Redbox Movie Rentals versus Netflix and Blockbuster

One area in which I have vigilantly slashed my spending is the “Entertainment” category. I include cable television, movie theaters, concert tickets, bars, sporting events, and a bunch of other things in this category. The easiest expense to cut back on thus far has been the TV/movies area. For television, Hulu has aided me in getting rid of cable completely. This may change with the recent news of them converting to a pay service.

redbox dvd rentals

Photo by Greg Bowers via Flickr

This move towards Hulu had an unintended effect of limiting my movie options when I just want an hour and a half plotline to daze off into. So, what does a guy do? You can watch the poor selection of free movies on Hulu, you can spend a small fortune at the movie theatre, or you can rent a movie.

Movie Rentals

When looking at ways to rent a movie, you have a few options.

Blockbuster and Hollywood Video

The brick and mortar rental arena is pretty much dominated by large players like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. They have the advantage of allowing you to pick up a wide selection of movies on a last minutes notice.

They typically charge $5 or more per rental and tout “No Late Fees” — but take longer than a few weeks to return it, and you will own the movie (for an inflated price, of course)! Ouch.

Netflix and Blockbuster Online

To combat the pricey-ness and late fees, albeit disguised late fees, Netflix and Blockbuster Online offer an e-movie store. You pay a fixed monthly price, have the movies delivered to your door, and can hold on to them as long as you want. All you need to do is mail them back when you’re done (or take them back to the brick & mortar store in the case of Blockbuster online).

However, this requires a monthly subscription cost that may make the cost per DVD more expensive than if you were to rent them individually. This is entirely dependent on your usage. You need to plan ahead; If you want to watch a movie tonight, you needed to order it two days ago at least.

Redbox Kiosk

Then, there’s Redbox. So, how does Redbox compare?

At only $1 per night for a DVD, the pricing is VERY competitive. If you typically get a DVD and watch it in the same night, you could get at least 9 movies per month and still be competitive with the lowest tiers for the mail services.

As far as selection is concerned, Redbox has a very limited capacity. Afterall, all of the movies need to fit in the kiosk unit. Every time I have used Redbox, it has been for a new release. For older movies, I simply go to the local library for them. Libraries are lackluster with their new release selection, which makes for a good complement to Redbox.

Features Comparison

Netflix Blockbuster Online Redbox
Source of Rentals Mail Mail and Brick & Mortar Brick & Mortar
Price $8.99 (1 DVD at a time), $13.99 (2 DVDs at a time), $16.99 (3 DVDs at a time) Same as Netflix + option to pay $3 more for the ability to swap up to 5 movies at the B&M $1/night (Return before 9pm next day to not incur the extra $1 charge)
Selection 100,000+ 100,000+ Approx 500
Free Trial? 2 weeks 2 weeks Free Rental Codes (use once per credit card)
Locations Web Web + Approx 3,500 retail stores 15,000 kiosks (McDonalds, Walgreens, etc)

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, Redbox offers the best all-around service.

When it comes to price, I am a fan of paying per use, not for some expected level of use. When I had Netflix and Blockbuster online (at different points), I wound up using them a lot less frequently than I thought I would. This drove the price per rental up to a point where I wasn’t really gaining that much value. At least with Redbox I know that I am paying $1 per rental at all times. There are plenty of free rentals to go around if you click the link for rental codes in the table above.

People often say that brick and mortar businesses cannot compete with e-tailers, but in this case, I disagree. A movie night can be little more than an impulse. A high-cost retail store may not be sustainable, but partnering with stores (like McDonalds and Walgreens) to place kiosks in is low cost, symbiotic to both partners, and much more sustainable. There is a reason that Redbox’s market share has increased to approximately 9% and their owner’s (Coinstar) stock is climbing.

When you have an urge to view an older movie that isn’t available in a Redbox, you could always check it out at the library or go to a more traditional movie store like Blockbuster. A $5 movie every now and then won’t kill your savings.

If you’re still unsure, I would suggest signing up for each of the free trials and seeing if you like them.

About the Author

By , on Nov 5, 2009
MLR
MLR is the owner of My Life ROI. He writes a lot of posts surrounding ways to instill money skills in children, loves his dog no matter how much PF sense it does or does not make, and cringes at the thought of students choosing careers based on the size of student loans. Please check out his website and subscribe to his feed.

