Skip to Main Content

Where to buy, sell and rent college textbooks

Woman looks through books at a bookstore
Dean Drobot/Shutterstock
Bankrate Logo

Why you can trust Bankrate

While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .

It’s no secret that college textbooks are expensive, with the average student spending around $400 per year on course materials alone. While buying or renting your textbooks from the university’s bookstore may be necessary for some courses, the books are often expensive, and you typically can’t sell them back. To save money, you can look into third-party services to buy, sell and rent textbooks.

Best places to buy college textbooks

In many cases, buying used college textbooks can cut down your expenses significantly, and there are plenty of websites to help you compare prices.

  • AllBookstores: AllBookstores finds textbooks from multiple sources, like Amazon and Chegg, so you can compare prices and choose the best offer. AllBookstores offers new and used textbooks and will list how much you’ve saved per book, so you can keep track of your savings.
  • BIGWORDS: BIGWORDS functions like a search engine that allows students to compare textbook prices from multiple sites. BIGWORDS also searches the internet for coupons, promotional offers and discounts.
  • BookFinder: Like other textbook sites, BookFinder aggregates textbook prices among different retailers. To find the best deal, type in the author, title or ISBN and search. You can also filter your search by price, hardcover or softcover and publication year.
  • CampusBooks.com: CampusBooks.com compares textbook prices from multiple sources and offers discounted new and used textbooks, as well as e-books. The site features a unique tool called the BookBag: You’ll add up to five books into your cart at once, and then CampusBooks.com will compare the prices and find the best combination price on all of the books.
  • EBay: EBay offers you the ability to buy anything, but it’s a hidden gem for textbooks. You can find almost any textbook on eBay. If you have some time before classes start, you can even set up an alert to be notified when the book you’re looking for is on sale. EBay also has a generous return policy if the textbook doesn’t arrive in the condition you expected.

Best places to rent college textbooks

Most college textbook rental sites allow you to rent books for one semester, or you can choose a specific time period. Renting is often cheaper than buying, and you won’t have to worry about selling the book once your class is done.

  • Amazon: Amazon makes textbook rental fast and easy. If you’re signed up for a Prime Student account, you can receive your textbooks in two days, which is great if you’re on a time crunch. If you decide that you’d like to purchase your textbook instead, your rental fee will go toward that purchase.
  • Campus Book Rentals: Campus Book Rentals acts as a search engine for renting new or used textbooks. Once you enter the book details, you’ll be presented with a list of prices and availability. You can even perform a bulk search by entering the ISBNs of all of your books at once. The site also offers live customer support, extended rental periods and the ability to highlight in the books.
  • Chegg: Chegg offers reduced prices on rental textbooks. Students can customize their rental time if they need the materials for longer than they originally thought or purchase the books outright. Returning textbooks is free, and renters are allowed to highlight in the textbooks.
  • ECampus.com: ECampus.com provides free shipping on textbook rentals over $35, which isn’t hard to do if you’re renting a whole semester’s worth of books. You can also choose from three rental terms: quarter, semester or short-term.

Best places to sell college textbooks

Selling college textbooks to local bookstores can be tough, especially if they’re in poor condition. These sites make it easier to get money for your books at the end of the semester.

  • Blue Rocket Books: Blue Rocket Books lets you do a bulk search with the ISBNs of all of your textbooks and lists out the offered price for each. If you decide to sell, the site will provide a prepaid shipping label; all you have to do is drop it off at a post office. Plus, for every book you sell, Blue Rocket Books donates a book.
  • Bookbyte: Bookbyte is a service that aims to streamline the process of selling textbooks. For each of your books, you’ll enter the ISBN number and view offers. If you’re happy with the listed offers, you’ll then mail in your book for free and receive your payment via PayPal or a mailed check within a few weeks.
  • BookScouter: With BookScouter, you’ll search from over 30 buyback lenders to find the highest price for your used books and textbooks. BookScouter has a mobile app compatible with both Apple and Android devices, which makes searching for your textbooks easy. Just scan the barcodes on the backs of your books using your camera.
  • Cash4Books.net: Cash4Books.net lets you sell your used or new textbooks with no fees. You’ll enter your ISBNs and get a quote, then ship your books for free. Once Cash4Books.net receives your books, you’ll receive payment via PayPal or a check in the mail. On average, payments are issued within 13 days of the date you ship your books.
  • Local Facebook groups: If you attend a major university, you may be able to join a local Facebook group devoted to buying and reselling textbooks. You can usually earn more selling to a particular person than you can by selling online.

Is it better to buy or rent textbooks?

Whether you choose to buy or rent textbooks depends on your needs. If you’re strictly looking to save some extra cash, renting is the way to go, since it’s much cheaper than buying outright. However, renting does come with some stipulations. For one, you usually can’t write in your textbooks (though some companies will allow you to highlight), so it’s not the best option if you prefer to take notes in your book.

Renting versus buying college textbooks also depends on your specific course. If there’s a textbook that you know you’ll be referencing or using again, it’s probably better to buy the book; most rentals expire at the end of the semester. This is especially true for STEM majors, where technical textbooks may also be useful during your career or graduate school. If you’re required to take a class that has a virtual textbook, you’ll also most likely need to buy instead of rent, since these textbooks often have a one-time access code.

If you do have to buy a textbook, consider buying a used book. While it won’t save you as much money as renting would, used books are considerably cheaper than new ones. Ask your professor if you can buy an older edition, since those are often much cheaper than newer editions.

How to save money on college books

Even if you can buy used books or rent your books, you may still need help covering the costs of textbooks. Here are a few easy ways to save money on your course materials:

  • Buy the electronic version: Most textbooks have a digital option that you can access through your computer or tablet. Digital copies are typically much cheaper than the physical book.
  • Try your school’s library: If you need your textbook only for a specific lesson, check your school’s library to see if the book is available to borrow. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to mark or highlight your book, and you could have trouble getting a copy if other students in your class have the same idea as you.
  • Search for scholarships: Some scholarships allow students to use the aid money for books and supplies. Some scholarships, like the one offered by the textbook marketplace BookScouter, are geared specifically toward textbooks.
  • Look into the Open Textbook Library: The Open Textbook Library is a website that offers over 800 textbooks that are openly licensed by the publishers and authors and free to use and distribute. Students can download, edit and read textbooks at no cost.

Learn more:

Written by
Hanneh Bareham
Student loans reporter
Hanneh Bareham specializes in everything related to student loans and helping you finance your next educational endeavor. She aims to help others reach their collegiate and financial goals through making student loans easier to understand.
Edited by
Student loans editor