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Netflix vs Blockbuster

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The continuing television writers' strike has greatly reduced the value of our cable television subscription. Yet there's still just enough need for us to continue the subscription. The last month we've turned to renting movies via a DVD Play kiosk at our local Safeway. We love this option since it's only a $1.50 for a day. However, the selection has become limited. This has turned us towards the local Blockbuster.

Renting videos at Blockbuster really adds up. At $5 a movie, we could spend nearly $150 a month. In reality we wouldn't get a movie every night, but 20 days out month, or $100, is not a stretch. The answer for us is to join a program that sends DVDs by mail or allow an unlimited plan. There are two companies that provide these services... it's Netflix vs Blockbuster.

How does one choose between the two? It really comes down to a personal decision. For us to watch a movies 3 out of four nights, we need to look at a plan that allows us to have multiple DVDs at one time. Netflix has a plan that will allow to have 3 movies by mail at one time for $17.00. Blockbuster will do the same for $16.00. That's close enough for me to look at some of the intangibles. Blockbuster will add 5 in-store returns per month for another $4.00. This is valuable to us because a Blockbuster is just a few blocks away. On the other hand Netflix includes 17 hours of streaming movies over the Internet each month for the $17.00 price. Since, my wife travels for her job 1-2 weeks a month, it would be very helpful if she could log-in with her laptop on the road and watch a movie from her hotel room.

After discussing it, we have decided that the 17 hours of Internet viewing, plus the savings of $3/mo. makes Netflix the winner. Instead of being able to drive to Blockbuster and get instant gratification from a store, we can get instant gratification from hooking up a laptop to our television and watching a movie that way. The 17 hours should allow us to watch 7 or 8 movies.

I'm a little nervous about trying this new service. It could very well lead to an addiction to always having movies on hand. I can only hope that I don't get caught up in lifestyle inflation.

[Update: In the last hour, I noticed Redbox has become available at a nearby supermarket. It's selection is very similar to DVD Play, but the cost is only a dollar. We will look into this to see if there's a few movies that interest us before we officially sign up with these.]

Last updated on August 1, 2011.

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41 Responses to “Netflix vs Blockbuster”

  1. Samantha says:

    I occasionally use Movielink.com to rent movies for online viewing and got a notice a few months ago that they had been bought by Blockbuster, so online streaming with a Blockbuster service may not be too far away.

    Just tossing that bit of info into the mix! I haven’t taken the plunge with either Netflix or Blockbuster, since we don’t rent movies often enough.

  2. Pamela says:

    We are avid movie watchers and have been with Netflix now for 4 years and have nothing bad to say about them. The biggest issue we have had is receiving broken discs (maybe 5 times in 4 years) but it is really simple to report it and they will send you a replacement before they have received the broken disc back.

    I don’t know much about the Blockbuster program but we had so many problems with bad service when we rented from them in store that I probably won’t ever give them a chance.

  3. SavingDiva says:

    I’ve used a few free codes for Redbox…and for $1/night, it’s a great deal. I’m not really sure what type of availability you’re looking for. I used to subscribe to Blockbuster online with the free instore rentals, but now I don’t watch enough movies to make it work. The Netflix online option is great, except my home computer doesn’t have a great video card (can’t watch tv/dvds on it)…

  4. OL says:

    I’ve been a Netflix subscriber since July of 2000. As others have said, it’s tough to beat the service. DVDs arrive quickly (especially if you’re near one of the distribution facilities) and the queue management for Blu-ray and HD DVD is really convenient. Also, it’s nice to be able to add a movie to your queue while it’s still out in the theater. Then when it comes out on DVD, they just ship it to you.

    Play now internet viewing is super convenient. It does sometimes make movie viewing a little too convenient though :) Also, I have had some crashes on my Vista home theater PC while using it.


  5. Lazy Man says:

    Redbox just made it’s way in my area. One the east coast my friends use it all the time. The downside of only having the newest releases is a big one if the writer’s strike continues.

  6. I’ve used all of these services and at one time was receiving two movies at a time with netflix. However, I’ve scaled my movie watching down quite a bit (been busy) so I cut it down to one a week. I’m tempted to go with the Redbox option for a buck, but the selection is atrocious.

    Netlix is great and they address any and all problems super quick. I still haven’t been able to try the Netflix streaming service, but their tech people have been trying really hard. It may be a hardware issue on my end.

