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.

Click here for more information about Netflix.


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!

Click here for more information about Blockbuster.

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?

Price and selection are important, as is turn-around time. Both seem to be on par with each other in these areas. Yeah, you can hit the Blockbuster store on the way home, but personally, I hate that place and the small parking lot with the tiny spaces that it shares with Dominoes, Starbucks and Jack-in-the-Box.

But I digress. The most important part of the service is, well, the service itself. What are the customer-centric features that each site offers. Netflix has a wicked recommendations engine, and a social networking element that enabled recommendations between friends. This is where selection pays off. With these two other features, it helps me to know which of the thousands of titles available to me that I might like--based both on my rental history, and the opinions of my friends.

I have used both, and found Netflix more useful to me as a movie fan looking for new stuff.

Great thoughts Ryan - I think a lot of people who are heavily involved with social networking sites like Facebook will find this kind of interaction with the Netflix service very valuable.

You no longer get the coupons and they now limit you to two exchanges a month in store. I'm a BB user and am looking heavily into Netflix atm. Got a free trial as a Christmas gift and they seem to have better movie availibility than BB's online warehouse.

I'm a Blockbuster member, and the coupons are actually still part of the program. Here's the email I just received this morning from BB:

"We wanted to let you know that your BLOCKBUSTER Total Access e-coupon is in. What's an e-coupon? It's your ticket to one free movie or game rental - and you'll get one every month!

All you have to do is go to the My Account page from and click the Print E-Coupon button under the View Account Activity section. Then, present your coupon at any participating BLOCKBUSTER store to receive a free movie or game."

Netflix is great until the throttling begins and you can no longer get a new release in less than three months (if you're lucky). When that happens you end up at Blockbuster wondering why you pay for Netflix.

Throttling? That sounds horrible, and would definitely piss me off!

Anyone else experience throttling from Netflix too?

I did not get Ratatouille for 2 months (no kidding) even though it was number 1 in my queue. I can't seem to get any new movies in less than two weeks, and if they are in demand then it takes 3-4 weeks. Needless to say that I'm about the switch to BB or Intelliflix.

Well, have had NetFlix for about a year. I am now at the point where I will try BB. I have gotten my last damaged DVD from them. Seems like it is getting worse, with more and more bad DVDs starting to be delivered.

Same problem with BB anyone?

Haven't had that problem with BB at all, but if a bad one ever does come through then I can just run over to the local store and trade it for a good one.

I too used both services. I loved blockbuster for the same reasons as you. Until they cut back on what they offered. I lost the free video game service and could only get five free trade-ins at the store each month. I have since moved and do not live near a blockbuster so I canceled. I also had more delays with delivery from blockbuster than with netflix. I lived in Colorado Springs so both had a distribution center in Denver. What is your opinion now with the new restrictions blockbuster has placed on their plans? Were you disappointed with the changes to policy?


Hi Dave,

To be honest, I haven't noticed the restrictions (probably because I don't watch enough movies to have reached the limit on trade-ins). But in my opinion, even being able to drive over to a local store and trade in a few movies makes it worth it for me.

That being said, if I was not near a BB store, that would no longer be an advantage, and I'd probably consider giving Netflix another try :-)


so i am looking for a more current comparison of the two programs..... both of them have gone thru some big changes since your review and i'm wondering how people compare them now....... i use blockbuster total access but i am haveing a lot of problems with the service...... just this week, i turned in 3 movies on sat., and i had to wait till wed for the first one to ship out, an thurs. for the other two to ship...... i have called and asked about this before and they say there system dosen't operate on the weekend or holidays, and that monday is usually overwelmed from all the returns on the weekend that you usually don't get a movie shipped out until tues at the earliest...... secondly, the e-coupons have deffinitly stoppped and you have to pay 34.99 for unlimited in-store exchanges or else you are limited to only 5 per month which still costs 19.99...... they have also started a downloadable streaming feature but this is on a pay per download and not part of any plan......

from what i can tell with netflix (i haven't actually tried it yet) you get 3 movies at a time for 16.99 and now all plans include unlimited streaming of downloadable movies(in the past there was a limit)..... they have a bigger selection of movies for rent, and around 12,000 avaliable for download...... they have also signed a deal with microsoft to allow you to have access to there entire downloadable library via your xbox360 and an xbox live account starting in late fall......

now my question is, i've heard in the past that if you start trying to rent too many movies from netflix in a month, the turnaround times start to slow down, but does this have any lagitamisy??? can they really be as bad as the problems i've been having with blockbusters turnaround times??? i always turn my movies into the store and it still seems to always take at least till the next business day for them to hit BB online system (which is not what they advertis) and like i've already mentioned, if that happens to be on a friday thru sunday then i've never seen one shipped out earlier then tuesday....... i mean this week alone i won't even get my movies until thursday or friday so i've only gotten 3 for the week......... at least with netflix it seems i would be able to be watching unlimited downloaded movie for free until i finally get a movie even if they are slow on the turnaround....... anyone have any input on this......

Anyone having problems with the number of in store exchanges with Blockbuster?

On the first week of the month, I had 3 DVDs out. I exchanged 3 DVDs for 1. I received the new batch of DVDs on the mail. Second week, I exchanged 4 DVDs (including store DVD) for 3. I Received new 3 DVDs. Third week, I exchanged 6 DVDs (including store DVD) for 3. I exceeded the in store exchange limit by 2. I pay $1.99 for 2 DVDs; the other DVD was covered. Went online and looked at my exchange status:

Total In-Store Exchanges/Month: 5

Current Exchange Balance
Remaining: 0
Used: 7

Sometimes, the first week of the month I already reached my limit. I asked the blockbuster employees, and they always give me the same answer, "it has change to the payment date instead of the month". Even though, there are times that I only exchange twice a month. How is that possible?

When I first signed up with blockbuster, I was so impressed. I got, unlimited mail in, unlimited store exchange, e-coupon every month all for under $20 including tax.

NOW WHAT DO I GET ON THE SAME PLAN- no e-coupon, limited store exchange & the price raised. Is blockbuster’s new policy, get less & pay more? NICE.

I left & came back because my husband likes the fact that when we do the in store exchange, another one is on the way for us to watch. BUT GUESS WHAT BLOCKBUSTER DID. Take that away as well. Now when we finish watching the in store exchange, we can’t expect another movie. WOW, what’s next, taking the DVDs way too.

I will be convincing my husband to go back to Netflix, they upgrade, not downgrade their customers, unlike blockbuster.

I bought a Samsung blu ray player with WiFi built in so I can watch netflix on demand movies. Does BB offer similar services?

All of the blockbusters around here got shutdown so it is worthless to me netflix,hulu, or something else I pay $10 amonth and watch whatever on my ps3 while I'm waiting 4 one in the mail game over man!!!!


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