Paying for college goes beyond the costs of tuition, fees and room and board. In light of the fact that, according to the National Association of College Stores, students spent an average of $602 on course materials for the 2016 academic year, it may be advantageous to rent textbooks instead of buying them. Renting physical – or digital – versions can be less expensive and saves you the trouble of having to sell back your books at the end of the semester. (For more, see The True Cost of Attending College.)
While digital textbooks are growing in popularity, 40% of students still prefer printed versions. Fortunately, finding the best places to rent textbooks online doesn’t require an advanced degree.
10 Best Sites to Rent Textbooks Online
Not all textbook rental sites are the same. The best sites combine the widest selection with the lowest prices and the most flexible rental terms. Here are 10 sites to consider if you want to rent books for your next class.
- Chegg Books – The site advertises savings of up to 90% on textbooks, with free shipping on orders over $35. There’s a 21-day, risk-free return period, in case you end up dropping or switching classes and need different textbooks. You can also extend your rental or purchase your textbook.
- Amazon – Like Chegg Books, Amazon touts up to 90% savings on rentals for new, used and digital textbooks. As far as selection goes, the retail giant is hard to beat. Amazon Prime and Prime Student members get free two-day shipping. If you’re not a Prime member, shipping is free on orders over $35. You have 30 days to return rental texts for a full refund, and return shipping is free when you use the provided shipping label. (For more, see Is Amazon Prime's $99 Annual Fee Worth it? It Depends (AMZN).)
- Campus Book Rentals – This site claims to have saved its customers over $113 million on textbooks and, generally, renters can save up to 80% per book. You have 21 days to return your books for a full refund, and you pay nothing to send books back. Rental periods are flexible, so you’re only paying for your book for as long as you need it.
- TextbookRush – A catalog of more than 600,000 eBooks can be found at TextbookRush, along with physical textbooks. Students can save up to 90% off printed versions and up to 60% off digital versions. Renters have a 30-day, 100% satisfaction guarantee in case you need to return something, and your books ship free when you spend $35 or more. (For more, see Print Textbooks vs. E-Textbooks.)
- Bookbyte – You can rent textbooks for terms of 30, 60, 90 or 150 days from Bookbyte, depending on your needs. You can extend the rental period if needed or return books early. The window for getting a full refund is a little shorter compared to other online rental services, at seven days. Free shipping applies to rental orders over $49.
- Barnes & Noble – While offering rental periods ranging from 60 to 130 days, Barnes & Noble lets you stretch that out by another 15 to 125 days if you need the book a little longer. The site offers high-quality printed versions of texts, with a 21-day return window if you change your mind. Orders over $25 ship free, and students can snag savings of up to 90% off the cover price.
- iFlipd – For students who need to rent books for a shorter time frame, iFlipd is a good source. Instead of renting books for months at a time, you can rent them in weekly increments. Depending on the book, you may pay as little as $5 a week to rent. Shipping is free on print books, and digital versions can be read on any device. As an extra incentive you can earn points by renting and returning textbooks or referring friends. Those points can then be redeemed at brands such as Starbucks, Sephora and Nike.
- Campus Books – This is a rental comparison site that helps you find the cheapest prices on rentals. Students save up to 87% on average, and shipping is always free both ways. If you’re not sure whether renting or buying makes more sense, you can use the Campus Books Buy vs. Rent SuperBot to run the numbers so you can decide. (For more, see 8 Ways To Find Cheap Textbooks.)
- eCampus – Students can get a lot of attractive perks at eCampus, starting with up to 90% savings on textbook rentals, a 25-day return period and free shipping on orders of $35 or more. You can save even more using eCampus promotional codes and participating in the eWards program. You can earn points for things such as referring a friend or connecting your Facebook account and then redeem them for up to a $20 discount on your next rental order.
- Text Book Solutions – You have access to millions of titles at Text Book Solutions, with free shipping on orders of $50 or more. It takes about a week for books to ship, so if you need your texts faster, you may want to check out Amazon instead. In addition to renting, you can also get cash for any textbooks you own by selling them through the site.
The Bottom Line
Renting textbooks can leave more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket, but you should remember to do your research first. Compare the selection of each rental site and the pricing for rental texts, as well as the length of the rental terms. Also, be aware of any special restrictions on things, such as highlighting or writing in physical texts. Some rental companies may charge you full price for a rental text if it’s not returned in good condition, defeating your goal of saving.