    You’ll be happy with Netflix Lazy Man, I guarantee it.

    BTW, I ran some ads touting Netflix’s Watch Instantly feature, check them out here:

  7. Two Nickels says:

    Netflix. No doubt. The “benefit” of going to a local Blockbuster to rent a movie is usually offset by the fact that their good/new movies are almost always all rented out, relegating you to rent something you don’t really want to. Plus, getting off the couch to go rent a movie is just too much. 3+ years of Netflix and I don’t foresee cancelling until a perfect digital distribution system is in place.

  8. Lazy Man says:

    Two Nickels, I’m sort of done with the new releases – DVD Play has got that covered for me. What I want to see are the moves that are 5-15 years old that I missed.

  9. Pgh Mike says:

    I’ve been with Netflix for a little over 2 years on the 4 at-a-time plan.

    I’ve had about 4-5 broken/bad discs in that time and usually get a fast turn-a-round on rentals although for being a high volume user I do get hit with their wait for new titles scheme more than lower volume or new users. This strategy basically caters to new and low plan/low user members over people who turn over a ton of discs in a month. Heavy users don’t get dibs on new releases.

    There are numerous articles out there that discuss at what point does Netflix actually loose money on high volumes users that make a good read.

    Also as far as the instant viewing selection is concerned it is extremely limited with almost no semi-recent films and even beyond that selection is limited (probably due to liscensing rights).

    My only real pet peeves with Netflix are:
    I have had Playmakers on long wait for 3 months!
    They redid their new releases screen to be similar to redbox’s slideshow type that makes you scroll left-right by category and takes longer than the old way.

    I really miss seeing the previous easier to read releasing this week and next week pages. You would also see 5x more of the current movies on those pages than the 5-6 per category you can now.

  10. nathan says:

    Netflix all the way!!! Even one-at-a-time is great for us and we don’t even have cable. Just hookup the computer to the entertainment center and play 9 hours of online movies a month.

  11. Cheapster Bob says:

    Netflix wins as they have a distribution center about seven miles away. I get new movies about two days after I mail them on average. The only bad thing is I only have time to watch them on the weekends so average 4 a month for 9.99.

    Still not a bad deal.

  12. Marjorie says:

    Greetings! I have Netflix and love it as they not only have the best and largest selection of independent and foreign films, they also have the most efficient and useful rating category. My brother likes Blockbuster’s plan, as he has a branch down the street from his house, but while it’s cheaper than Netflix, their selection isn’t nearly as much.


  13. Bubba says:

    Neither; membership to usenet server, membership to news indexing site (nbz), hellanzb software (free), and a DVD player that accepts USB drives & has DivX support ($60 Philips DVP5982).

    Costs ~ $15/mo, ~800MB DivX movie takes about 15 minutes to download over a cable modem (quicker than running to a redbox or ordering from netflix). Copy to USB, watch now or later. Nothing to return.

    Might not be as legal as you’d like, but it’s much safer and faster than Bittorrent, and costs alot less than other methods. Feel free to contact me if you need more information :)

  14. Lazy Man says:

    “Might not be as legal as you’d like” – I’d like say that I see a gray area where this may seem 5% legal, but it strikes me as 100% illegal.

    Plus if it’s going to cost me $15/month anyway, I’d rather support the movie industry.

  15. Cross the River says:

    A book?

  16. Lazy Man says:

    It’s hard for my wife and to sit back and discuss the book she just read – because then I didn’t read it. At our pace of reading we could discuss about one book a month – that’s not a lot of interaction, laughing together, etc.

  17. I went with Blockbuster for one reason only Blu-Ray. I received the Blu-Ray player as a gift and enjoy it greatly, but I am still thinking about canceling the Blockbuster service because we don’t use it enough. I hate to admit it, but there are two moves sitting on my entertainment center that have been there at least two weeks. *sigh* Going to blockbuster’s website to figure out how to cancel right now. Thanks for the reminder…

  18. Kevin says:

    I like RedBox. If you sign up for their text-message service they send a free movie code almost every monday. There are also sites that track free movie codes which you’re allowed to use once per credit card. If for no other reason, you should use RedBox for the free movies.

  19. MonkeyMonk says:

    Another resounding endorsement for Netflix. I’ve been a member for 5 years now in their 3-out plan and have had nothing but good results. A few broken or lost discs here and there but Netflix was always fast to replace the discs — often sent out the same day I report a problem.

