Things have come a long way since renting a movie meant scouring the shelves of Blockbuster looking for something – anything – that hadn’t already been snapped up by somebody else.
These days there are dozens of websites queuing up to beam the latest movies into your living room. But which one suits you best? Here’s what you need to consider before signing up.
Online vs. postal film rental
If you don’t want to worry about your broadband usage or you’re just not that technically savvy, a postal service like LoveFilm is ideal.
For a monthly fee you can hire unlimited films, as long as you only have two out at a time. The downside is that you have to traipse to the post-box to send your DVD back once you’ve watched it.
If you’ve got a decent internet connection and want the luxury of watching a movie whenever the mood takes you, an online ‘streaming’ service is the one to go for.
Once you’ve signed up, you can start watching within minutes. You can watch on your laptop, PC, tablet, smartphone, or if you’ve got a Smart TV (a set that connects to the internet), you can watch it on your telly.
What kind of films do you want to watch?
All of the providers have their little nuances. Go for Netflix if you’re a fan of the big US TV dramas. It even commissions its own: hit shows Orange is the New Black and House of Cards are both exclusives. Amazon Prime and Now TV are the best places to head for box office blockbusters, while indie sites like Curzon and Mubi are good if you prefer your cinema a little more leftfield.
Find out more about Catch-up TV...
How much do they all cost?
Netflix and Now TV are the priciest, currently £6.99 a month. Amazon Prime is a pound less. All the other sites are cheaper, but bear in mind the selection of films may be smaller or less up-to-date.
If you’re unsure you’re going to watch enough films to get your money’s worth, Tesco’s BlinkBox is a good alternative, since it allows you to rent on a one-off basis for as little as 99p.
Can’t I just get my movies from Sky or Virgin?
Yes. If you already get your TV channels from Sky, Virgin or Talk Talk, you can rent a film via your set top box without the hassle of signing up to someone else. But with high one-off rental charges, it’s an expensive way of doing things.
Confused by the different types of TV service? Know the differences between cable and satellite? Read more...
Make the most of the free trials
Most movie rental services try to hook you in with a free trial, usually lasting a month. If you’re new to online rental, you can quite feasibly spend six months making your way around the various providers without so much as spending a penny. It’ll give you a brilliant idea of your preferences – not to mention giving you a ton of free entertainment! Just don't forget to cancel your Direct Debit before the trial period ends.