College is expensive, and needing new textbooks each semester adds to the financial pain. A College Board survey estimates the average student spends $1,240 on textbooks and supplies each academic year.
Thankfully, renting textbooks is an easy way to save money in college. Let’s face it; you only need to keep a few books for future classes.
If you only make minimum highlights and notes, renting can be better than buying textbooks online.
Textbook rental sites make it easy and cheap to rent physical and online editions.
Editor’s Top Picks
|Bookscouter||Compare rental costs of multiple sites|
|Amazon||Often the lowest price for renting textbooks|
|Chegg||Offers great discounts on textbooks|
Table of Contents
Top Sites to Rent College Textbooks
Renting textbooks can cost less than buying a book and selling it in a few months. Most rental sites allow some highlights but no writing. And only select online textbook rentals let you make digital highlights and notes.
However, textbook rentals usually do not include supplementary material or digital access codes. So you might buy a used copy if you need extra material.
When possible, renting books can save you time and money instead of buying. For instance, a 90-day rental may cost $30 but you pay $65 to buy the book.
Renting also means you don’t have to worry about low buyback prices when the semester ends.
Bookscouter lets you compare pricing on not only textbooks, but all sorts of books from over 20 vendors with one search.
You can rent physical and digital textbooks online or using the mobile app. But keep in mind that you may still have to buy supplementary material or digital access codes.
It’s possible to search for your required texts by book title or ISBN. Bookscouter lists the lowest rental prices first.
Each Bookscouter listing displays these rental details:
- Vendor name: The textbook rental site where you can rent the book
- Length of rental: The number of days you may rent the book
- Condition: Physical books are new and used, and ebooks are available too
- Coupons: Available discount codes to reduce your rental price
- Price: Your upfront cost for the rental period
Pay attention to the prices as rental periods can vary from 60 to 180 days for most books. Longer rental periods may cost the same or slightly more than a shorter period.
You mail physical books back to the vendor once the rental period ends. In comparison, your digital license effortlessly expires once your eTextbook rental term ends.
As Bookscouter is a price comparison tool, you must choose which vendor to rent from. Some vendors offer discount codes meaning your final cost can be less than Bookscouter’s price.
It’s also possible to buy or sell textbooks on Bookscouter when renting isn’t cost-efficient. If selling a book, the Bookscouter app scans book barcodes and lists the current prices for multiple buyback vendors.
Chegg is a leading provider for study aids and online tutors. The well-known company also lets you rent books and eTextbooks. You can buy digital access codes as most rentals do not come with supplementary material.
Shipping is free on orders of at least $30. It’s easy to meet this minimum if you rent at least two books. Physical textbooks have a 21-day risk-free return window.
You can return your books in any box using Chegg’s prepaid shipping label once the rental period ends.
What happens if you need to extend the rental? Chegg lets you renew your rental online or purchase a rental if you find the book is worth keeping long-term.
Chegg permits a minimum amount of highlighting in textbooks rentals. Most rental sites allow up to one-third of the book to have highlights. However, writing in the book is impermissible.
Your Chegg rentals can also come with a four-week free trial of Chegg Study. This premium feature lets you ask for help to solve textbook and homework questions.
Chegg Study costs $14.95 per month if you decide the expert tutoring access can help improve your grade.
Another low-cost rental site is eCampus. In addition to renting books to save money, you can redeem discount codes for extra savings.
The eCampus eWards loyalty program gives you gift cards for future purchases. Each textbook rental earns three points per dollar you spend. Earning 175 points gives you $5 off your next $30 purchase.
It’s possible to save up to $20 once you accrue 400 points.
You can also earn points by buying books, selling books, interacting with eCampus on social media and referring friends to use eCampus.
You’re able to choose the rental return date matching your schedule, and eCampus offers free return shipping. Plus, shipping is free on all eCampus orders of at least $35.
It may come as no surprise that Amazon offers textbooks rentals. The standard rental period is one semester. Some books provide shorter rental periods of 30, 60 or 90 days.
You can rent physical books and eTextbooks. All rentals require credit or debit card payment. Amazon currently doesn’t accept Amazon gift cards to rent textbooks.
Semester-long rentals offer free returns within the first 30 days if you want a refund. In contrast, short-term rentals offer risk-free returns for the first 15 days. Otherwise, you can return the book using the free prepaid return shipping.
You can extend your rental period by another semester. And, if you decide to buy the book, Amazon applies your paid rental fees to the purchase amount.
Having Prime Student lets you receive your textbooks with free two-day shipping. However, if you’re a basic member, you will need to pay to ship. Plus, you’ll wait for up to one week to receive your books.
Each ValoreBooks textbook rental includes free return shipping and a price match guarantee. You must find a lower rental price within seven days to receive a partial refund.
It’s possible to rent physical books for a quarter or semester. However, digital rentals are not available.
Unlike other textbook rental sites that offer free shipping for most rentals, ValoreBooks charges shipping fees. Standard shipping costs $3.95 per book, and expedited shipping costs $6.95.
Every ValoreBooks rental comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can return your rental within the first 30 days for a refund regardless of why you’re unhappy with it.
