Online DVD Rental For Beginners

Dvdrental Anybody who has ever paid a fine for the late return of a rented video or DVD is likely to find the new breed of online DVD rental sites pretty appealing. While most high-street video shops charge about £3.50 per disc and start to fine you for every extra night that you don’t return it, the standard procedure for the online clubs is charge you a monthly subscription (of anywhere between £7.99 and £30) that lets you hang onto your discs for as long as you like. With well over thirty different sites offering online DVD rentals it can be pretty confusing knowing which one might suit you best, so we’ve been trying out some of the different services to help you make an informed decision.

Most sites run using a broadly similar system – You sign up online and decide in advance how many discs you want to rent at a time. You then search the site’s catalogue of films and TV shows for DVD’s you want to rent, and add each disc you want to a wish-list. The first available discs on your wish-list are sent out to you first class, in an envelope small enough to fit through your letterbox. When you’ve watched a disc you can return it in the same (postage-prepaid) envelope and one the site has received it they’ll send out the next available title on your wish-list.

In practice you may find you have to wait some time to receive newly released or very obscure DVDs – While stock levels will be high on blockbuster movies, there will also be heavy demand for those titles, so you’ll need to make sure you have some older or less popular discs on your wish-list to make sure you get a constant supply of discs. If you want to rent a box-set, each disc usually counts as a separate rental. You may have to wait several months in order to receive 6 discs from a box-set in the right order – If you don’t mind watching discs out of sequence; you should get the set a bit quicker.

If you only want to rent a couple of DVDs a month, you’ll probably find that the high-street video shops will serve you better than an online rental service. However if you’re likely to rent more than 4 discs a month there’s almost certainly an online package that will suit you.

The different sites tend to squabble about who has the largest library, but having tried 4 different services, all the discs we wanted to rent were available from each of the sites, so a more relevant consideration is how long you have to wait for an specific disc. Try not to be bewildered by the vast number of sites offering similar services – In fact the vast majority of sites are powered by one of three big service providers; LoveFilm, Screen Select and DVDs365. Read on for our review of those 3 sites and of Amazon’s DVD Rental service. We’ll also tell you which other sites are powered by those services. Although the pricing structure may vary, the speed and quality will be the same for all sites powered by the same service provider.

Almost all of the services offer a free trial for either a set time period or for a limited number of rentals, so you’re able to try several services before deciding which one (if any) to stick with. Be aware that you will usually be asked to provide credit card details, so if you don’t want to continue your membership beyond the trial period, you’ll need to remember to cancel your subscription.

For a more detailed guide to how the online rental sites operate, it’s well worth reading the Q & A section on UK DVD rental guide. There are a number of sites who compare and review the different services available: Of those, the UK DVD Rental Guide is probably the most comprehensive.

We tried out four services in preparation for this feature:

>> LoveFilm
Free trial: 14 days, max 6 discs
Subscription options: From £9.99 (1 disc at a time, unlimited rentals per month) to £19.99 (4 discs at once, unlimited discs per month)
What’s good: Best value package for film buffs and regular renters – £19.99 a month for 4 discs at a time and unlimited rentals. Efficient turnaround. Recent releases and most popular discs received sooner than from other sites running unlimited packages. Monthly newsletter aimed at film fans. Best all-round service for all except very light renters.
What’s less good: No budget option for users who only want to rent 2-3 discs a month
Other sites powered by DVDs365:
Five Movie Club | Film Four DVD | WH Smiths Movie Direct | Sainsbury’s | Last Minute | CD Wow | Sofa Cinema

>> Amazon DVD Rental
Subscription options: From £7.99 (2 discs at once, max 4 discs per month) to £9.99 (3 discs at once, max 6 discs per month)
What’s good: Superb despatch speed and turnaround. Best track-record of all sites tested for sending out new releases and popular titles quickly. 10% members discount on all DVD’s purchased from Amazon. Best all-round service for those who only want to watch a few mainstream titles a month.
What’s less good: No unlimited packages, so not suited to people who want to watch more than 6 discs a month. No Free Trial.

