Higher education is expensive!  I’ve been out of undergraduate school for 12 years and I am STILL paying back loans (but that’s OK, because now I have a 3-year plan to have it all knocked out).

Aside from tuition, there is room & board, activity fees, meal plans, lab fees and books.
The cost of textbooks are astronomical and unless it is a really good reference book, most students never open them again after the semester is over. If a new edition has not been published, they may be able to sell them back at a fraction of the purchased price.

When I went back to school for my master’s degree, I decided to rent most of my textbooks.  Textbook rental programs allow you to rent a book for a period of time.  Once the time has expired, you ship the book back with the provided shipping label.  Shipment is calculated into your rental payment so there is no additional cost to ship the book back.  If you rent an e-book, they are available instantaneously and there is no hassle with shipping.

Textbook Rental Programs:
Amazon Textbook Rentals
Barnes & Noble College
Campus Book Rentals
Your College:  Universities are starting to offer internal programs.  Check with your school to see if that is an option

Not all programs are created equal.  When shopping around for a textbook rental program you should consider:

  • Is there an option to buy the book
  • Is highlighting / writing in the book allowed? (If that is important to you)
  • Is insurance offered
  • How long are the rental terms
  • Do they offer the option for eBooks
  • Shipping costs
  • Fees (damage\late)

eBook Rental is even better
Renting an eBook tacks on additional advantages.  Typically, they are cheaper than paper book rentals.  You receive the book almost instantaneously and do not have to worry about damage to the book.

If your future instructor likes to give open book tests, the search function on an e-book is a God-sent (just check with your instructor to make sure electronic books are acceptable during open tests).  Also, your tablet or smartphone weighs significantly less than a textbook.

Precautions with textbook rentals

When renting a textbook, you have to remain diligent.  Otherwise a careless mistake will impact your savings when you end up paying full price for the text book.  Take extra care of the book as excessive damage is a breach of your rental contract.  A few bent or worn pages are OK, but rips or water damage will result in you paying full price for the book.
Some companies allow writing and highlighting.  How much is subjective.  My suggestion is not to write in a book that is not yours.  If you receive a book that has highlighting already, you should document with pictures so you don’t get blamed for something the previous renter may have gotten away with.

Make sure you pay attention to return dates and don’t return the book until your final grades are posted.  Most rental terms can be set up to extend beyond the semester.  If you find yourself needing to dispute a grade or having to retake a course – it would be convenient to still have the book handy.  If necessary, you can apply for an extension.  Set a reminder so you can return or apply for an extension within the allotted time.  The damage and/or late fees can run as high as the entire book.

What about you?
Have you ever rented textbooks?
What other companies are there that I didn’t mention?

About Mom Cents

I'm a 30-something mom of a 2-year old son. Hubby & I have been married for going on 4 years. When I'm not immersed in activities at my church or chasing my son...I like to (attempt to) write about personal finance and parenting. Two topics which I'm definitely no expert ~ but I figure I have enough anecdotes to hold your interest!
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12 Responses to Don’t Waste Another Cent Buying College Textbooks

  1. We’ve found we make most or more of our money back when we actually buy and then resell vs renting. That being said, sometimes the husband has rented because we didn’t have the $ up front. This is too funny because I have a post on this tomorrow because we’ve seen prices sky rocket more than normal in the past year.
    Femme @ femmefrugality recently posted…Get Your Kids’ Toys Checked for SafetyMy Profile

  2. Kristin says:

    A few things I’ve learned teaching in higher ed:

    1. Ask the professor if he/she is actually planning to use the book. You might not need to purchase it at all.
    2. Check out older editions of the book. Most of the time they are very similar and are far less expensive than renting.
    3. If there is an online homework manager, like Connect or MyLab, check the price on that separately. I have had students rent textbooks and with the cost of the homework manager, spent more than if they would have gone directly to the publisher’s website and purchased a package.
    4. If your class has a homework manager, many of them have an upgrade to add the ebook very inexpensively.
    Kristin recently posted…When Cleaning Turns into Tearing Down DrywallMy Profile

  3. Money Beagle says:

    This is great advice. I can’t imagine being able to get away with never buying any book, but even if this could be employed 50% of the time, the savings would be tremendous for a college education.
    Money Beagle recently posted…Red Lobster Appears Doomed For FailureMy Profile

  4. I’m pretty lucky that the University of Iowa has a system called uborrow. This networks with other Big 10 schools’ libraries. Incredibly, I can get nearly any textbook I need — semester to semester — without paying a dime! It’s already saved me hundreds of dollars in books throughout grad school.
    Sam @ Frugaling.org recently posted…How To Use Dividends To Reduce Taxes And Protect IncomeMy Profile

  5. In college, I just didn’t buy the textbook until proven that I needed it, which it rarely was. The instructors always say you do, but then they will have slides and lesson plans that they give you with the material on it or you never crack the book and it wastes $200.
    Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter recently posted…Financial Lessons from The Hunger GamesMy Profile

    • Mom Cents says:

      Exactly! Of course, most professors will tell you you need the text. I found it was more resourceful to ask students who recently been through the class with the same professor.

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