Although all 16 US DVD rental by mail companies have a bewildering array of subscription options, almost all use the same the same four-step process:
||1. Selection: First you pick the DVDs you want to rent, in order of preference, from an online library, with the top companies boasting over 100,000+ film titles. New releases or obscure titles are often unavailable, so instead of getting your number 1 choice, you may get lower-ranked ones instead. This is why the DVD rental by mail companies suggest having preference lists at least 10-20 titles long, so they can always supply something you want.
||2. Dispatch: The DVD rental company will mail your DVDs by US Post Service. The discs usually arrive within one or two days (longer if your company is on the other side of the country) in individual envelopes.
||3. Enjoy: Keep the films as long as you like--none of the companies listed on DVD-Rental-Guide.us charge late fees.
||4. Return: When you're finished, simply reuse the envelope and post it back free-post. When the DVD rental company receives the disc, they post out another one straight to your door from your preference list, and so on.
DVD rental by mail Packages: DVD rental companies offer packages of one to five discs at home at a time, with three as the industry standard. These discs come individually packaged and you can send them back as you watch them, in theory allowing you to have new DVDs all the time as they recycle through the post. For comparison, a 3-disc unlimited subscription for $16.99 with any of our top three picks, assuming you only watch a modest 3 discs a week, comes out to $1.35 per DVD, much less than what a typical video store rental charges (not to mention no late fees, which account for nearly a quarter of video store profits). So unless you only rent a few DVDs per month, you'll save a substantial amount of money by using an unlimited service. In addition to value, you also get a much better range; for perspective, the market leader with 75,000+ titles carries nearly ten times as many films as an average video store.
Free Trials: The best thing is, almost all of these DVD rental by mail companies offer a free trial period, usually 2 weeks--so feel free to look around and sample several DVD rental companies before settling down on one you like. If you were cheeky, you could migrate from company to company on the list, enjoying free rentals for months. It would be a hassle, as you absolutely must cancel the subscription online before the trial period is up--in some cases several days before--or they automatically start charging your credit card as if you'd subscribed.
Advice On Choosing the Right DVD rental by mail Company
Film Range: The overall catalogue size really doesn't matter that much if all you're into is mainstream films--almost every service will cover these well. Catalog size is important if you're a fan of obscure genres. For instance, if you like anime, then AnimeTakeout is the top niche choice, for Indian film it's Zdag, for Asian it's eHit, for arthouse/foreign it's GreenCine or cafeDVD.
Price: The costs for these DVD rental by mail services are so similar (and you're already getting such a discount over the bricks-and-mortar stores) that we don't think price should be the critical factor. We'd much rather pay an extra dollar for a much better service than be stuck with the frustration of one of the many clunker sites out there, but it's entirely a matter of personal taste to balance these various factors.
Phone Support: About one fifth of American DVD rental by mail companies offer phone support, and it can be very frustrating trying to contact them by email if you have problems. We've heard horror stories of waiting for days to respond, even calling phone companies to try to ferret them out.
Game Rentals: You may also be interested in renting games under the same DVD rental by mail program--with games so expensive to buy, this can be a very attractive combination if you are a gamer or have one in the family. See our Game Rental Guide for reviews on the three American games-only rental companies, and the two which offer games and DVD rental. Of course, the great thing is you can keep the game until you finish it.
Frequently Asked Questions on DVD rental by mail
Do I pay for sending DVD rentals back by post? No, all the DVD rental by mail sites we review include free US Post envelopes to return the DVDs.
How long do DVD rentals take to arrive via post? They're sent by the US Postal Service so it really depends on their service to your area and how far away the company's DVD distribution depot is. Most people relatively close by should get them the day after dispatch, possibly two days. Of course, when you return your DVD, you have to allow time for the disc to be received and a new one sent, which often adds another day to the cycle in addition to post transit time back.
Do I need to post back my DVD before getting my next DVD? Yes, only when the DVD rental company has acknowledged receipt of the disc will they send the next title out. However, some companies allow quick refills, so the day you mail a disc, you can email or click on their site, and they'll send your next title early, before they receive the return.
How long will it take to get my top choices? This is the main limitation with DVD rental by mail and the primary source of complaints; as with any library-type system, if a very popular choice is all rented out, you'll have to wait until it becomes available.