    I tried the Blockbuster online when it was launched since the prices were so cheap. Too cheap in fact because they kept on jacking up the price and reducing services. When they got more expensive than Netflix I cancelled.

    I’ve seen the Redbox kiosks around and although the price is cheap the selection is really poor unless you want the newest of new releases. They also appear to carry the rated versions of movies when an unrated version is also available. Who wants to see the R-rated version of something like Hatchet? Actually, now that I’ve seen Hatchet I’m not sure who would want to see it at all — but at least it was unrated.

  20. Besides, two of the blockbusters close to my apartment have shut down, with more on the way it seems: http://crave.cnet.com/8301-1_105-9809950-1.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Crave

  21. I use Redbox all the time. And I’ve only paid the dollar once or twice. I’ve written about how you can save the dollar every time, but you should check out Inside Redbox to get the promo codes.

  22. JvW says:

    I love Netflix, we’ve used it off and on for years. One of my favorite features is that you can cancel your subscription for a time and they save your queue. We’ve done this before in the summer when we spend more time outside and then picked up the movie watching again in the fall.

    If I used Redbox I would forget to return the movies, guaranteed, and pay late fees out the wazoo.

  23. I’ve never used netflix.
    i’ll have to check it out once I get back to the US.I bought several pirated dvds
    from thailand. at $2 each, they were a lot cheaper than blockbuster!!!!
    damn, I should’ve bought more.

  24. Chris says:

    I’ve been with Netflix for about 2 years. At one point it was taking quite a while to get the movies so I did a trial with Blockbuster. I wasn’t happy with their selection so I didn’t continue with them. Recently Netflix has really improved their mailing time, and we almost always have a 2 day turnaround which is excellent. They are hands down the best.

  25. We had netflix for a while because of their huge selection. Compared to Blockbuster, netflix seems to cater more to the eclectic crowd. We cancelled the subscription again after a few months because there is apparently not enough movies/shows made on the planet to watch three of them a week for a few months without running out of choices ;P

  26. Stefanie says:

    There’s another option out there that is totally free, has a ton of movies (new and old) to offer, and is usually just as convenient as a blockbuster, it’s called the library. Seems to me that the price of $0 beats a price of $15 every time.

  27. Think Ryuko says:

    When they started, Blockbuster Online was atrocious (I tried them, too). The selection was crap, and they started the price way too low (several price adjustments in the first year). Now, however, their service has improved significantly. I used Netflix for over 3 years, and have only positives. But we switched to Blockbuster Online when we moved last year, since there’s a Blockbuster just down the road. For just a little bit less (It’s now actually $19.99 for 3-at-a-time, the same price I was paying for Netflix in ’06), we’re getting all that extra stuff. The free-in-store-rental (movie or game!) coupon every month is great b/c regular game rentals are about $7+. Also, the online game-renting services are too pricey for me, since I don’t play that often.
    Sad to say, like others, the biggest problem I’ve had is that Blockbuster Online’s in-store exchange means that I have seen almost every movie they have that interests me. My queue went from having about 16-20 movies at a time, to having maybe 2-3 with a dozen or so of the “in-theatres” or not-yet-hit-theatres movies in the “saved” section. I’ve actually started turning to more foreign films.
    Overall, I think Netflix has a bigger selection (especially of foreign/special interest/anime), but it’s not a huge difference. Fact is, though, these two services are the only ones online that actually have a *decent* selection. Most only have new releases and a few classics.
    Sad to say, I’ve actually got 3 movies sitting on my entertainment stand right now. I might actually scale down to a 2-at-a-time plan…

  28. Elizabeth says:

    NETFLIX!! Even our large metro-wide library system cannot compete with Netflix’s selection. We use a combo of library and Netflix 3-at-a-time but if I had to give up one, it would NOT be Netflix. There a distribution center somewhere in my metro area because if I ship on Monday, I have a new disc in my mailbox on Wednesday. So far (one year subscribers) we’ve received one broken disc, one bad (unplayable) disc, and one wrong disc.

    I consider Blockbuster to be the Walmart of movie rentals. I abhor their corporate practices and am grateful that their service isn’t a better offer than Netflix because I hate moral dilemmas. ;-)

  29. Jen says:

    I’m happy to see that you chose Netflix. I’ve had a subscription for about 2 1/2 years and have never had any complaints with their service. On the other hand, even though Blockbuster’s mail service might be great, I absolutely HATE their store, so I’m not inclined to join their mail program and give them any of my money.

