semester, there are some courses that need the same book for multiple semesters. If you’re unsure, it is worth speaking to your professor to determine if it is better to buy or rent.
If you’ve decided that renting is the best option, you will also need to consider the fine print of any purchase. You should check for the shipping fees and any other costs associated with the specific book you’re looking at. Add up the costs of any late fees, damage fees, or any other costs that may be applied, so you have a realistic price of your textbook.
Finally, consider the rental site you’re using. It is a good idea to choose a site that provides some kind of assurance of textbook quality. For example, ideally, the site should provide an option of a replacement if the book is delivered in poor condition or missing some pages.
The Best And Cheapest Textbook Rental Sites
Fortunately, there are some fantastic textbook rental sites that provide affordable options to get your hands on the books you need.
Campus Book Rentals
Campus Book Rentals has been around since 2007, and it was one of the first companies to offer textbook rentals. According to the site, Campus Book Rentals has saved students almost $117 million dollars since it was established.
Campus Book Rentals offers three options; Semester (130 days), a quarter (85 days), or summer (55 days). Each of these rental periods also has a 21-day free return guarantee that provides assurance that if you’re not happy with your book or if you change classes, you’re not stuck paying for a book you can’t use.
After the rental period, Campus Book Rentals will send a prepaid shipping label so you can return your book. There is also a 15 day grace period if you need to keep the book a little longer, or you can pay for an additional 15 or 30-day extension.
Additionally, if you need to re-rent the book for any reason, the company offers a discounted rate. You can also receive excellent customer support via chat or phone.
Chegg is another favorite site for cheap college textbook rentals. This offers free access to e-versions of preferred books for seven days and discounts of up to 90%. If your total book rental is over $50, you can enjoy free shipping before the end of September, but this offer may be subject to change.
If you decide that you would like to keep the book, there is also an option to purchase the rental. You can return your books in any box using the prepaid shipping label.
One thing that Chegg discourages is excessive highlighting or writing on the books. This may attract a fee, or you may be obligated to purchase the book.
What makes Chegg books stand apart is that there is a dedicated study tab with answers to problems posed and access to an online tutor. This is a great resource if you need a little extra help grasping a subject that has not been comprehensively covered in your class.
Just be sure to keep a close watch of your statements, as some reviewers have been charged multiple items for returned items, so you’ll need to quickly report any such issues.
BiggerBooks is a premier online texbook store where you can buy highly discounted books and textbooks. They advertise savings of up to 91% over list prices using their proprietary technology that searches the web for the lowest prices, and keeps theirs current.
Buy or rent textbooks, e-textbooks, or sell your textbooks when the semester is over.
They offer free shipping on orders of $59 or more, which in most instances shouldn't be too hard.
Vital Source Textbooks
Vital Source Textbooks is a little different, offering instant access to digital textbooks and a broad suite of study tools.
You can download your preferred titles and then study with complete offline access. You can use any device to read your textbooks and sync it across all of your devices, color coding any annotations, and making notes.
Another great feature is that you can listen and follow along with the read-aloud function and use the Flashcards and Review mode for your study sessions.
AbeBooks has been an online seller of new and used textbooks, fine art, collectibles and more, since 1996. They have a long track record of helping people to find the books they need, at an affordable price. They were acquired by Amazon.com, Inc in 2008.
AbeBooks has subsidiary sites in the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and elsewhere.
They also own the book price comparison site BookFinder.com.
Textbook Rush claims its prices are as much as 90% off the retail price and there is free shipping on all orders over $35. Textbook Rush also offers a 30-day moneyback guarantee, which is over a week longer than most textbook rental sites.
Textbook Rush tends to send orders out in green reusable boxes, and they recommend using this box to return your books when you’re finished. The company also pays for return shipping, further minimizing your costs.
BetterWorldBooks was started in South Bend, Indiana by two college friends at Notre Dame university. They saw a need for more affordable textbooks at their university, and wanted to have the company also be used by generating revenue to fund literacy projects. They set about finding a way to make that happen.
To date the company has raised over $28 million dollars for literacy projects and libraries, while donating over 26 million books. Over 320 million books have been reused or recycled by BetterWorldBooks.
Textbook prices on the site are pretty affordable, they claim that you can get the textbooks at up to 90% off of list price.
You can also take advantage of their free rewards program and earn rewards, receive coupons and get exclusive savings off of your textbooks.
In addition to savings of as much as 85 percent, Knetbooks also offers free shipping for orders and returns. The site is a little difficult to navigate, but there is a helpline from 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.
Although the prices tend to be a little higher compared to some of the other sites on our list, you can tailor your rental for 60 to 130 days. There is also the option to purchase your book if you decide you would like to keep it after the rental period.
While the higher prices are a drawback, many users report that deliveries are always timely, and the company makes the process easy, convenient, and fast from start to finish.
The eCampus slogan is "Easy, Fast, Cheap!", making it ideal for our list. The company offers free shipping both ways on any textbook order over $35, and there is an eWards reward system that provides loyal customers with a dollar credit for every three points earned. Even if you don’t meet the minimum for free shipping, you’ll pay just $3 a shipment with $0.99 per item.
eCampus also provides greater flexibility for rental durations. You can choose short term, quarter, or semester. It also allows you to sort the book condition from worst to best with an option to pay via PayPal.
What makes eCampus stand apart is that there is international shipping, and the company also has promo codes periodically to save even more.
RedShelf is one of the leading edtech companies, helping colleges and publishers transition from traditional print to more affordable digital textbooks.
Buying e-textbooks can help you to save up to 80% off of the cost of traditional print textbooks.
Their digital titles also have additional features like the ability to take notes alongside the text, being able to define unfamiliar words while reading, creating flash cards as you read, building study guides, having the text read aloud and more.
