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Pros and Cons of Renting Textbooks

As students aim to cut back on the cost of buying textbooks, more and more of them are opting to rent textbooks rather than owning them. Are rental options actually worth it? What are the real advantages and disadvantages to this fairly new enterprise?

Pro: Renting textbooks is usually cheaper than buying textbooks.

Depending on where you look, you may be able to cut the cost of books in half. That gives you more money for Bob Marley posters and late night pizza runs with your friends.

Con: You have strict deadlines when you must turn them in.

When renting books, you have to be careful when you buy them. If you buy too early, then your rental agreement (normally 120 days) may be up before the semester is over. If you buy too late, you may not have your books shipped to you in time for the first day of classes.

Pro: You don’t have to worry about trying to sell your books at the end of term.

Selling textbooks at the end of the semester is a pain, and often a gamble. You’re never sure how much you’ll be able to get for them. When renting, you understand upfront how much the books will set you back.

Con: You don’t get to keep your books.

Particularly with the classes in the area of your major, you may want to keep your books. You never know what might be useful down the road. Classes often build on one another, and information in the textbooks may show up in a later course.

Pro: Many rental companies offer payment plans.

After paying for tuition and housing, many people don’t have much left. This can make buying books tricky. For this reason, many rental companies allow you to stretch the cost of the books over several monthly payments.

Con: If the book is at all damaged, the fees can be brutal.

Rental agreements have built in fees that you may miss if you don’t read carefully. If you return a book late or in a lesser condition, then you will be charged for it. This can sometimes make renting more expensive than buying.

Pro: You can get all of your books from the same place.

When buying books, most people shop around many different websites and stores. Renting costs are fairly similar across the board, so you can easily get all of your textbooks from the same place, without having to deal with six different vendors.

Con: Rental companies might not have the current edition.

You can’t always rent the book you need. Sometimes, rental companies will only have earlier editions of the text. So, you may not be up-to-date with the current state of your field.

Pro: You can choose to buy the books if they prove to be useful.

Many rental companies allow you to buy the books you’ve rented at the end of the year. If you find French history fascinating, you can choose to keep the book for the course and continue to learn about the subject at your own convenience.

Con: You aren’t allowed to make notes in your books.

Many student like to highlight passages or take notes within the pages of their textbooks. This is really only an option for people who own the book, unless you want to be hit with the fees that we talked about earlier.