How to Save Money by Renting College Textbooks

textbooksWould you like to know what the most annoying college expense is?

College Textbooks!

Tuition is expensive, but we are resigned to pay it and its largely unavoidable (without the use of financial aid of course!). Housing costs are understandable (after all, if you want to live in a cheap run down frat house that is your call…) Meal plans are expensive, but they are optional for upper-class men.

The one expense that keeps nagging each and every semester like a horse fly in the south Georgia heat, is the ridiculous cost of college textbooks.

A quick stroll through any colleges’ on-campus bookstore will reveal that the average price of a new textbook is over $100. This means that for a full course schedule, you can expect to pay anywhere from $400-$800 per semester for books. Highway robbery, I know!

What is even more grating, is that you almost always have to buy new textbooks because publishing companies have learned that they can publish a new edition of a textbook every semester, and upcharge students a premium for just a few updated words and a swanky new cover.

The final straw happens when you go to sell back your books at the end of the semester. Your on-campus bookstore will be more than happy to stare you in the face and tell you that will give you $15 back for that Chemistry book you payed $120 for, not 3 months ago. They then turn around and sell that again next semester to some unsuspecting student for $80 as a “gently used” textbook. It’s disgusting!

The best way to avoid boosting the bottom line of your bookstore, and saving a considerable amount of money, is to rent your textbooks.

Renting textbooks is a relatively new trend, but it is one that makes sense. If you plan to sell your book back at the end of the semester, then you can rent the exact same textbook and save a lot of money and the hassle of fighting the crowds at the bookstore on move-in weekend.

Here are three of the most popular textbooks rental companies:



Chegg is the original. They were the pioneers for textbook rentals and they still dominate a large portion of the market, as the premiere online textbooks rental and sales company. This company has raised over $100 mil. in venture capital, which is a great sign that they have business savvy. Their website is simple and easy to use.

They even allow you to put in the name of your college, to get the “inside network” of each of your courses. This allows you to know exactly which textbooks you need to buy. Chegg has also started e-book textbook rentals which allows you to download digital copies of their textbooks at an even lower price. This also prevents you from hauling around heavy textbooks between classes.

You simply find the book you want (they have millions), purchase it online, Chegg ships it to you, you use it for the semester, and you ship it back. That’s it. Super easy, and you can end up saving a ton of money. They estimate around $400 per semester in savings, and I believe it!


2. Textbook Rentals

Textbook Rentals is a relative newcomer and in my opinion, one you really need to avoid. Their basic business model is to refer you back to Amazon and Amazon Marketplace to purchase the book. This referral won’t cost you any money, but it earns an affiliate commission for Textbook Rentals. This is completely ethical, but if you are going to be referred to Amazon anyway, why not just go visit the real thing…



Amazon has millions of textbooks and they all generally sell for much less than you would pay in your on-campus bookstore. Amazon has been so successful because they have perfected their logistics and inventory control. This allows them to move their massive storage of inventory around the country with ease.

So when you want to buy a textbook, you should check out Amazon first.

They do allow you to rent textbooks via their Amazon Kindle. This will only give you a digital copy, so it obviously would not work if you absolutely need the hard copy. However, the cost savings through using digital copies on a Kindle are tremendous. You can typically save up to 80% of of textbook prices by renting through the Amazon Kindle.



This is the final Textbook rental company worth comparing. These guys offer free shipping both ways, 30 day risk free returns, no membership fees, and live customer support. They also boast that they have the largest selection in the nation, but I find it hard to believe they can compete with Amazon…


Which one to choose?

I would recommend trying multiple companies. You will buy textbooks every semester, so if you try one company and it does not live up to your expectations, simply ditch it for another. You also might be forced to go with the largest provider of Amazon, if you need an obscure textbook that is not carried by one of the other smaller textbook rental companies.

Bottom line, is that you have the ability to save a lot of money off of your textbook cost each semester, and you won’t have to worry about getting taken to the cleaners by your on-campus bookstore ever again!

(This has been a post submitted by DJ over at Money for College Project as part of the latest Yakezie blog swap.  head over to his blog for more epic articles!)

photo by albertogp123