Buying and Selling Textbooks: How to Get the Most for Your Money

Its the time of year when college students are poring over their notes, studying feverishly for exams, and preparing to say goodbye to their dorms for winter break.

It is also that time when the same students are preparing for the upcoming semester’s new classes by buying new textbooks, and selling back their old ones. Along with that comes the age old debate about new vs. used, buying vs. renting, university bookstore vs. third party, and the list goes on and on.

However, as college students, we’d all love to get the cheapest books available, and then sell them back for a profit at the end of the term. Perhaps that’s not always the most realistic view of things, but the following tips should hopefully help you make informed decisions and get as much as possible for your money.

  • New vs. Used Textbooks

This is a highly debated topic that a lot of people seem to have opinions about, one way or another. On the one hand, new textbooks are pristine, and you can count on the fact that you won’t get one that someone’s scribbled all over in. However, new textbooks are many times more expensive than used ones.

Some people can’t stand used, ripped, torn, or written in books, and are willing to pay the extra money for a new copy. However, for those who don’t mind a book that needs a little TLC, it’s often worth the price reduction. And many times, what other people have written in the margins can be helpful when studying or writing papers.

In the end, this is a personal decision. If a clean, unused textbook is worth spending more money to you, then by all means, go for it.

  • Buying vs. Renting

Another debate that has many pros and cons for each side is whether or not you should buy or rent your books. Renting inevitably saves money, however, the amount saved can vary from only a few dollars to an exceptional percentage. You don’t have to worry about selling back your textbook when the class is over, however, you don’t get the nice bonus of a little extra cash at the end, even if it doesn’t compare to what you paid for it originally.

Then again, with renting, the book is not yours, so you can’t write in it, and if you damage or misplace it, you can be charged hefty replacement fees. There’s also the matter of making sure to turn it back in on time, but usually the due date is the last day of the semester.

With buying, of course, you own the book, but prices are usually higher than renting. However, you can feel free to write in, highlight, underline, dog ear, and otherwise abuse the book as you see fit without consequence. And you can always sell it to someone later if you decide you don’t want to keep it when the class is finished. However, you usually don’t get anywhere near what you paid for the book, no matter who you sell it to.

  • University Bookstore vs. Third Party

With all these topics, of course, comes the decision of where to buy and sell your textbooks. Nearly every university has its own campus bookstore that sells all the books needed for your classes. Usually they offer new, used, and rental textbooks, though often their prices are on the extremely high end. In the last few years, in light of third party retailers, many university bookstores have begun to lower their prices to be more comparable.

As far as selling books back though, many time the university bookstores offer atrocious buy back prices.

There’s always online places such as Amazon and eBay where you can often purchase new or used textbooks, usually for cheaper if you shop around. However, there’s always the downside of shipping disputes, misleading descriptions, or accidentally purchasing an outdated edition.

You can also always sell your own textbooks back through these sites as well, where often you can get a bit more money than from the Bookstore, as people like you are perusing the site for competitive prices for their books.

Then there are places like Chegg, where you can purchase textbooks at better rates. Chegg is most well known for its rentals, however, which you can often get at astoundingly cheap prices. However, the same cons apply here as they did with other rentals, plus adding in time for shipping and handling, and the small chance that they could be lost in the mail.

And you can always buy or sell to your fellow classmates, however, when purchasing from them, be warned that many have disillusioned expectations regarding how much money they can get, but when you’re trying to sell to them, they want dirt cheap prices.

So, now that you know all the ins and outs of buying, selling, and renting textbooks, go out into the world and get the most out of your money!

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Elizabeth Benson

Elizabeth Benson

Elizabeth Benson is a freshman at Central Michigan University, currently pursuing a degree in Journalism. Elizabeth is a member of the CMU Honors Program, and is a staff reporter at Central Michigan Life, the student run campus newspaper. When she’s not in school, she can usually be found reading, writing, or watching movies, and enjoys traveling and performing in plays.
Elizabeth Benson

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