We use cookies to personalize and improve your browsing experience. 

To learn more about how we store and use this data, visit our privacy policy here.

Attending college carries a number of expenses ranging from tuition, library fees, parking passes, textbooks, and more. Textbooks can be pricey, sometimes costing over $200 for a single book. When you factor in 4-5 classes a semester with some requiring more than one book, the cost multiplies. Don’t despair—with a little research, you can find ways to save on textbook costs.

Before your next semester begins, you have to decide whether to buy or rent your required textbooks. To help you choose, we’ve outlined considerations for each option:

Buying Textbooks

The good:

  • Buying a textbook means it’s yours to keep in case you feel like referring back to it later in college or during your career.
  • Go ahead and mark it up with endless notes, underlines, and merciless highlighting without penalty. 
  • Lend it to a friend or family member down the road to save them some money if they need it as a reference or it’s required for their class.

The bad:

  • Buying textbooks is the most expensive option. 
  • Depending on the class, you may have paid a fortune for a book you hardly use.
  • If it’s a class you aren’t majoring in, you may not want to pay full price for a book you are not likely to refer to again.

Added savings:

Sell the book(s) to the college bookstore or another retailer to recoup some of the money you spent. Online stores such as AbeBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Cash4Books are just a few examples of where you can sell your textbooks.  

Renting Textbooks

The good:

  • Renting is the most affordable option of acquiring textbooks. Since more retailers are offering textbook rentals, you can shop around for the most competitive pricing. 
  • Retailers have made returning books fast and easy. Amazon includes free shipping and printing labels when returning books to ease the process.
  • Many rental retailers give you the option of buying the book if you change your mind and want to keep it.

The bad:

  • You must keep the book in good condition, so put that highlighter away. Returning a book in poor condition may result in you paying extra or even full price. 
  • Be aware of rental agreements and terms. Make sure you send the book back by the return date or you will be charged an additional fee, or even the full cost of the book.
  • If you lend the book to an unreliable friend or classmate, or lose the book, you will be charged the full price of the book. 

Related: 15 Ways to Save Money While Going to College

Consider your options when purchasing required textbooks for your classes. You may choose to rent some books for your elective classes, while purchasing others for classes in your major. Weigh your options and see what makes the most financial sense for you.