The Economics of Buying vs Renting College Textbooks: Which Is More Financially Savvy?

renting college textbooks

It’s no secret that going to college can come with some serious expenses. In fact, the cost of getting a college education has increased by about 25% on average in the past ten years, alone. 

What does this mean for most college students? It means that attending college comes with a huge financial burden, and cutting costs wherever possible is crucial. 

At Textbook Rentals, we’re always looking for ways to share money-saving tips with college students. We’ve mentioned in the past that renting college textbooks can help you save some serious dough. Now, we’re going to break down the factors that make renting cheaper than buying college textbooks. 

Read on to find out more about the economics of buying vs renting college textbooks. 

How Much Does Buying College Textbooks Cost?

If you haven’t started college yet and buying college textbooks is new to you, you’re probably wondering, “How much can these books really cost?” The answer can vary from program to program, but for many students, the cost of buying college textbooks can be shocking.

If you’re lucky, your educational program will rely largely on non-academic texts. For example, an English curriculum often requires students to read a large number of novels and texts that are popularly available. These tend to run at a lower price, ranging from $10-$20 apiece.

However, traditional textbooks that are produced by academic publishers tend to go for about $100-$200 apiece. In fact, the cost of college textbooks has risen four times faster than the general rate of inflation. Since many programs rely on traditional college textbooks, some students may find themselves paying over $1000 per semester to buy new textbooks. 

The Benefits of Renting College Textbooks

Fortunately, there is another way to access almost all of the college textbooks you need without spending several thousand dollars throughout your college education. Renting college textbooks is almost always the better financial option for students in all programs. Let’s take a closer look at the financial benefits of renting textbooks rather than buying them.

Access the Information You Need at a Fraction of the Cost

Most of the textbooks you’ll ever need can be rented and you’ll find that rental prices come at a fraction of the cost. Let’s look at a few examples.

Currently, the latest edition of the PPI FE Civil Review is selling for $147 when purchased new. Buying a used copy may bring that price down to about $80. A 90-day rental of this same textbook costs as little as $26, which gives students a savings of 88%.

The LSAT Trainer offers us another glimpse at how much less it can cost to rent textbooks. This book currently costs $91 when purchased new, while a 90-day rental can cost as little as $15. That’s a savings of 82%.

Don’t Lose Money on Soon-to-Be-Outdated Editions

You may be thinking, “What if I need a specific textbook for more than one semester?” First, it’s worth mentioning that many textbooks can be rented for two semesters or longer.

Second, let’s talk about editions of commonly used textbooks. Professors often want students to purchase the latest edition of a textbook in order to have access to the most updated information. New editions tend to come out at a rate of three to four times per decade.

Chances are, you’ll need to update certain textbooks at least once during your college education. That means that the $100 book you bought last semester may not do you any good next semester, even if it’s technically still the same book. Renting makes it easier to get the newest edition without losing a few hundred dollars.

Renting Saves More Than Reselling Textbooks

One way to try to lower the financial burden of purchasing textbooks is to resell the ones you no longer need. However, this won’t always make as big of an impact as you might expect.

As we mentioned earlier, textbooks tend to become obsolete after a few years of use. Once a new edition comes out, your older editions aren’t in high demand anymore. 

Plus, textbook resellers are already offering used books at a discount and they need to turn a profit. That means that whatever you receive for your college textbooks will be, well, a fraction of a discount. In fact, don’t be surprised if you’re offered about $15 for a book you spent $100 on. 

Reselling college textbooks is a bit of a gamble. When you rent, you can see your guaranteed savings upfront and make an informed decision. This is going to be a better financial decision more often than not. 

Is Buying vs Renting College Textbooks Ever the Right Call?

Are there times when buying is a better option? It can be on occasion, particularly if you don’t mind buying used copies of a textbook. Some college textbooks are available used at a price that is comparable to current rental rates.

Some students also anticipate that ebook versions of their textbooks will come with a lower price tag. Surprisingly, this is often not the case. 

How can you be sure that you’re making the right choice about each and every one of your textbooks? Our price comparison tool can help. 

Learn How to Rent Textbooks With Our Price Comparison Tools

Renting college textbooks is almost always the right choice. However, there are times when the purchase price isn’t that far off from the rental price. Plus, rental prices tend to fluctuate between vendors which means the first rental you find may not be the best one for your budget.

That’s where Textbook Rentals comes in handy. Check out our price comparison tool and find the best deals on just about every textbook you might need this semester. Search by ISBN, title, author, or subject to compare prices and save money in the face of rising college textbook costs.