How Renting Textbooks Can Save You Thousands

rent textbooksFor the most part I prefer to buy things instead of renting, but when it comes to text books for college, renting may be very advantageous.  When I was in college I would try to buy my books used off of half.com, and from time to time I would get a previous edition of the book and make it work in order to save money. I would then sell the books back on half.com.  Essentially I was renting the books. The main problem with this solution is that from time to time I would get stuck with a book that had a new edition out. Instead of being able to sell it for 75% to 100% of what I paid for it, I would end up only being able to get a few dollars for it.  I recently learned about a company called Campus Book Rentals. By running the numbers, it looks like students can save several hundred to a couple thousand dollars by using this service over the course of a degree program.

Example Comparison of Buying Vs Renting Textbooks:

I went to my local college bookstore and took note of their prices. For the book Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology 11th edition, the bookstore had the following prices:

  • Buy New $170
  • Buy Used $128
  • Rent New $111
  • Rent Used $77

Yikes.

On Amazon.com the following prices are available:

  • Kindle Edition $80
  • Loose Leaf Edition $83.50
  • New $128
  • Used $91
  • Rent $27*

Clearly Amazon has an advantage over the college bookstore.  A student can save about $40 going with Amazon, whether new or used, and can save another $10 buy going with the loose leaf edition or the kindle edition.  The rental option seems appealing, but they have some high extension fees:

$21 for a 15 day extension, $51 for a semester extension.

Campus Book Rentals is a new website which rents books out to students, and does so in an economical fashion. For the above mentioned book they are charging $20 to rent it for 45 days, and only $23 to rent it for 130 days.  This is cheaper than Amazon, and way cheaper than buying the book.

Book Rental

IF we assume a total of 40 courses (3 credits each) and a new price per book on Average of $150, or used of $100, with a resale value of 50%, we come up with the following numbers:

  • Buy new and keep = $150*40 = $6,000
  • Buy used and keep = $100*40 = $4,000
  • Buy new and sell = $150*40*.50 = $3,000
  • Buy used and sell = $100*40*.50 = $2,000
  • Rent at $20 per course = $20*40 = $800

The reason I used a 50% resell rate was to include books that you get stuck with when a new edition comes out, most books 75% plus can be picked up by selling used, but as I mentioned above, from time to time, they become almost worthless.  Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology 10th edition now goes for around $8 used.

Some books are going to cost more than $20 to rent, and some books are going to cost more that $100 used or $150 new, but on average, the math above pans out.  If I were to go back to college I would seriously consider renting the vast majority of my textbooks. In some situations it might not make sense, but for the majority of courses, I think such services are a really good deal.

John C. started Action Economics in 2013 as a way to gain more knowledge on personal financial planning and to share that knowledge with others. Action Economics focuses on paying off the house, reducing taxes, and building wealth. John uses the free tool Personal Capital to track his net worth and posts quarterly updates on his finances. Check out the Action Economics archives section for all past posts.

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