Rent or Buy? When You’re Completely Textbook Clueless


Although summertime for many college students means relaxing poolside, for others hitting the books doesn’t end. Some students opt to take summer classes to get certain courses out of the way or help reduce the number of credits they’ll need to take during the regular school year. Because these courses are usually completed in six-to-eight weeks, rather than a full semester, students might think that it makes more sense to rent books for these short terms, rather than invest the money in purchasing them. True, in some cases, this is the more financially viable option, but renting textbooks isn’t always the way to go. Below are some tips to consider before investing hundreds of dollars in that bio textbook or simply renting it from an online service.

  • Consider the buyback value. Though colleges and universities have buyback programs that allow students to recoup some of the cash spent on books at the beginning of the semester, your best bet is to sell textbooks online. Although spending $250 on a book seems a lot less appealing than renting one for $100, do some research to determine what the buyback value of the book will be – or in the case of using a textbook price comparison website like, let them do the research for you. Using a website like this, allows you to check all major textbook sites at once to see which is offering the most money for your textbook. In many cases, you can get back close to the amount you originally paid for your textbook. And in some cases, if you bought used textbooks, you could potentially get back more!
  • Is it applicable to your major? Most schools make students take certain core classes that have nothing to do with their majors or course of study. It’s likely that the books from these classes won’t serve you in the long-term. However, if you’re a psychology major, you might want to hang onto your Psych 101 book as a good source of reference for the duration of your college career. If that’s the case, purchasing the book is the way to go.
  • You don’t put in the effort to use buyback programs. If you’re someone who has the best of intentions to sell your books at the end of every semester, but find them instead collecting dust on your bookshelf year after year, shelling out dough yet again might not be the best option for you. Instead, book rental programs might provide you with cheap, temporary access to the books you need.
  • Consider hidden costs. When pricing out whether it makes more financial sense to buy or rent textbooks, don’t forget to consider costs like shipping or packing where applicable. If you’re a procrastinator and need your books within a day or so, don’t forget to account for the increase in prices for overnight shipping.
  • Are you hard on your books? Take a look at your history with textbooks. Do they remain in pristine condition or do they look a little worse for the wear. If you’re rough with your books, it’s possible that a rental company won’t take them back and instead will charge you for the book – costing you more in the long run. Be honest with yourself about how you tend to handle your textbooks and whether this will preclude you from returning them to a rental company.

Remember: The best way to ensure you’ll make the most of your investment on textbooks is to do your research. Evaluate your needs, the costs and what makes the most sense, and you’ll have some extra pocket money for that end-of-the-semester celebration you have planned.

Randi Whitcomb


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