Best Textbook Rental Sites

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For many students, textbook purchases are one of the biggest education expenses, made even more frustrating by the fact that most books are only useful for one semester. Renting textbooks is an increasingly popular solution, and there are several websites that make it easy for students to save money by borrowing books for a short period rather than buying them outright. Here are a few of the best textbook rental sites for students looking for a reliable way to save some serious cash.

Best Overall: Chegg



Why We Chose It: Chegg’s textbook rental option isn’t just great for saving money on books; it also offers several additional features that improve the student learning experience.

What We Like

  • Free trial of Chegg Study
  • Free access to digital books while shipping
  • 21-day free return period

What We Don't Like

  • No writing in books allowed
  • Free shipping only kicks in after $50

Chegg is one of the most comprehensive education help services, and textbook rental service is one of its prime offerings.

Its site says that it can help students save up to 90% off of the list price for books, and that’s not the only money-saving option offered. When students rent books through Chegg, they also receive a free month subscription to Chegg Study, the site’s signature tutoring service that includes step-by-step problem-solving and expert answers to a variety of questions.

For some books, the additional perks go even further: Certain books are made available as digital versions while the physical copies ship. However, these add-ons do come with a few caveats. Students who like to write in the margins of their books are not permitted to do so, but highlighting is allowed, which may frustrate some.

The site does offer free shipping, but only once an order reaches $50 or more, which is higher than many competitors.

Best Flexibility: Campus Book Rentals

Campus Book Rentals

Campus Book Rentals

Why We Chose It: With several rental time options, plus easy extensions and a complimentary grace period, Campus Book Rentals (CBR) has one of the most flexible and helpful policies for textbook rentals.

What We Don't Like

  • Multiple rental period options
  • Complimentary return grace period
  • Pre-paid returns

What We Like

  • Uneven customer service
  • High prices for post-rental purchases
  • Reports of shipping issues

As one of the oldest names in textbook rentals, Campus Book Rentals has the expertise, and it shows. The site offers a wide selection of textbooks, which students can search for by title, author, or ISBN, plus, there's a deluxe search function that allows students to search for multiple books at once.

It’s all very straightforward: Search for books, choose your rentals, and select your rental period. Not only does the site offer three different rental periods (semester, quarter, and “summer session”), but every rental also comes with a free 15-day grace period where late returns have no penalty, and it’s easy to pay for a 15- or 30-day extension too.

CBR has a rent-to-buy option as well, where students can purchase books after renting them and only pay the difference between the already-paid rental fee and the list price of the book. The list price is relatively high, however, especially in comparison to some other textbook sites. And, customers have reported frustrations with assistance on this and other issues when it comes to customer service and troubleshooting.

Best for Ongoing Use: eCampus



Why We Chose It: We’re highlighting eCampus for its “eWards” program in particular, which acts like a typical retail rewards program and offers concrete, financial benefits for frequent users or users who make referrals.

What We Like

  • Flexible rentals
  • Rewards program
  • Comparison pricing with marketplace sellers

What We Don't Like

  • Free shipping only kicks in over $35
  • Likely doesn't include supplemental materials

Once students start renting textbooks, there’s a good chance they’ll continue to do so, and eCampus makes it even more advantageous.

Like most textbook rental sites, it has a robust selection of books and options to buy, sell, or rent. In addition to its own rentals, the site allows students to shop in the marketplace, comparing prices from different sellers across the board. With several different rental periods and both digital and physical copies available, eCampus offers an excellent selection of materials.

Its signature program is its “eWards” program, which is what sets it ahead of the pack for students who decide to rent on a regular basis, rather than just once or twice. As users rack up points, they can cash them in for discounts on rentals or purchases.

The downside is that students who use rentals long-term are likely to run into the issue of missing supplementary materials that come with new copies but not with the rented, used copies sold by eCampus. And this is true regardless of the service.

Best for Shorter Sessions: Knetbooks



Why We Chose It: We selected Knetbooks because it's a great resource for renting in the shorter term, with shorter rental periods available at a discounted rate.

What We Like

  • Free shipping on all orders
  • Large selection of books

What We Don't Like

  • Usually doesn’t include supplementary materials
  • Extremely strict return policy

College classes aren’t just held in traditional semesters anymore, which means students may be looking for rental options that don’t require them to pay for longer sessions than they actually need. Knetbooks offers short-term rentals that only last for a month to six weeks, as well as quarterly or semester rentals. For students with flexible or shortened course dates, these options are a great way to save money.

One thing to be wary of, however, is the company's exceptionally strict return policy. Its policy is to charge users the full price of the book if it’s late at all. Its return dates appear to frequently come very close to the typical session end dates for most colleges, so it may put students in the unfortunate situation of choosing to return a book before they’re actually done with it or risk a heavy late fee. 

Best for Free Shipping: BooksRun



Why We Chose It: BooksRun makes the cut for being one of the only sites to offer free shipping, and for having a large selection and easy rental process.

