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Buying Textbooks vs. Renting Textbooks

As a college student, one thing you should always be on the lookout for is how to save money. Textbooks are something you might not think about once you’ve already paid your tuition and your room and board, but they’re a necessity every semester. One option you may have considered is whether you’re going to rent or buy your books. Carefully consider these pros and cons of each option.

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Benefits of buying

Buying your books is ideal if you:

  • Use study habits such as taking notes, highlighting, or making other markings to help you retain important information
  • Don’t want to worry about damages such as an accidentally ripped page or water spot
  • Intend to sell the book back after the semester to recoup some of your costs
  • Want to keep the book because it’s a useful reference material or creates the foundation for future classes in the subject area
  • The book is part of a bundle that includes electronic access to a publisher’s content, tests, or study guides that the professor requires. Used books don’t have these codes, or there is no guarantee that the previous student didn’t already use it

Drawbacks of buying

There are drawbacks to outright purchasing your textbooks off the shelf brand new every semester such as:

  • Paying full price since you’re the original owner of the book from the publisher
  • You’ll receive significantly less money back if you sell back to the bookstore at the end of the semester, especially if it has excessive marking, bending, or creased pages

Advantages of renting textbooks

Renting your textbooks is a relatively new option, but an ideal one for many students. Here are some of the reasons that you may consider renting instead of buying your course materials.

  • Costs are significantly lower when you rent your books because you’re only paying to use it, which frees up money for other college essentials.
  • Renting textbooks is environmentally friendly because the book gets used again and again until it’s no longer in good condition or the content is outdated.
  • You might be able to get on a payment plan to spread the cost of your books out through the semester, which is a benefit if you’re already strapped for cash.
  • Rental companies provide the option to buy the book at the end of the semester if you decide to keep it.
  • You have multiple venues to search, not just the campus bookstore, to find the rental you need.

Drawbacks of renting textbooks

Renting textbooks is an appealing option, but it’s not always the right one for every situation. Here are a couple of the disadvantages that come with renting instead of buying.

  • You must keep the book in the same condition that you received it in or you might have to pay a fine or the cost to replace it, depending on the terms of your rental agreement.
  • It won’t be in brand new condition. You might have to deal with markings, creases, or a bent page or two from the previous borrowers. This can be a concern if you’re the type of person who likes things to stay in pristine condition.
  • You must return the book by the deadline. If you rent it too early, you might not have a long enough rental term to keep the materials for the entire time that you need them, although you might have the option to extend the term for a small fee if necessary.

The decision of whether to buy or rent your textbooks is one you’ll need to make semester after semester. Consider your needs and then evaluate the choices you have. You might decide to purchase books for some of your classes and rent for others. You could also shift your opinion from one semester to another. Experiment with your choices and make the process of getting your books a little less stressful so you can focus on more important things.