If you’re addicted to renting movies online, then you know that the habit can get pretty expensive, so why not look for cheaper alternatives to watch great movies?
The idea of renting movies “offline” might remind you of the days when there used to be Blockbusters in almost every town, and prices ranged from $2 to $8 a rental. Once streaming movies on the Internet became commonplace, all of those rental stores went out of business.
For a while, everyone could enjoy great movies with Amazon Prime, where you could rent great movies for $2.99 – a whole-night movie marathon might cost less than $20; less than the cost of going to the theater!
Unfortunately, Amazon Prime hiked its prices, so all of those “affordable” movies are now roughly $3.99 or more. The days of cheap online movie rentals are behind us. So, with that in mind, perhaps it’s time once again to look offline for cheap movies.
Why Getting Movies Offline is Better
This Amazon price-hike made me reconsider whether online movie rentals are really a good option. After doing a bit of research in my local area, I realized that getting movies in the real world is actually way more cost effective for many reasons.
- On online auction sites, people are selling off entire collections of DVDs for dirt cheap.
- At offline real-world auctions, entire estates often include entire movie collections for pennies a piece.
- Libraries offer free movies.
- You can often buy movies at retail stores cheaper than you can rent them online.
To prove this point, I explored these different options, and will share with you some resources and tips to collect your own massive movie collection. By following this advice, you’ll never have to rent another movie on the Internet again!
Option 1: Buy From Bargain Bins
Even though movie rental stores are gone, retail movie sales stores are still around. Businesses like Books-a-Million, f.y.e., and even Best Buy all sell DVDs. Honestly, there is nothing cooler than coming across a discount bin full of movies that are priced at $4 or under.
The discount bins of retail stores are chock-full of great movies at rock-bottom prices. At the store where I took the picture above, I found a bin of movies under $3 apiece, filled with many movies that cost $3.99 or more to rent on Amazon Prime. Buying used movies are often even cheaper.
The benefits of buying discounted discs include:
- Instead of renting, you actually own the movie and can watch as often as you like.
- There are lots of stores in every town that have a steady supply of movies for sale.
- Movies bought from discount bins are often older, but most are better than any of the discount movies you find on Amazon Prime (or even on Netflix for that matter.)
Option 2: “Rent” From the Library
Of course, there’s not much that can beat free, and your local library specializes in free. Free movies, that is.
Your local library likely has a pretty impressive collection of movies; everything from childrens’ movies and documentaries, to classics and blockbusters. Libraries receive donations all the time, so the selection to choose from often changes. Before you go anywhere else to buy movies, always stop by your local library.
The benefits of “renting” from a library:
- You can usually keep several movies for one to two weeks at a time.
- Selections are varied and include many of the best movies ever made.
- For a low “out of town” membership fee, you can even look for movies at libraries in other towns and cities as well.
Option 3: Rent from Redbox
If you live in the United States, and you’re a member of Amazon Prime who is just as frustrated with the price hikes as I am, you’re going to want to get yourself accustomed to Redbox. Redbox is a physical vending machine available in most towns around the country, outside stores like 7-11, Irving, and some supermarkets.
Using the Redbox website, you can actually browse movies and then “reserve” them in one of the local vending machines so you can go pick it up.
The best thing about this is that, unlike Amazon Prime where movies are typically $3.99 and up for a one night rental, you can rent some of the best new releases from Redbox for only $1.50 a night. Seriously. For the price of one new Amazon Prime release, you could rent a Redbox movie for three or four nights.
That makes Redbox a no-brainer if you really want to be able to watch new releases without having to pay a fortune. The one caveat is this: don’t forget to return it, or you may find yourself paying a bit more for that rental than you intended. Rent it from a location on the way to your day job, and you’ll have no problem remembering to drop it off.
The benefits of renting from Redbox:
- Get the latest releases at the cheapest price.
- No membership fees required.
- Very wide selection that updates frequently.
