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Textbooks: Should You Rent or Buy?

Textbooks Should You Rent or Buy

Textbooks are a sore subject for most college students, as they're known for being expensive, and some students complain that their professors barely use the books they've asked students to buy. Believe it or not, the College Board estimates that students spend more than $1,200 on textbooks a year. It is cheaper to rent books, but is it always the best move?

Buying Your Books 

When you're purchasing textbooks, you'll have a choice between buying a new book and a used one. If saving money is a top priority for you, go with the used versions. Besides some highlights or notes in the margins, these should be just as good as their new counterparts. If you're worried that will distract you, opt for a newer book.

Sometimes, you can't escape buying a new book. If your class requires a book that comes with supplemental materials (like a CD or workbook), you may be stuck buying a brand-new book. If you can, find someone who's taken the class before and ask if there is a particular reason why you need the latest edition of the text, or email the professor and ask if a used version will serve your purposes. Sometimes an older book will work just as well. Make sure the book comes with everything you need before you buy it!

At the end of the semester, you'll usually have the option of selling your books back to the campus bookstore. Typically, buyback programs don't offer you as much money for your books. So something you purchased for $75 might sell for $20 at the end of the semester. Since you own the book, though, you also have the option to keep it for future reference or sell online. 

Renting Your Books

Renting textbooks is much cheaper than purchasing books. There are many places where you can rent books online and some bookstores offer this service to their students. Keep in mind, you need to return rented textbooks by a certain date. So if you need to hang onto the book for a few extra weeks to study for finals, you'll need to see if the service offers extensions. 

Sharing With a Friend

It's not uncommon for friends to split textbooks when they're taking the same class. This can absolutely make sense, as two people dividing the cost of a $145 book is much cheaper than each person buying a copy! But be careful before going this route. If your friend is unreliable and loses the book or can't get it to you in time, you may be worse off in the long run. 

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