Rent Textbooks To Save Money

When I came to the U.S. for my graduate study in the late 1990′s, I brought with me two pieces of luggage plus about $150 cash in my pocket. Those were all I had at that time. Because I had an assistantship from the school, I thought I could get paid right after registration, so I didn’t bring any more money (well, I didn’t really have more anyway). That wasn’t the case of course. I didn’t get my first check until the middle of October. To get me through the first one and a half months without pay, I borrowed $500 from my friend to open a bank account and used the money to buy food and other necessities. It wasn’t very easy for sure.


With only a couple of hundred dollar in the bank, I was very careful with the money so not to overspend what I had. However, even with a very tight wallet, I had to spend $80 on the most expensive item I bought at that time: a textbook on probability and stochastic process from a bookstore in New York City, for one of three courses I took in the first semester. It was a tough decision. On one hand, I really didn’t have much money left while waiting for my stipend. On the other hand, I couldn’t afford to fail later in the exam either (what I mean fail isn’t get a C or D) if I didn’t have a book since it was one of my major courses in my first year. That would put my assistantship in danger. Eventually, I decided to get the book and not to spend money on anything else that wasn’t absolute necessary.

That was more than 15 years ago. Now textbooks aren’t getting any cheaper. A college textbook is usually around $100 and for a undergraduate student who normally takes 5 or 6 courses per semester, the money spent on textbooks could easily go over $1,000 a year. Actually, according to an early MarketWatch article,

Students at four-year U.S. colleges spent $1,122 a year on textbooks on average in the 2009-10 academic year, the College Board reports, a 32% increase from five years ago.

That’s a lot of money to spend on textbooks that don’t usually have a lot of residual values after the classes are over.

While textbooks are at least as expensive as 15 years ago, what’s different between now and then is where to get the books, which could make a big difference in the money spent. Back then, there was no and no any other online bookstores. The only place to buy textbooks was campus bookstore, which usually had all the textbooks, but the prices were generally higher than other bookstores (but there weren’t many bookstores sell textbooks anyway).

Nowadays, you can get new or used textbooks from many places, mostly online, not only for purchase, but for rental as well. For example, for the probability textbook I mentioned above, a new, 1991 edition (the one I got) is priced at $174 on One, an online textbook rental website mentioned in the MarketWatch article, you can rent one for $50.99 for one semester. On, another online textbook rental website, you get rent the same book at $35.34 for 130 days (one semester), which is much cheaper. A few other book rental websites are:

  • (also mentioned in the MarketWatch article): Rent the book for one semester at $55.40
  • Get a used for $43.12
  • The lowest price of the book in its marketplace is $37.62 in very good condition

And if you want to buy a used textbook, marketplace is always a good place. The lowest price for the probably book in very good condition is selling at $38.99, even cheaper than a rental. And if you don’t mind reading a textbook on your computer, you can check out a website call, which let you purchase and download eTextbooks at a lower price than a paper book (I am not able to find the same probability book on to compare the price, maybe because the book is quite “old”).

Another reason I bought the book was that I might use it as a reference later for my research, which I did. Since I used the book quite a lot, it was actually worth the $80 I spent. Like the MarketWatch article said, if it’s a book that you think you will use forever, than buy it (you can always sell it on, for example, Amazon marketplace when you no longer need it). If you are only going to use the book for one course in one semester, then renting one does make sense and it can save you a lot of money :)

Photo credit: wertheim

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6 Responses to “Rent Textbooks To Save Money”

  1. Gobankingrates |  Aug 13, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    I think it also depends on your major. As a history major, I wasn’t buying a lot of textbooks, but more just history books of 200 pages or so on a specific topic. Some of those you can’t rent and it was cheaper for me to just buy them on and maybe keep them later.
    On the other hand, for my electives like sociology and things like that, it might have been cheaper to rent, because I wasn’t going to be touching that introductory textbook again.

  2. 50plusfinance |  Aug 15, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I agree with renting textbooks. Your saving a lot of money. With three in college, I know thats right. I wish they had this when I was in college. I still have my “Introduction to Data Processing” textbook on the shelf.

  3. rent textbooks |  Sep 24, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    I think the time for buying book is gone. I just graduated and it has really become a trend to rent textbooks in the last 6 months or so then to buy a book.

  4. AJ |  Aug 25, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I graduated undergrad in 2009 and I fell in love with chegg my junior year, it cut my cost in half.

  5. sophie |  Sep 02, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    I really like using chegg and Amazon often times you can get free shipping.

  6. Next day loans |  Sep 16, 2011 at 8:47 am

    I believe that’s a lot of money to spend on textbooks that don’t usually have a lot of residual values after the classes are over.So this is surely a good idea.