Option 4: Buy Cheap on eBay
I used to be a PowerSeller on eBay, meaning I sold a lot of stuff every week. My gig there was antiques, but while hunting for box lots that I could resell for profit, I often came across some pretty sweet collections of movies.
These are usually the result of someone doing some spring cleaning, or deciding that their DVD collection is taking up too much space. Because of this, you can buy a huge box of assorted movies — many of them fairly new — for pennies. Usually you can find box lots where the final selling price in the last minutes of the auction are as low as 50 cents to 75 cents per movie.
Sure, you might have to buy big lots where there might be a few duplicates and a bunch of old movies you don’t even like, but even then you’re getting a bunch of really good movies for less than $1.50 apiece. Less than renting them from any of the other available offline options.
A few tips when shopping for box lots of DVDs on eBay: Always zoom into the photo and scan the titles that are included in the lot. Make sure there aren’t any (or too many) duplicates. Keep a close eye on shipping costs. And if you can’t afford to buy so many at once, take a look at some of the smaller DVD lots available throughout eBay. You can usually get those for under $1 a DVD as well.
The benefits of buying on eBay:
- Usually the cheapest way to buy movies anywhere.
- You can find some rare older movies this way.
- Discover movies that you’ve never seen before.
By the way: eBay isn’t the only online option for cheap movies. You can also opt for retail sites like Half.com or Blu-ray.com, where you’ll find movies for sale for far less than you could rent them on Amazon. Shipping is usually pretty cheap if you buy enough of them at once.
Option 5: Auctions and Yard Sales
Of course, instead of waiting for people to sell their movie collections on eBay, you could always get the same (or better) deals at local auctions or yard sales.
AuctionZip is a great site to find local estate auctions near you, if you live anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. Another source for listings is your local newspaper.
Auctions aren’t just for the rich — that’s a stereotype you’ll probably see on TV and movies. The truth is, most auctions near you will be reasonably priced estate sales, where you’ll find the entire contents of a household going up for sale in boxed lots.
The auction listing usually lists the kind of things available. For DVDs, you’ll want to search ads that say things like “entertainment” or “media”. Or you might just want to show up on the day of the auction and browse through the boxes during the “preview” part of the auction — there’s no obligation for you to stay and buy anything. If you see a big box of DVDs, then buy a bidder card, wait until the box comes up, and start bidding! The odds are pretty good that you’ll get that box of movies for very cheap.
Then there are yard sales. Each summer, you’ll find dozens upon dozens of yard sales going on in your community, and DVDs are one of the most common things that people put in yard sales.
These movies are often far cheaper than you could find at an auction or on eBay. Usually the folks running the yard sale are getting rid of the movies because they’ve already watched them and they’re just taking up space, so you can often easily barter on a whole box of them for less than 25 to 50 cents per DVD.
The beauty of auctions and yard sales is that you’re talking about a personal collection of many movies. Especially in the case of an estate auction, you’ll sometimes find a lifetime of collected movies available — hundreds or even thousands of movies that you’ve either love to watch again, or that you’ve never seen before. With so many movies in your own collection, you’ll never need another online movie streaming subscription again!
The benefits of buying at auctions or yard sales:
- Enjoy the fun of the hunt.
- Rediscover classics and rare movies.
- Get large collections of movies for dirt cheap.
- Auctions and yard sales are fun in their own right.
Rethink Your Movie Rentals
Renting movies online is nice and convenient, but it’s exploded to the point where it’s now more expensive than real-world rentals used to be. It’s smart to take a step back and reconsider whether it’s worth wasting twice as much money on a 24-hour rental, when you could buy twice as many movies offline for the same price, and own them forever.
Explore discount bins, the library, auctions, and yard sales near you, and you’ll be surprised just how much more you’ll have available to watch on a Saturday night. You might even end up canceling your Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions!
For another worthwhile movie experience, check out our introduction to Fandango.