Although you pay the shipping on every order, ValoreBooks can make it easy to compare prices. You can search for books by ISBN, title or author. Each query displays the rental, new and used purchase prices plus any alternate versions.
The alternative textbook version can be a previous edition or an international edition. These options can cost significantly less than the rental price. While the book may not be an exact match with the course syllabus, the potential savings can be worth it.
Knetbooks offers free shipping on all orders, whether you rent for a short-term, quarter or semester.
Not having a minimum makes Knetbooks a good option for those random one-time rentals that cost less than $30. For instance, maybe you need to rent a $24 book for one month. Most lenders charge shipping fees on small orders.
In addition to free shipping, you can redeem coupon codes to reduce your spending more. For instance, Knetbooks will send you a discount offer for your first offer.
You can find additional codes by browsing Knetbooks’ articles, such as how to care for your rented textbooks.
You can return your textbook rentals using the free UPS prepaid label. Other rental sites offer returns using the US Postal Service or FedEx if you don’t live near a UPS dropoff location.
Knetbooks sends you text message reminders, so you don’t forget to return your books on time. You can extend your rental as other rental sites offer.
SlugBooks is an innovative price comparison site as you can compare multiple ISBNs at once. Many textbook rental sites only research one ISBN at a time. Notably, searching for various books can save time if you need to rent a textbook bundle for a single class.
You will see the buy price and rental price for the largest textbook websites. Amazon, Chegg and eCampus are some of the comparison options.
An eTextbook rental can be available depending on which book you need. Like other comparison tools, you must compare your options and complete the purchase with the partner website. Possibly, you will rent from several sites if you have many books you must rent.
Your potential shipping costs and rental terms hinge on which vendor you choose. Most rental sites offer free return shipping, but you might have to pay the shipping to receive your book.
Another unique feature is being able to research prices in Canada, Great Britain and Australia as well. International students may enjoy these in-depth comparison options.
SlugBooks compares the buyback prices for any books you decide to sell after you no longer need them.
Cengage is different from most textbook rental sites. They offer learning materials for instructors and students at every grade level. Resources are available for over 20 countries.
Students can buy hard copies or rent digital textbooks for many topics. However, Cengage’s textbook selection may not be as extensive as other rental sites. You can purchase access codes for specific textbooks too.
One way this option can save you money is by joining Cengage Unlimited. You pay $119.99 for four months, $179.99 for one year or $239.99 for two years of access.
Cengage Unlimited membership includes these benefits:
- Physical textbook rentals with access codes
- Online access to all Cengage eTextbooks
- Cengage online course materials (MindTap, WebAssign, etc.)
- 30-day Chegg Tutor Pack and 60 minutes of tutoring
- Six months of Quizlet Plus
- Other test prep and study guides
Students may only be able to get up to four free physical textbook rentals per semester. Each hardcopy rental also has a $7.99 shipping charge.
In addition to getting free textbook rentals, Cengage rewards you for taking online surveys. You can win prizes and gift cards from the Cengage Exchange surveys.
9. Textbook Rentals
Textbook Rentals compares rental prices for physical and online versions from multiple sites. You will see the best rental cost by the number of rental days such as 60, 90 or 125 days. Each comparison also lists the lowest price to buy new and used textbooks.
It’s possible to search for books by title, author and ISBN. But there isn’t an advanced search filter like some comparison tools offer.
Textbook Rentals makes it easy to determine shipping charges. Each search lists the rental fee, shipping costs and total rental cost.
You will see the current discount codes and shipping options without visiting the merchant website.
CheapestTextbooks allows you to compare textbook rental prices from over 15 textbook rental sites.
It’s possible to search by keyword in addition to ISBN, book title and author. This additional search feature can be an easy way to find alternate editions or custom printings.
Most merchants that CheapestTextbooks partners with offer session, quarterly and semester rental periods. You can likely extend the rental period if necessary. And you can return your rental with a prepaid shipping label once you finish the class.
Like other price comparison sites, you will see active discount codes, rental price, shipping costs and return due date.
VitalSource lets you rent or buy eTextbooks. While you cannot rent physical copies, you can download textbooks to your smart devices or laptop for offline access.
You can download the VitalSource Bookshelf reader app to make digital highlights and notes in your rentals. Some rentals include built-in flashcards and study groups as well. Bookshelf also lets you listen to an audiobook version if you don’t have time to read.
Activating a Rakuten shopping session is another way to save money with VitalSource. You can earn cash rewards at VitalSource from your online shopping.
Your first minimum $25 online purchase with Rakuten lets you get a one-time $10 cash bonus.
12. McGraw Hill
McGraw Hill is one of the largest textbooks producers for college and lower grade levels. Students can buy or rent books directly from McGraw Hill. Admittedly, rentals are not available for every course.
You might consider this option if you need access codes or supplementary materials. The digital content is available by purchasing a Connect pass. When rentals are available, McGraw Hill fulfills your request through a rental partner like Chegg.
As McGraw Hill is pricey, you should first consider an app like Bookscouter.
Renting books is one of the easiest ways to keep your variable college costs as low as possible. By renting, you eliminate the time it takes to buy and then sell your textbooks afterward.
With these sites, you can avoid spending a large part of the money you can make in college on textbooks. Instead, use your cash for more essential expenses or saving for the future.