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Why Redbox Isn’t As Cheap As You Think

How much is Redbox these days? Redbox has become a very popular option for renting movies because of their low prices.

Currently, Redbox prices are $1.75 a night for DVDs and $2.00 a night for Blu-rays (before tax).

In fact, Redbox is pretty much the only way we rent movies now.

We only rent movies when we are going to watch them later in the day and we always return them the very next day so we are only charged for one day.

Even though we only keep the movie for one day there are additional expenses we really should consider when renting a movie from Redbox.

You Pay More Than Just the Rental Fee to Use Redbox

Most people consider the cost of a transaction as just the money that gets charged to their credit card or the money that comes out of their bank account. That is not the case though.

You really need to consider all of the costs to complete the transaction from getting to the Redbox machine to getting the movie back.

Getting To and From Redbox

The biggest cost for us, other than the movie rental, is getting to and from Redbox. The closest Redbox is two miles from our house.

They don’t always have the movie we want so sometimes we have to go four miles to the next nearest Redbox. Of course, we don’t just drive one way, you have to drive there and back so that means we drive 4 to 8 miles to rent each Redbox movie.

We also have to return the Redbox rental which kicks us up to 8 to 16 miles driven for a one night Redbox movie rental.

Now that I know how far I have to drive to rent a Redbox movie I have to assign a cost to each mile. There are two main ways to do this in my opinion.

The first is just fuel costs and the second is a fully loaded mileage rate that includes depreciation, maintenance items, insurance etc.

If I just want to use the fuel cost I need to calculate how much money gas costs per mile. I know my car gets 30 miles to the gallon in the city and right now gas costs about $2.75 a gallon where I live.

I take $2.75 and divide by 30 miles to get a cost of  9.2 cents per mile. So, for the nearest Redbox I pay $0.74 cents in gas for each one-night rental and for the next closest Redbox I pay $1.47 in gas for each one-night rental.

If I want to use a fully loaded mileage rate I defer to the IRS mileage reimbursement rate of 55.5 cents per mile. This is pretty close to accurate for most cars and just in case you were wondering you don’t make money off of mileage reimbursement.

So for the nearest Redbox I pay $4.44 in vehicle costs and for the next nearest Redbox I pay $8.88 in vehicle costs if I use this method… ouch.

Redbox Doesn’t Seem so Cheap Now…

The total cost for a one night Redbox rental including gas or full vehicle charges varies anywhere from two to eight times the one night rental cost for me.

Of course, this assumes that you drive to and from the Redbox machine from your home to both pickup and return the rental and don’t run any other errands when you’re out.

There Is a Way to Avoid Gas Costs

You can avoid the gas costs and vehicle charges by simply picking the movie up when you are out running other errands.

Depending on your situation it might make sense to hold on to the movie an extra night rather than making a special trip just to return it.

These Redbox machines are actually close enough for us that we could ride our bikes there if we wanted to or take a walk. We normally drive though.

Will This Deter Me from Renting Redbox Movies?

Nope, not one bit! We normally only pick up movies when we’re on our way to or from somewhere.

There are quite a few Redbox locations directly on my way to and from work and there are many locations on our way to many of the errands we normally run.

After this analysis though we might hold on to a movie one more night rather than pay for gas to make a trip solely to return the movie.

Do you rent movies from Redbox? Had you ever thought to consider the gas and vehicle costs or do you only pick up movies when you are already out running errands?


Saturday 29th of February 2020

It’s now 2020 and so entertaining to read people’s comments and predictions about Redbox and Netflix-both of which are still a “thing.” Your article showed up close to the top of my search about the cost of Redbox-great job and great advice all these year later! We have Amazon Prime (for the free shipping, not the movies) and Netflix. We also have Roku. I’ll check back in another few years to see what’s changed!

Marcus Peterman

Tuesday 10th of July 2018

redbox on demand $2.99 a flick. no gas, no time no nothing. just the rental. and that's for an entire family. compared to $10 for a movie ticket and another $10 for junk to eat/drink per person? how can you even write this stating it is too expensive and not worth the effort?!

even if you were to go to the effort, $10 (rounding up your $8.88) FOR AN ENTIRE FAMILY of four, is nothing, compared to $40-80 at the theater


Friday 11th of October 2019

New movies from Redbox on demand are about $5, not $3. Catalog titles are cheaper.

Lance Cothern

Thursday 12th of July 2018

When I wrote this article, RedBox on demand wasn't a thing.

Jim Duncan

Wednesday 1st of October 2014

For those looking to save money, don't rule out your local library. Mine has thousands of DVDs to checkout and they always order so many of the new releases as they come out. I use Redbox too, but always search my library online to see if they have it first.

Lance Cothern

Wednesday 1st of October 2014

Libraries are definitely a great resource, especially for things like books and DVDs. Our library also has a pretty good selection, but it is pretty far away from our house so the gas and mileage on our car costs us more to go there vs redbox.


Friday 26th of September 2014

Redbox kiosk days are numbered. They soon will be replaced by streaming. You can rent a new release on Google play for about $3.99. No need to spend money on gas to pick up and return movies. You can get movie instantly. So convenient and worth paying little extra.


Friday 11th of October 2019

2019 and Redbox kiosks are still everywhere. They're not as popular as they used to be, but the ones I encounter are still busy. For what Redbox pays to stock and maintain the boxes and rent the space, I'm sure they're still very profitable.

Lance Cothern

Friday 26th of September 2014

If they could get the streaming cost down a bit it would definitely replace Redbox. Either people need to realize they're spending more than they think going to Redbox or they'll have to drop streaming prices.


Saturday 21st of June 2014

What I am truly sad about is that this is the only way for me to rent a movie. The last video store my town had shut down about a year ago.* I liked the idea of video stores because it gave people jobs and having a larger variety of movies to choose from. :( I tried my best to support video stores when they were open.

*About 3 to 4 years ago, there were 3 to 4 video stores in my town. Red box is partially to blame along with Net Flix. And I've heard that Net Flix has been cutting back quite a bit on their movie selection. At least I don't have to have a subscription just to rent a movie, hopefully that will always be the case.

Lance Cothern

Saturday 21st of June 2014

Video stores are almost all gone for sure. Unfortunately, the RedBox model is more efficient. There will always be a way to rent movies, but I do think eventually it will all be over computers or TV boxes. hopefully the price comes down though.