Get the Best Deals Selling Back Your Textbooks

Textbooks are a necessary expense that most students don’t care for, and they can be hard to afford after you’ve shelled out all your money on tuition and room and board. Luckily, there are several ways to sell back last semester’s textbooks and put a bit more cash back in your pocket. Although you most likely won’t get full value for the textbook no matter where you sell it, follow these tips to help you get the best refund available.

Keep Them in Good Shape

The best thing you can do to protect your investment is to keep your textbooks in great shape. The better the condition, the more money you’ll get back when you go to sell.

As soon as you purchase new textbooks, cover the corners with painter’s tape to protect them from getting bent from use or when storing them in your backpack. If you think you’ll have a hard time keeping your books in good shape, you can cover the entire front and back in painter’s tape, or purchase a book cover from your local book store or school’s store.

Don’t write anything on the front or back covers, both inside and out. If you have to write something on the textbook, make sure it’s on the painter’s tape or book cover. The same goes for highlighting and taking notes on the textbook’s pages. If you need to make note of something or highlight, use a post-it note instead. Don’t bend the corners of the pages, either. Use a bookmark to keep track of where you left off. They’re inexpensive to buy and can help keep your books in great shape. If you really need to write on the pages of the textbook, make a copy using a scanner and use the copy instead.

Shop Around

When you start the process of selling your used textbooks, compare multiple sites before you decide on the appropriate value. You can search through sites like Half.com, Amazon, and Chegg to help you decide on a selling price. You can use BigWords.com to help speed up the process and search the values on multiple sites at one time.

Keep in mind when selling your textbooks online that the sites with higher buyback prices may also charge for shipping. A quick search online will return dozens of sites that will buy back your used textbooks. If the price you’re getting is lower than what you’d like, you can also sell your textbooks yourself without the use of a third party.

Sell Them Yourself

eBay can be a great site to sell textbooks that are in demand. Search through completed eBay listings to see what the textbook has been selling for before you start an auction. You can limit your losses by setting up a fixed price or best offer auction.

If you decide to try a traditional eBay auction, you may end up selling the textbook for much less than what you would selling it back to a third party. Keep in mind that you may also pay a listing fee, a commission of the sale to eBay, and a commission to PayPal if you use them to take payment. PayPal normally takes around three percent of the sale price before the eBay commission is taken off.

If you don’t feel like paying the fees to list your textbook through an auction site like eBay, you can try local classified sites like Craigslist. Craigslist allows you to post the textbooks in one local geographic market and set the price however you’d like. There are no listing fees for using a site like Craigslist, nor do they take a commission once you complete a sale. Selling on a site like Craigslist may take more work since you’ll most likely have to meet the buyer in person.

Be sure you only accept cash as payment. If you accept a cashier’s check, money order, or personal check, the payment may bounce and you’ll be left paying fees back to the bank. You can always accept PayPal if they’d like to pay by credit card, but you could still end up losing money on commission if you use the service.

Sell Them Back to the School

Most local colleges and universities offer textbook buyback programs at the end of a semester, or at least once or twice per year. If you don’t have the time to sell your textbooks online, on auction sites, or using classified sites, selling them back to your school could be a good option. You’ll usually get less money selling them back to the school, but it’ll be a simple process and you’ll have cash in hand at the end of the transaction. You can also put the money you’ve made selling them back to the school toward next semester’s textbooks.

Instead of selling them back directly to the school, you can get the used book price from your school’s bookstore and sell them to students. If you sell the books for less than the bookstore, you may be able to get a better price than you would by selling them online. If your school has a social network or intranet, try posting a classified add aimed directly at other students. Just like selling on Craigslist, make sure you only accept cash as payment and meet in a public location during the day.

Rent Your Books

If you don’t want to go through the process of buying your textbooks every semester and selling them back, you could always choose to rent your textbooks instead. Sites like BookRenter.com will rent you a textbook at a fraction of the price it would cost to buy. At the end of the semester, you simply return the book back to the company to complete the rental. Although you won’t own the book, you’ll spend much less than you would buying the book from your school’s bookstore.

With a little bit of research and work, you can sell your used textbooks for a reasonable price. If you’re selling online, make sure you shop around for the best price. Don’t rule out sites like Craigslist or eBay if you have the time. You can always sell your textbooks back to the school or directly to other students if you’d rather keep things local. Whatever method you choose, make sure you keep your textbooks in great shape to get the best return on your investment.


Brian Flax is a writer based out of the Washington, D.C., area. He is experienced in a variety of topics like business, technology, and the best paying careers.