Pros and Cons of College Textbook Rentals

Renting college textbooks has become much more popular in the past several years as a way to save money on college costs.  While this can be a good way to save money, there are also several pitfalls to the system.  Consider all of the pros and cons before making the decision to rent your textbooks.

Textbook rental allows students to pay a fee in order to have the use of a textbook for one semester.  At the end of the rental period, the book has to be returned.  In some cases, there is an opportunity to buy the book if it is needed for another class, or if the student wants to hold on to it for future reference.

Of course, renting a textbook only makes sense if it saves a student money.  With textbooks costing hundreds of dollars, it can be a good idea to rent a textbook for just a few dollars.  Of course, it’s important to check the price of buying the textbook, as well as its selling price for a used version.  Many students have discovered that it saves them more money to buy used textbooks, take care of them, then resell them on the used market.

Renting a textbook does give a student some protections, however.  Many companies that rent textbooks allow students to return textbooks within a few weeks of class starting if the student switched classes or if the professor changed the required text.  In some cases, a student can even receive all or some of his or her money back if he or she decides to drop the class at any point during the semester.  Finally, at the end of the semester the student can return the book no matter what.  If a student purchases the textbook, he or she is taking a risk that the book will not be used the following year.  If the professor decides to change the text, or if the publisher produces and updated version of the book, the textbook can become practically worthless on the resale market.

There are several disadvantages to renting a textbook.  Not all students need to have a personal copy of every recommended text for every class.  It’s often possible to get the books for free by checking them out from the school library or borrowing a copy from a friend.  It’s also possible to save a lot of money by sharing a book or buying and selling a used book.  It’s also important to think about how a student wants to use the textbook.  Students who frequently take notes or highlight a lot in their books may find out that they are  not good candidates for renting a textbook.