If you're looking for a place to get your textbooks that is forward looking using the latest technology, RedShelf may be a good option to check out.
Amazon Textbook Rentals
Obviously, Amazon is a massive name in retail, but it also offers a great textbook rental service. Amazon Textbook Rentals has a promise to save students up to 90 percent on textbooks and access to a 30-day refund and return option if the book is not satisfactory. Additionally, Amazon Student users can enjoy free shipping.
There is also an eTextbook feature providing access to a vast repository of electronic books for rent, but you will need to have the free Kindle app installed on your device. The service is equipped with School Lists to help you to find your recommended books. You’ll just need to enter the school name or ZIP code to get the list provided by teachers with access to the service.
There are a few rules for Amazon Textbook Rentals that may seem daunting. For example, you’ll be charged the full price for the book if it is deemed excessively highlighted. There is also no guarantee of access to supplementary materials when you rent your book. Additionally, if the book is not returned by the deadline, you’ll be charged for a 15-day extension fee, and after this time, you’ll be forced to keep the book as you’ll be billed the full price.
Barnes and Noble Textbook Rentals
As one of the original bookselling chains, Barnes and Noble offers a superb selection of textbooks and a great textbook rental service. The company offers some of the most competitive pricing, and its selection is comparable to Amazon. However, you will be charged shipping costs, whether you rent or buy your books.
Barnes and Noble is one of the only college textbook rental sites that provides software to access supplementary materials, which is a great add on for many classes.
Valore Books takes pride in being “the student marketplace” for your college textbook rentals. It is one of the few sites that allows you to track your order or return orders via a box on the homepage.
One of the standout features of Valore Books is that you can compare book prices from different rental providers to find the best possible deal. Although the shipping charge is $3.95 an item, you can also qualify for free rental return shipping and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Although the selection is limited for the newer textbooks, Valore Books does have an excellent selection of older books.
Textbookx is a subsidiary of the Connecticut based online store Akademos, Inc. This company has been in business since 1999 and has a long track record of providing books online at affordable prices. The company has also made a commitment to customer service, and this is reflected in its A+ Better Business Bureau rating.
This company has a significant selection of new and used college textbooks, and there is an option to sell books through its marketplace. The company stocks its own books and has three online partners to further extend the selection. However, the shipping charges and policies vary according to who has the book in stock. If you purchase from Textbookx direct, you can enjoy free shipping if you spend more than $49. Otherwise, the shipping costs are $4.96 an item.
Generally, Textbookx offers lower prices compared to most online resellers for buying books, but the book rental program links to other rental providers.
This is an all-inclusive site that allows you to buy, sell, or rent college textbooks. The textbook rental aspect of the business is simple and easy to use. You just need to search the title or ISBN of the textbook and select the “rent” option. You can also choose a 30, 60, 90, or 150-day rental term.
If you need to keep the book for a little longer, Bookbyte will provide a seven day grace period. Additionally, the company claims that you can save as much as 87% on textbook rental, and the average student saves $112.93 per book by using its services.
Bookbyte also offers free shipping on orders over $49, which may be higher than some of the sites on our list, but it still represents a good deal.
Tips For Finding Your Textbooks Cheap
Textbook rental sites can be a great resource, but there are some things that you need to remember when renting your textbooks.
- Use the ISBN To Make Sure You Have The Right Book: There are often several editions for most textbooks, so you need to make sure that you have access to the latest edition.The best way to do this is to search by the ISBN number of the book rather than just relying on a title search.
- Don’t Expect Access Codes or Supplementary Materials: Textbook rentals are classified as used books, so if there is normally an access code included, or supplementary materials, the chances are the code has already been used, or the extra materials are not included in the rental. If it is important that you have the access code, you may be forced to buy the book instead of renting. If supplementary materials are necessary and the ad doesn't explicitly say they're included, make sure to reach out and verify that they're included.
- Take Good Care Of Your Rented Books: While most textbook rental sites expect and allow highlighting, there is a fine line between acceptable and excessive. Additionally, you need to avoid staining or tearing any pages. Most sites have a clause in the terms and conditions that if the book is returned with excessive wear and tear, you’ll be forced to buy the book.
- Keep In Mind Total Costs: Some sites will have lower prices, but charge a higher cost for shipping, or taxes. Make sure you figure out the total cost before you purchase.
Check Multiple Textbook Rental Sites At Once Using These Aggregators
If you’re searching for all the books in your syllabus, it can still be a time-consuming process. Fortunately, there are some great aggregators to expedite your search. Below are some of the best.
BookScouter is a great resource to buy, sell, or rent textbooks. You can use the main website or use the BookScouter app, which provides a fast and convenient tool. It is easy to get started; you just need to provide your name and email address to register.
CampusBooks allows you to make a complete textbook rental price comparison. You can search dozens of rental sites to seek out the lowest prices, and the Campus Books SuperBot will let you know if it works out cheaper to rent or buy your textbook.
TextbookRentals is another excellent aggregator that allows you to search for all your books, compare prices, and save money on your textbook rental. The platform also has a great blog to provide you with helpful information on college life to help you make the most of your college experience.
CheapestTextbooks is an aggregator that searches "1000's of college textbooks sellers" to find you the best deal on your textbook rental or purchase. They search online sellers, big bookstores, and hundreds of small online bookstores. They'll try to find you the lowest possible price, including shipping when possible.
Save Money On Your Education By Renting College Textbooks
Renting your textbooks is a great way to cut the cost of your college experience.
Many of the companies we’ve listed can save you up to 90% on the cost of books, which can add up to thousands of dollars in savings over the course of your university career.
Have your own tips to save money on college textbooks? Tell us what they are in the comments!
Great list, but you missed a big one for price comparing – BIGWORDS.com
This site helped me save so much money on my textbooks all four years I was in college.