What We Like

  • Free shipping on all orders
  • Ebooks and physical books available
  • Loyalty program with an environmental twist

What We Don't Like

  • Slow shipping
  • No customer service phone number
  • Inflexible rental periods

While most book rental sites charge significant shipping fees, BooksRun is one of few that has free shipping. The site is very user-friendly, with an easy search function and convenient checkout options for both physical and digital copies. Plus, its loyalty program has a “green” focus: Frequent customers can rack up points that can be redeemed for environmentally-friendly products or turned into a donation to a tree-planting charity.

The free shipping, though, does come at a cost. Expedited shipping (5 days or less) has a surcharge; only standard shipping (up to 10 business days) is totally free. For the most part, BooksRun only offers one rental period—a full semester—rather than having multiple options for quarterly or shorter sessions. Thus, students who don’t need a book for a full semester don’t have any cheaper options. 

Best for the Environment: TextbookRush



Why We Chose It: Textbook rentals are their own form of recycling, but we’ve chosen to highlight TextbookRush for its particular commitment to making the shipping process as environmentally-friendly as possible.

What We Like

  • Reusable shipping boxes
  • International editions available for less
  • 30-day satisfaction guarantee

What We Don't Like

  • Shipping only free over $35
  • Books may not include supplementary materials

TextbookRush doesn’t just help students save money and reuse old books: It's got a rental and shipping process that tries to make a difference where they can.

For the most part, its rental process is along the same lines as most other sites: Students can search by title, author, or ISBN for the books they need, choose a rental period, and then send the books back when the rental period ends. TextbookRush encourages environmental consciousness, however, by shipping books in a reusable box and encouraging customers to reuse those boxes to send the books back.

The site does deal with the standard concern with textbook rentals: Many rentals, especially used copies, may not come with supplementary materials that a class may require. This is particularly of concern when it comes to textbooks that include supplementary materials; even if they’re included, it’s worth making sure that they’re region-appropriate.

Shipping is only free over $35, so students who only need to get a couple of items may find themselves paying for shipping anyway. However, the site’s 30-day satisfaction guarantee is one of the longest on the market.

Best for Older Textbooks: ValoreBooks



Why We Chose It: We selected ValoreBooks since professors often prefer to use a very specific version or edition of a textbook, and the site has a particularly robust back catalog, among other perks.

What We Like

  • Enables comparison shopping
  • Trackable shipments
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

What We Don't Like

  • Lacks newest editions
  • Per-item shipping costs
  • Strict late return policy

ValoreBooks puts user convenience first, with an easy user interface and a system that allows students to compare multiple prices and offers for the same titles, all at once. The site has a deep catalog of textbooks in a variety of subjects, including older editions.

Anyone who’s ever had a professor with a highly specific book request knows that it can be tricky if a class requires an older edition; ValoreBooks has a great back catalog for all those situations. Its system is pretty much the same as other sites: Students can compare prices, buy or rent books, and sell back the copies they own with ease. Plus, the site offers a shipment tracking option built into its own system, which is useful for concerns over lost packages. 

ValoreBooks, however, isn’t always on top of things: since their model relies heavily on student exchanges and buybacks, it doesn't always have the latest editions and newest books. The site also has a higher shipping price point (about $4 per item), rather than a per-order flat rate. Late returns are strict too: Any lateness automatically is charged for a 15-day rental extension, and although taking notes and highlighting in textbooks isn’t forbidden, the company reserves the discretion to decide if markups are “excessive” and to charge a heavy penalty. 

Bottom Line

For the most part, the majority of textbook rental sites function pretty similarly, with easy rental options, 15- to 30-day guarantees, and cautions that used books are unlikely to include all supplementary materials. The difference comes with other features, such as rewards programs, flexible return dates, or free shipping, which is why we’d put sites like Campus Book Rentals and eCampus a cut above the rest.

What Is a Textbook Rental Site?

A textbook rental site is an online bookstore with a twist. Textbooks are available not just to buy, but to rent for a specified period of time, usually for a significantly lower price than purchasing the book outright. Many sites also have options to purchase books or to sell back used copies that were previously purchased.

How Much Do Textbook Rental Sites Charge?

Textbook rental sites don’t typically charge user or membership fees, so the costs are for the books themselves, as well as shipping charges. Individual prices vary, but for the most part, sites often claim to rent books for up to 80 or 90 percent off of the list price. 

How Do Textbook Rental Sites Work?

The exact process or timeline may vary by site, but they all have similar steps. Users can search for the books they need, select a rental period and price point, and have the books shipped to them (or made accessible, in the case of ebooks) for the duration of the rental period. When that ends, students must ship the books back (most companies provide prepaid shipping labels), request a rental extension, or purchase the book outright.

How We Chose the Best Textbook Rental Sites

To decide on the sites featured on this list, we looked at several factors that are likely to be important to students looking to rent books. Among the most important elements were price points and discounts with respect to list price, book availability, ease of the site’s user experience, flexibility on returns and late policies, and shipping costs. We also factored in other perks that individual sites offer, such as easy customer service or loyalty programs, and tried to highlight sites that keep students' needs in mind.

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Your Citation
Prahl, Amanda. "Best Textbook Rental Sites." ThoughtCo, Jan. 14, 2021, Prahl, Amanda. (2021, January 14). Best Textbook Rental Sites. Retrieved from Prahl, Amanda. "Best Textbook Rental Sites." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 23, 2021).