Renting college textbooks is becoming increasingly popular. Many companies, both big and small, are starting to offer textbook rental services, but how can you tell if renting your college textbooks is the smart thing to do for your particular situation?
1. Spend a few minutes pricing your books as if you were going to buy them (as both new and used). This sounds more intimidating than it really is, but it's worth the effort. Check out how much your books cost, both new and used, at your campus bookstore. Then spend a few minutes online searching for how much your books would cost if you were to buy them, either new or used, through an online store (that can often be cheaper than your campus shop).
2. Spend a few minutes figuring out what you need the book(s) for. Are you an English major who wants to keep the great works of literature you'll be reading this semester? Or are you a science major who knows that you'll never use your textbook again after the semester concludes? Will you want your textbook for reference later -- for example, will you want your general chemistry textbook you're using this semester for your organic chemistry class next semester?
3. Check with textbook buy-back programs. If you buy a book for $100, and can sell it back for $75, that may be a better deal than renting it for $30. Try to view your textbook purchase versus rental choice as something that will happen over the entire semester, not just the first week of class.
4. Figure out the total cost of renting your textbooks. You'll probably need them as soon as possible; how much will overnight shipping cost? What will it cost to ship them back? What if the company you rent them from decides your books are not in returnable condition at the end of the semester? Do you have to rent the books for longer than you actually need? Do you have to return the books before your semester ends? What happens if you lose one of the books? Are there any hidden fees associated with your textbook rental?
5. Compare, compare, compare. Compare as much as you can: buying new vs. buying used; buying used vs. renting; renting vs. borrowing from the library; etc. The only way you'll know you're getting the best deal possible is to know what your options are. For many students, renting textbooks is indeed a great way to save money, but it's worth a little time and effort to ensure it's right for your particular situation.