>> Screen Select
Free trial: 14 days, max 4 discs
Subscription options: From £7.99 (1 disc at a time, max 4 discs per month) to £14.99 (3 discs at once, unlimited rentals per month)
What’s good: Lots of exclusive editorial content – film news etc. Offers a good mixture of unlimited packages to suit film buffs, and budget packages for infrequent renters
What’s less good: Not much! A good all-rounder but longer waits for the most popular titles than with LoveFilm.
Other sites powered by Video Island (Screen Select’s parent company):
Tesco DVD Rental | ITV Movie Club | easyCinema | MSN

>> DVDs365
Free Trial: 14 days, 3 discs at once
Subscription options: From £5.99 (1 disc at a time, max 2 discs per rental period) to £26.99 (5 discs at once, max 40 discs per month)
What’s Good: Good range of packages and flexible range of gift subscriptions. Cheapest package for infrequent renters.
What’s less good: Long wait to receive most popular discs. No “Unlimited” packages. Need to keep a large number of DVDs on your wish-list to avoid delays between rentals. Turnaround time between rentals slower than other services we tried.
Other sites powered by DVDs365:
Qflicks | Mailbox Movies | Movietrak

One final word – high-street chain Blockbuster offer their own service which is not powered by any of the other service providers. We didn’t try out their service, so you may want to sign up for their free trial to see how it compares to one of our recommended sites.

Posted in Film. 17 Comments »

17 Responses to “Online DVD Rental For Beginners”

  1. Desiree Lambert Says:

    I’ve been renting DVDs online for about 2 years now. I’ve tried Mailbox movies, Blockbuster and DVDonTap sites and found them initially good and then the service deteroritates after a few months. The biggest drawbacks is not being able to get the disks at top of the list for months on end. I waited four months to get Cold Mountain and was peeved to see that it was available in my local blockbuster all during that period. Secondly the quality of the DVDs tend be be very variable and I’ve had a couple of disks which were unviewable and that is very frustrating as you can’t take it back immediately.
    However, I’m still a fan of online rentals and as you said today, watch a broader range of films than I might have done otherwise and also watch more films too as the more I watch the better value is the deal.

    Thanks for this article and for hilighting on the show today – long overdue but no penalites! 🙂

    Desiree Lambert

  2. david watson Says:

    Have tried a number of these sites recently and finally found one that really delivers what it says. Mymoviestream They have a great list of titles, the site is easier to use with great search and recommendation features. So far have always delivered my top 3 choices. LoveFilm never got above number 37 in my queue, also their unsubscribe was a nightmare, not quite “unsubscribe anytime”. Blockbusters were a disaster.

  3. Fiona Tankard Says:

    Does anyone know any DVD rental companies that send DVDs to Italy?

  4. Diana Hicks Says:

    I received a free two month subscription to Screen Select with the purchase of a TV from Comet. I am nearly at the end of the two month period and have received all my “most wanted” films at incredible turnround speed! I was even able to divert discs to my daughter when I was away on holiday. Because I live in a rural location I find it impossibly inconvenient to rent from a shop, the nearest being eight miles away – not exactly on the doorstep! So I imagine people in rural areas or those without transport will find these services indispensable.

  5. G Eaton Says:

    Although this is a great idea it doesn’t appear to work in practice.

    Having tried online dvd rental from many of the different providers I have found that although the service from most of them starts off quite good for the first month or so it rapidly goes downhill.

    Some providers send out a lot of unwatchable damaged discs and they all struggle to send out the newer releases on the top of most peoples rental queues (obviously if everyone wants the same disc they are going to be in short supply).

    However having already tried DVDS365, Tescos, GlobalERental etc I still have quite a few others to experiment on and I have just signed up for my free trial with Lovefilm so hopefully I will eventually find a service that works although I am not holding my breath!

  6. kim walker Says:

    Been using Blockbuster for about 5 months. Most films have come through with no problem but there seems to be delays with a number of ‘older’ films. The first film I ever put on ‘wishlist’, Jaws, still has not arrived. This is also the case with Great Escape, Yellow Submarine, etc. Now trying ‘Lovefilms’

  7. J rogers Says:

    I started with Tesco but found the delivery was erratic. After a free trial with blockbuster i moved to them, again the list seems to be a bit pointless at times and very new and very old films seem to be difficult to get.But the turnaround is excellent and you know when they’ve received returned dvds and exactly when new ones have been sent out. Renting online suits our lifestyles and it means you can try out films you wouldn’t normally think of renting.

  8. suzi ross Says:

    I have been using Blockbuster for a few months and I am very happy with the service – I do generally always have over 50 films on my list at any time, and as you get 3 at a time, I always have at least one I’m in the mood for. Also, as there is no time limit to return them – I pass them on to friends and family to watch too and post back for me!

