Renting or Buying Textbooks: Pros and Cons

Young smiling woman with textbooks, isolated

It’s that time of the year again, and everyone student in America is in a rush to get their textbooks. The costs of textbooks and course-related materials have been growing over the years, so renting has become a very popular option. Having only graduated a year ago, I am pretty fresh and well-versed in the textbook game. Here are some pros and cons to both renting or buying textbooks.

Buying Pros:

-You get to keep it forever

If you are studying something that involves a lot of research and citations, having your textbooks forever could be really useful for you later in life. A lot of my pre-med friends kept their textbooks, encountered the subject later on, and then knew exactly where to go to reference the information.

-You will be able to make some money back

If you own something, that gives you the right to sell it, and that concept is no different with textbooks. You won’t make close to what you bought it for, but you will have the chance get some cash in return later on.

Renting Pros:

-It’s cheaper

Instead of buying it brand new, renting a textbook is a lot more affordable. It comes used and it may even have another person’s notes in there, which can be a good or a bad thing. The upfront cost of renting is a lot cheaper, so if you are short on cash, it’s less money out of your pocket at once.

-It’s convenient

After you rent it, the only thing you have to worry about is returning it undamaged and on-time. You’ll never have to think about it or go out of your way to resell it again.

Young smiling woman with textbooks, isolated

Buying Cons:

-Textbooks are updated regularly

Textbook companies are business, so they do whatever they can to get their money. Updating the books every year, and having teachers require the new editions, earns them more money. With all that being said, you will get less money for the book if a new edition comes out.


New textbooks are expensive, so if you are short on cash, this isn’t the best option.

Renting Cons:

-If you are careless, you are screwed

If you like to drink coffee when you study or are that person that always loses things, you may want to think twice about renting. Often, renters will have to pay penalties for any damage done to the books and pay full amount for loss of a book. Rentals could turn into purchases, so be positive that you are going to return it in good condition for others to use.

Best of both worlds:

Consider renting or buying textbooks online. You will pay a little more than the hard cover rental, but less than the hard cover full price. It’s impossible to damage an eBook and the rental will automatically expire without you having to return it. As for buying it, you will have it for as long as the internet exists (forever), without actually having to carry it around. The only cons are that you can’t actually write notes on the book and if your computer/mobile device is out of battery, so is your textbook.

I hope these tips help you with the decision on renting or buying textbooks. They can be really expensive, so exploring your options and knowing what is best for you is extremely important. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to leave them below, but otherwise, have a great semester!

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  1. I used to buy textbooks but later find out I rarely use it for various reasons. So now I just rent the books from the bookstore or online.

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