If you have been in college for more than 3 hours, you probably know just how terrifyingly expensive textbooks can be.
In our parent’s generation, many students could save money on textbooks by getting used versions from previous student. Today, however, textbook publishers have largely stopped this opportunity by constantly coming out with new editions that almost always change the exercise questions and answers (though often not much else). If your professor assigns any homework from the textbook, you really need the latest edition.
Rather than pay the full price, though, students today have found another way to save money on textbooks: renting. Over the last decade, literally dozens of companies have begun offering textbook rentals that let students use the current edition while paying up to 80% less than list price.
Here’s the ultimate guide to textbook rentals.
#1 Find your textbook
As soon as you register for a class, determine which books are required. Don’t just get the title and author, but make sure you find the exact ISBN number. If you find the book by title or author, you might get the wrong edition, but ISBN numbers are always specific.
With that ISBN number in hand, go to CampusBooks.com and search. This will give you a price comparison across dozens of book rental companies and used book sellers. Occasionally, you might be able to actually save more money on a used copy of the current edition.
#2 Order from the company with the best offer
Once you have found the companies with the best prices (previous step), you should then compare the various features across the top three contenders. Some books may include different options like renting an electronic version or getting a special study guide.
Definitely take pricing into consideration, but don’t just choose the cheapest price. You may well get better value and service from a slightly more expensive company.
#3 Use with reasonable care
Each rental company has their own guidelines for appropriate use, so make sure to read those before you rent your textbook.
As general rule, limited highlighting is often allowed, but almost all companies will not allow notes directly in the book. Just remember that someone else will probably use this after you, so you’ll want to keep it in good condition for them.
#4 Extend if necessary
Most textbook rental companies I’ve rented from have made it easy to request extensions if you need the book for longer than you originally thought. Just check their website or give them a call a few weeks before the deadline.
Keep in mind, though, that it is usually less expensive to purchase a longer period the first time, so if you think you might need to extend, consider just renting for a longer time when you first order.
#5 Mail the rental back
Once you are completely finished with the textbook, you simply mail it back. Most companies send a prepaid return label, so you won’t even have to pay shipping back. Just slip the book in sturdy packaging (hopefully the original), slap the prepaid label on, and take it to your campus mail center.
#6 Enjoy your extra savings
I’ve heard stories of students who saved thousands of dollars over the course of their college career, and I know I’ve saved over a hundred dollars once on just one class. Enjoy your extra savings!