  9. Louise Anderson Says:

    I use LoveFilm and I think it’s fantastic! Absolutely no criticisms whatsoever. It has a huge library and a very good search engine and the more DVDs you rent in a month, the better value the fee is. I’ve always received DVDs from the top of my wishlist, but as I want to watch everything on my list I’m not really bothered what order they come in. I haven’t tried to rent a recent big release yet. I like the customer reviews of films – it’s great to read other people’s opinions. Another thing that’s really good is that when you think of a film you want to see, you add it to your wishlist straightaway, rather than getting to a DVD rental place and not being able to remember what that film was you thought of recently. And this is so much easier than going to a shop in the first place, if, like me, you don’t live near one. Highly recommended.

  10. Tom Gregory Says:

    I have used for over a year now, and am very pleased. For just £5.99 a month you can rent 3 dvds a month and if you don’t use them all, your quota is carried over to the next month. Huge choice of titles, quick turnaround of discs and most importantly, the cheapest I can find!

  11. Robin Carter Says:

    I have used most of the main dvd rental companies over the last year. I am a relatively light user, and found most companies geared up to heavier users than myself. When I cancelled membership from I received an email offering a light user package, £7.99 per month, 2 DVDs at a time with a maximum of 4 dvds per month. This works well for me at the moment, but with the coming of summer (and Big Brother) I will not have time to watch too many films so will probably cancel and try easycinema for a few weeks.

  12. Simon Jones Says:

    I’ve been using Blockbusters for about 6 months and have rarely received a title in my top 20 – having read David Watsons rave review of, I have cancelled my Blockbusters subscription and joined them instead. Today, my top 3 picks arrived in the post – genius (as long as it continues like this anyway) thanks David, top recommendation!

  13. Garry Hambling Says:

    I’ve been using lovefilm for about 5 months and I’m still impressed with a normal 48 hour turnround time from posting a return to receiving the next discs. I try to keep my wish list down to a max of 7 unless adding new releases, there’s less chance of a random pick from lower in the list this way. All it takes is regular updating.

  14. Clare Says:

    I was using Screenselect but found in the last few months the service has deteriorated it now takes almost a week for a turn around rather than the original 3. I have now signed up with Blockbuster. So far they have always sent something from my top 3 films. The best thing about them is they work Saturdays so that’s got to help the turn around speed. From what people seem to be saying it sounds like keep moving is the key to good service.

  15. John Says:

    I use Gameznflix for both Movie and Game rental. The annual plan is less than $18 per month, and gives you 8-out at a time. Great deal. They have 4 distribution ctrs in the US, and plans for more.

  16. daevid Says:

    I’m astounded you rate Lovefilms so highly. ‘Dire’ is the first word that comes to mind when considering the service offered by Lovefilms. In a mere 3 mths of being a member they have sent me 6 wrong DVDs & I have found no less than 15 films in my rental queue that I haven’t requested, some of which have been sent out to me. Also, in those 3mths, I haven’t recieved one of the films in the top ten of my list. Every time I have contacted Lovefilms they have responded with a ‘cut & paste’ reply that rarely addresses the complaint. When you do complain, they seem unable/ unwilling to take any responsibility for things going wrong. Beware positive reviews you may read that are either a). Written by someone still in their trial period (the service takes a noticeable turn for the worse when the trial is over). & b). Older reviews, it would seem the company has been taken over fairly recently &, again, the service had taken a turn for the worse. I really would advise people to avoid Lovefilms. It’s the only DVD rental service I’ve used, but surely, NO-ONE else could be this bad????

  17. Sven Says:

    We have used for over a year now. It has severly cut down on buying new DVDs (we were running out of space), and that alone made it worth it.
    We currently have 75 films in queue, it is rarely less than that. Yes, the top 10 are sometimes hard to get, especially brand-new ones that are hotly contested, but I would not expect anything else. What I really like is the depth of the DVD library has, and if you are interested in older movies, they will be available immediately.
    I had one wrong DVD delivered, I consider that good for over a year’s worth of service with sometimes 10 DVDs a month. What bugs me more is the quality of the DVDs. Many of them have a blotchy printed side, probably from too much heat or the way that they are cleaned. Many of these DVDs refuse to play on my player. Lovefilm is very fast to turn these DVDs around, but I still wonder if other services have the same problem.
    So overall: this is the only service I tried, I cannot comment on any other. I would still rate it 4/5.

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