Cengage Brain vs. Chegg: Textbook Rental Service Comparison

Knoji reviews products and up-and-coming brands we think you'll love. In certain cases, we may receive a commission from brands mentioned in our guides. Learn more.
Comparison of the textbook rental services offered by Chegg and Cengage Brain to college students over the internet.  The textbooks are shipped to the residence of the student.

Chegg is a rental book company that rents textbooks to students.  Chegg does not want to sell textbooks; in fact it buys them back at very good rates for their customers.  It rental rates are very competitive especially when you consider the cost of shipping. 

Cengage Brain is a company that sells textbooks below publisher's cost and also rents books and e-texts to its customers.  It offers a free forum for its customers to help each other with school.  Chegg does not offer these items, but it gives its customers discounts on using Cramster and CourseRank, which it owns.  Both companies offer students the opportunity to rent textbooks over the internet and have them shipped to their residence at a much cheaper price than purchasing the books new and in some cases used as well.

Cengage Brain Pros and Cons

Cengage Brain is a new web site that rents textbooks, offers e-copies and also sells textbooks.  For free, it also offers its customers through Facebook the opportunity to form study groups and to interact with fellow students.


  • Varies the rental periods to suit the needs of students -  30 days, 60 days, 120 days, one year, two years
  • Cost of rental period for one year equals about 1/2 of the purchase price of the book
  • Offers clients the option of purchasing part of the book by chapter
  • Has great selection of new editions of textbooks
  • Offers a selection of out of print textbooks as e-books


  • Some textbooks and/or editions not available
  • Have to wait for books to be shipped
  • Damage to rental book can cause you to purchase the book
  • e-book content can be changed by the website after purchase
  • e-book rental prices are not much less than new book prices
  • Does not rent used or paperback editions if a hardback is available
  • Need to keep book in good shape to return to Cengage Brain


  • Rental for a school year is about half the price of buying the book
  • Consider that if you damage rental book, you will pay for the rental and the full price of the book
  • New book pricing is usually cheaper at amazon or ebay if they have the texts in stock, but they do not offer rental option
  • If you buy a new book and then sell it back for the usual 25%, you are out 75% of your purchase.  With rental, you would be out only 50% of the new purchase price.

Chegg Pros and Cons

Chegg is a book rental service that also owns Cramster and CourseRank, companies that provide other student services.  Using Chegg allows you to obtain some discounts for these sites as well.  Chegg is in the book rental service.  It does not sell new texts or e-books as a prime service.  Chegg offers these services on some books, however.


  • Offers 21 day return - no questions asked.  Simply arrange the return within 21 days after your order
  • Rental prices are competitive with other companies
  • Six months rental prices are below other companies prices
  • Provides on-line support to its customers as well as an 800 service number
  • Good selection of college textbooks used throughout the nation
  • Buys back books in good condition at more than most bookstores for its customers


  • Usually does not allow the option of buying the textbook
  • Need to return the book by the end of the rental period exactly or pay late fee
  • Have to wait for the books to arrive
  • Service is slower around the times schools usually change sessions
  • Won't change an order after it is placed
  • Does not rent used books to students
  • Need to keep book in excellent shape to return to Chegg


  • Buys back textbooks for good prices from its customers
  • Rental prices are greared to save at least 40% over the price of a new book
  • Great money saver on books that do not have used copies available
  • Rental pricing can be less than buying new book on discount on-line sellers such as Amazon or Ebay.

The Bottom Line

Chegg was one of the first companies to rent books to students.  Taking a good idea and running with it, other companies exist to challenge Chegg.  One of the newest, but a very good one, is Cengage Brain.  Chegg's main business is renting books.  Their services are geared to this goal. 

They do not sell many of their textbooks to customers, they want to rent them.  Chegg does offer its customers great prices on resale of textbooks and lots of customer support to locate their books.  They accept multiple kinds of payment including PayPal, checks and money orders. 

Cengage Brain does more than just rent books.  They do rent books at very competitive prices, but also offer their clients the opportunity to choose e-books to rent or texts to buy.  Neither service offers the option of renting used books.  Cengage Brain includes community forums with its rentals that allow students to communicate with each other.  It also has more rental period choices than Chegg, which usually rents its books for six months.  Cengage Brain offers 30 day and 60 periods as well. 

Cengage Brain allows e-rentals of just chapters of a book for its clients.  Cengage Brain takes major credit cards as its main form of payment.  Chegg includes return shipping costs with rentals and gaurentees the book against being lost provided you used Chegg's mail service when returning the rental book. Chegg seems to offer more earlier editions than Cengage Brain does.

Both companies are respected businesses in the rental industry.  Any student will save money by renting textbooks over buying new textbooks.  The choice between them really comes down to several factors:

  • Does the site have the book you need to rent?
  • How long do you need to rent the book for?  Shorter times - go with Cengage Brain
  • How important are return policies?  Chegg's is better
  • If price is important and you need the book for six months, choose the cheaper company
  • If you might want to buy the book later on, Cengage Brain is a better choice
  • If you have some college textbooks you want to sell back, Chegg is the better choice
  • Check out the shipping costs.  These can get expensive if you rent several heavy books. 
  • Method of payment you want to use


As any parent or student knows, books are very expensive, and what are you supposed to do with the books once you are done with a certain high school or college course, what do you do with those books you paid a lot of money for? These companies make sense by either sell the books or just rent them in the first place instead of buying these expensive books.

Using these companies really can help out with parents and students to hold the costs down of study books, whether high school or college. Plus with Cengage Brain, you can form study groups with your fellow students.

1 comment

Umer Javed
Posted on Nov 2, 2018