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Top Ways to Find Cheap College Text Books

College can be expensive, really expensive, so it’s always good to look for ways in which you can save. Textbooks are a necessary expense, but a typical textbook may cost $75 to $325 new. Since almost every class you’ll be in will probably require a textbook, finding ways to get textbooks cheaply can be a great way to save money.

The two most popular options when it comes to getting a textbook are either renting it or buying it. Renting a textbook is usually the cheapest option and can often save up to 80% off the cost of a new book, but it doesn’t work for everyone. There are numerous textbook rental websites that promise to help you save on your textbooks so it’ can be hard to figure out the best option. Just remember, when searching for textbooks online, make sure to get the ISBN from the professor so that you’re searching for, and purchasing, the correct book.

So how do you know if renting textbooks is best for you?

Child with glasses peeking out from behind some books.

The Benefits of Renting Textbooks

You should consider renting if:

  • You don’t mark up your books or bend/crease pages and you take good overall care of them (some textbook rental companies allow marking in their books).
  • You don’t need to use or reference the book after the class is over.
  • You don’t need any supplemental material that might come with the book like CDs or access codes.
  • You’d like to minimize your impact on the environment.
  • You don’t want to go through the hassle of reselling your book at the end of the semester.

Where Can You Rent Textbooks?

Here are three websites to checkout for renting textbooks:

  1. Chegg – Chegg offers both textbooks and eTextbook rentals with a 21- or 14-day satisfaction guarantees, respectively. This means, if you decide to drop the class or the textbook isn’t up to your standards you can still return the book and get a full refund (minus the cost of shipping). Chegg will also buy back your used textbooks and give you online quotes for them instantly.
  2. Campus Book Rentals – This is one of the websites where you are able to rent a book and still mark it up. Keep in mind though, that because this website allows this, they could be renting a book to you that is already heavily marked.
  3. eCampus – If you’re going to be renting a lot of books, eCampus might be a website you’d like to check out because of the rewards they offer. You get three points for every dollar spent and you can earn up to $20 off a textbook.

Why You Might Want to Own College Textbooks

You should consider owning college textbooks if:

  • The textbooks are from a class in your major
  • You will need to reference them after the class is over
  • You like to take copious notes or you highlight a lot

Best Places to Buy Cheap College Textbooks

  1. Amazon – Amazon sells college books, usually for a competitive price and they offer college students 6 months of free Amazon-Prime.
  2. Thriftbooks – Thriftbooks offers promotions and discounted items on a regular basis. There is also a reading rewards program and an app for your phone. They offer much more than just textbooks.
  3. AbeBooks – This website has a 30-day money-back guarantee after purchasing a book. They also keep a lot of the inventory themselves, so when it comes to selling the textbooks back it goes to them directly, saving you the hassle of having to approach multiple retailers.

The Easiest Way to Find the Best Deal on College Textbooks

Another great resource for college students in search of cheap textbooks are price comparison sites. Just like Travelocity helps you find the best deal on travel, these sites can help you find the cheapest source for the textbook you need without having to spend hours searching the web yourself.

Three textbook price comparison sites:

  1. Booksprice
  2. Bigwords
  3. DealOz

Cutting Out the Middleman

Of course, instead of buying or renting a textbook from a website or bookstore,  there is always another way to get cheap textbooks but it might take a lot more leg work As is usually the case though, the extra work may turn out to be the cheapest option in the end.

Ask a friend, someone in your dorm or someone currently taking the class if you can buy or borrow the book from them. Hang fliers letting people know you’re interested in buying books from certain classes, or go to the class the semester before you take it to ask if anyone is interested in selling their books. Just make sure that the professor will still be using the same textbooks when you take the class!


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