Student-centric advice and objective recommendations
Higher education has never been more confusing or expensive. Our goal is to help you navigate the very big decisions related to higher ed with objective information and expert advice. Each piece of content on the site is original, based on extensive research, and reviewed by multiple editors, including a subject matter expert. This ensures that all of our content is up-to-date, useful, accurate, and thorough.
Our reviews and recommendations are based on extensive research, testing, and feedback. We may receive commission from links on our website, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. You can find a complete list of our partners here.
Top Websites for Cheap College Textbooks
When faced with daunting expenses like tuition and housing, it’s easy to overlook smaller costs like college textbooks. However, the costs of reading materials can add up quickly. According to a study by the National Association of College Stores, students spent $413 on required materials during the 2019-2020 academic year. Fortunately, you can buy used textbooks to lower the burden a little bit.
The best deal for you often depends on your personal needs and circumstances. Before we get into the best college textbook websites, let’s talk about what to consider before starting your search.
Related: How to save money in college
Buying vs. renting
Many students save money by renting books for the term instead of buying. If you’re sure that you won’t need your book once the class ends, renting could be a good option for you. However, if you’d like to go back and reference the textbook in the future, it may be a better option to purchase. Similarly, if you have a friend taking the class later on, you may save money by buying the textbook and splitting the cost with them.
Many companies will offer an option to buy your rental if you change your mind later on. Some will even discount the rental cost from the price. If you don’t want to commit to buying your textbook at the start of the term, you may still be able to keep your options open. Just go with a lender that includes an option to buy.
Renting might also be a bad idea if you need to mark up your book throughout the course. Typically, your lender will expect you to return the book in its original condition. However, some services allow you to annotate your rental as an extra perk. If that’s a requirement for you, check the rental terms and conditions for each lender before making a decision.
Learn more: Top financial tips for college students
Supplemental materials required
Some textbooks come with additional materials that you’ll use throughout the class, including subscription codes, workbooks or electronic versions of the text. Oftentimes, these materials are single-use. Therefore, if you’re buying your textbook used or from a third-party seller, it usually won’t include supplemental pieces unless explicitly stated and guaranteed.
If you’re planning to buy your textbooks second-hand, talk to your professor about exactly what’s required. Typically, if your class requires you to complete assignments using a software subscription included in the textbook, you can’t really get around it. It might be best to bite the bullet and focus on saving money on your other textbooks.
Sometimes, you might be able to buy the supplemental materials separately. In that case, compare the total price to the original price of the textbook before ordering to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Read more: How to create a budget as a college student
Best websites for cheap college textbooks
Whether you’re buying or renting a textbook, you’ll want to thoroughly vet your vendor. Unfortunately, sometimes what looks like a good deal can end up being a scam.
When buying from an unreputable seller, you may be left without a textbook, with no way to contact customer service. For that reason, it’s important to choose a website with a reliable return policy. Without further ado, here are 8 websites where you can get a deal on college textbooks.
- eBay: With over 182 million users on the platform, you’re bound to find what you need on eBay. The eBay Money Back Guarantee also ensures that you get what you paid for
- eCampus: Buy or rent both physical and digital textbooks, with free shipping on orders over $35. If you have any old textbooks lying around, you can also sell them on the website for extra cash
- Knetbooks: Rent textbooks easily with flexible due dates and an option to purchase your rental. Shipping is always free both ways
- Amazon: Buy your textbook new or used from Amazon Marketplace. Amazon Textbook Rentals also allows you to rent your textbook for a customizable period. You’ll also be allowed to extend your rental or buy the textbook, with 100% of the rental fee applied to the price
- BooksRun.com: Get new or used textbooks shipped free with no minimum purchase. If you don’t want your book after your class, you can use the buyback program to ship it back and get paid within four days. Rentals are also available, with the option to extend the period for $15 for 15 additional days. eBook purchases or rentals are available for instant access
- TextbookRush: Buy or rent new or used textbooks with free shipping on orders over $35. In case anything goes wrong, you’ll get a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. If you change your mind on a rental, you’ll have the option to extend it or upgrade to a purchase
- ValoreBooks: Buy or rent textbooks with a 30-day money back guarantee. Rentals come with a price-match guarantee and free shipping
- Facebook Marketplace: This is a great way to reach people from your own school who may have taken your class before. A lot of students probably have their old books lying around and would love to make some extra cash. Browse current listings or make your own post to see if anyone in the area wants to sell the textbook you need.
When looking for a deal on textbooks, don’t make it harder for yourself in the long run. While some alternative versions may look similar, they can have rearranged chapters or missing sections. Getting an older edition may save you a buck or two. However, it could also make it harder to study and complete assignments.
In order to avoid confusion, search for your textbook by ISBN to make sure it’s the right version. When in doubt, talk to your professor and make sure that your used textbook will be suitable for the class. Good luck!
See also: How to Make Money in College