Leave Your Comment (9 Comments)

  1. JH says:

    Blockbuster is by far the best deal if you got on board when they first started their online program. I was a Netflix member with a Blockbuster right down the street, so when I was offered a plan for $11.99 that allowed for unlimited in-store exchanges I quickly switched. It seems Blockbuster is good at honoring your prices because mine has never gone up, I still receive unlimited in-store exchanges, and in the past year they have actually started sending me 2 movies at a time instead of one. My plan still says 1 at a time, so I don’t know if this is a computer error or just a reward for being a longtime customer but I know I’m not going to question it either way.

  2. kp says:

    I’ve got to chime in for Netflix, too. I love Netflix. Your suggestions to use the local library to fill in the gaps left by Redbox is only valid for those who live in an urban area and have access to a fully stocked library. My dinky library has a very, very small section of movies–and many of those are on videocassette. I don’t even have a VCR anymore.

    Redbox simply doesn’t have the selection available on Netflix. I rarely rent “new releases”. I mostly rent tv shows, older movies and documentaries. Also, Redbox requires you do drive back and forth repeatedly to the store to return movies or get new ones–not particularly good for the environment unless biking or walking is an option. Your chart also doesn’t account for Netflix’s unlimited “watch instantly” feature. I watch a lot of tv shows and movies directly on Netflix’s website–there are no commercials which is a big bonus in my book. We can also use that service on our laptops while traveling, which is wonderful when we are in a hotel with limited tv options and bored children (or when we visit relatives with only one tv in the house).

    Finally, your chart doesn’t account for Netflix’s customer service. It’s incredible. I admit I am skeptical Redbox would provide the same level of service if there were a problem with one of their movies.

  3. Andrew says:

    The big difference here that is not on the chart is what mario said about watching instantly – if you are on DSL – the speed may not be the best. But on cable (I just have the broadband and pay 70/m for it) the instant service rocks. I watch 5 times a week plus get the 3 rentals a month.

    I catch hulu to be current on the “cable channels”.

  4. Craig says:

    I am a big fan of Netflix. It has saved me a lot of money on DVD buys and they have such a huge selection of both DVDs, blu ray and TV shows. I use it to the max and watch movies I never would have seen before. And with them expanding streaming it allows for more movies to watch.

  5. mario says:

    Oh by the way, I do go to our local library every week and they have a good selection of new releases. When I get them, I make sure to go back to my Netflix queue and delete them from the list.

  6. mario says:

    Netflix has worked for me since 2004. I did downgrade from 3 movies to 1 at a time since I slowed down. It’s about $9 a month. That averages to 4 to 8 movies a month depending on how fast I turn them in. Yes, the cost per movie is slightly higher than Redbox but consider the time you have to take and gas you’ll have burn to go the the kiosk. And, the kiosk being in locations such as McD and shopping marts might just entice you to get a burger or a few bags of chips and soda and before you know it, your $1 trip ends up to be $10.

    As far as selection is concerned, even though I have cable (I barely watch TV anyway but my wife gets the most of cable), I hate commercials so I just wait for the series DVDs to come out on Netflix so I can watch in uninterrupted bliss. Netflix has it, I don’t think Redbox does.

    Another plus for Netflix is that I can keep a list of titles in my queue (currently I have over 150 movies lined up) and just wait for my movies. I like the fact that I can control the order so that when a new dvd comes out and it’s available “now”, I can simply bump it up top with a click of a button.

    But wait! I also use their WATCH INSTANTLY feature. On a weekend, if I have nothing else to do, I could easily watch 3 to 4 movies. I have unlimited access to it. So if you add that to the equation, it actually lowers my cost per movie. Sometimes, if I feel like it, I even hook up my laptop to our projector so I can watch it on the “big screen”.

    So yeah, I’m happy with Netflix.

  7. Mike says:

    The difference in selection, in my view, invalidates the evaluation. If you’re good at watching and returning to Redbox, then the same would be true with Netflix. My average cost per DVD according to FeedFlix.com is a little over $3 per DVD, and that’s just based on my profile, it’s not accounting my wife & son’s queues, which should bring the average down, and the average keep time is 7-10 days. With RedBox that’d be $7-$10 per disc, and less selection.

  8. Meg says:

    I used Blockbuster online a few months ago to download and watch a movie and didn’t need a monthly subscription. It wasn’t as cheap as Redbox, but the selection was MUCH better — and I didn’t have to drive somewhere to pick-up and then drop-off a DVD. I usually just watch stuff for free on Hulu or from the library, but I don’t mind paying a few dollars to download some videos when I can’t get them for free.

  9. Tim Moon says:

    Red Box is a great service, I use it too. But the selection is awful. Other than a few really good new releases a lot of the movies are older or low-budget, no-name films. Great review.

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