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Blockbuster vs Netflix - Which Movie Rental Service is the Best?
Remember when you used to have to drive to the rental store and pick out VHS movies to rent? You might even remember renting a VCR machine before they became common place.
Then DVDs hit the market and DVD players became so affordable that almost everyone owned one. High quality movie media combined with high-end flat panel HD TV screens provide for a top notch movie viewing experience right in your own home.
Blockbuster and Netflix have jumped head first into the movie rental business, and both will ship 3 DVD movies to your home at a time for a low monthly fee. You can rent as many movies as you want throughout the month, but you can only have up to 3 at a time.
So which movie rental service is the best? Blockbuster or Netflix?
I've tried both services for several months, and ended up choosing one of them and sticking with it for over 2 years. Before I tell you which one, let's compare the facts:
The first service to start with free delivery movie rentals was Netflix, and they quickly captured the market with their low $18.99-a-month fee for as many movies as you could watch.
Netflix has a very user-friendly website that lets you browse thousands of movies, new releases, classics, and every imaginable category and genre.
My wife and I were Netflix evangelists for several months, and encouraged our friends to check out the service. It was far cheaper to pay the low monthly fee than to pay for each individual rental movie, especially when you consider late fees for forgetting to return them on time.
Netflix offers the lowest priced plans for movie viewers who don't plan to watch as many movies each month. For example, you'll only pay $4.99 a month for their lowest priced plan that lets you watch only two movies a month, and $16.99 a month for an unlimited number of movie rentals. You can try it for free and there are no late fees.
Blockbuster had all the same features and prices as Netflix when they entered the competition a couple years ago. It seemed like Blockbuster had more movies available than Netflix though; especially new releases, which is an important feature for many viewers.
Blockbuster jumped into the market shortly after that with their online rental service, and started a competitive battle for dominance in the movie rental business.
Both services battled with weapons like lower prices, better websites with the ability to create movie queues and reserve movies in advance, and more distribution centers to reduce shipping times.
The rental movie service war continued for quite a while until Blockbuster played what I consider a trump card (or rather the first of three trump cards): It decided to use it's thousands of existing rental stores as distribution centers, reducing the turn-around time for most customer to a single day.
Netflix of course opened more distribution centers themselves to compete, and if you lived close to one of them you could normally expect a one-day turn around time as well. You could drop a movie in the mail, and expect a new one to arrive within one business day (two at the latest).
Blockbuster took it a step further last year and played what I think were two very important trump cards:
1. They started giving members coupons for 2 free movie or game rental a month, in addition to the 3 movies they could have at any given time. You could walk right into a local Blockbuster movie store and pick up 2 more movies, watch them with no late fees, and then return them whenever you finished watching them (and still have the other 3 you received in the mail).
2. Blockbuster played a third and final trump card, and let members drop movies off at the stores AND pick up another one for free right then and there. No more waiting even a day for another movie, which is huge when you have kids begging for a movie, or when you just need some instant [movie] gratification!
And the winner is...
Now, before you think I've given away which service I like the best, keep in mind that not everyone has the same opinion as me, nor the same preferences. There are many different aspects of renting movies online that are important for many different people, including price, selection, and availability.
Not everyone lives close to a Blockbuster rental store, which means that not everyone will benefit from the in-store exchange program or the free rental coupons.
Both programs have literally over 75,000 movies, and Netflix has even more with a whopping 90,000 movies! They're both excellent services.
But if I had to choose - and of course I did choose two years ago - I'd elect Blockbuster as the best movie rental service. It's only a dollar more a month than Netflix, but I can drive a few blocks to a local Blockbuster store, make a quick in-store exchange, get two free movies or game rentals for free, and be able to view them that very evening.
Blockbuster has my vote for the best online movie rental service, with free delivery, free in-store movie exchange, and 2 free movie or game rentals per month.
Blockbuster is currently promoting their service by only charging $9.99 for the first month, which gives you plenty of time to fall in love.
Which movie rental service is the best in your opinion, and why?