  30. Adfecto says:

    I’ve been a satisfied customer of Netflix for several years. I tried Blockbuster but unfortunately my home is a 15-20 minute drive from the nearest store. The second strike against Blockbuster was that it took 2 days for DVDs mailed from my house to reach their warehouse and 2 days for a new shipment to arrive at our house, whereas it was only 1 day in each direction from Netflix. This is I’m sure due to a quark in their respective distribution networks, but it sealed the deal for me. I can’t really use the streaming feature from Netflix right now because my “high speed internet” isn’t exactly very high speed (only 768k downstream by 512k upstream) because again I live ever so slightly off the beaten path. In the next year I have been promised that my neighborhood will be completely built out for 10 Mbps cable internet so that will fix the problem. Anyway, good post and man $5/rental is nuts!

  31. Will says:

    BlockBuster is the WalMart of video stores… they may have a whole lot of stuff but they always leave you feeling dirty. With their annoying, ever-changing pricing schedules, and even more annoying employees, they need to be downsized. NetFlix has a much better business model, and combined with RedBox for new, instant rentals, it’s the way to go. Plus you can get free, legal rentals from RedBox every Monday. Check it out at Reforming Stupidity.


  32. Wicho says:

    I had blockbuster for 5 years and it was great I used to pay 17.99 for 3 movies at a time and unlimited a month and unlimted in-store exchanges, but recently blockbuster raised my price to 19.99 and only limits me to 5 in-store a month. It felt like taking a toy back from a kid so I lost interest and now I only spend about 2-9 dollars a month using red box at my local Walgreens but i am looking into getting Netflix because of their unlimited online streaming they just announced.

  33. Hpythought says:

    NetFlix user for many years and never been happier. I just got an email from them that now, under my $17/month 3 movies at a time plan I have unlimited downloading of movies to the computer instead of 17 hours/month.

  34. Flaime says:

    So, did you notice that last week, Netflix announced unlimited streaming for users of the 2 largest plans?

    BTW, I have used Netflix for 4 years now and never had a problem with it. It always had the best selection and reasonable service for my needs. I should probably cancel it as I haven’t used it as much over the last 4 or 5 months, but I like being able to keep the movies until I’m ready to watch them.

  35. dean says:

    I’ve had netflix for some years now and have no complaints. Usually, if I drop a dvd in the mail today, they report that they’ve received it the next day and sent out my next selection, which usually arrives the following day. In other words, the turn around time has typically been 2 days.

    I recently signed up for blockbuster online, thinking that the flexability of instore returns, exchange for dvds in the store, etc, would be conveniant. I’m really glad I didn’t cancel my netflix subscription. For some reason it takes 2 to 3 days for blockbuster to receive my dvds by mail (as opposed to one day for netflix), and another two days to send out my next selection. Even when I drop the dvd off at the store, while the system records that I’ve returned the movie, they still don’t send the next one out for a day or two.

    Whatever cost savings there might be for blockbuster, it isn’t worth it. I’ll be sticking with netflix.

  36. gatorhntr says:

    37Dean, So well put. I am cancelling my membership to blockbuster before next billing cycle, This is why for me. Actual #’s in day’s (( 151 )) days block buster total movie’s (( 87 )) now Netflix (( 72 )) day’s (( 56 )) movie’s.. If I add right, Had I had Netflix from day 1, @ 151 day’s my total movies would be around 115 and not 87… Blockbuster hold’s both Incoming and Outgoing movies to slow down your rental’s. NetFlix all the way

  37. Paul says:

    I’ve had both. netflix wins by a LONG shot. I’ve had netflix for 3 years without ANY problems. They have EVERYTHING I want in stock. Blockbuster used to make me wait a long time for stuff to come out of stock. And I’m a “lazy man” too! Hence why I see little point of returning the movies to BBV stores. The whole point is never having to leave your home to watch movies. I haven’t been to a BBV store in over 3 years and I’m happy for it.

    Oh well, in a few years digital downloads will be the huge thing anywyas lol.

  38. Jared Conley says:

    It Really Comes Down to Just One Thing:

    And that’s whether or not you like the convenience of in store returns. BB has made it very easy for in store renters to try out the occasional online rental. Netflix edges them out in most online rental areas (except the throttling of new releases), but can’t compete with the physical locations of BB. I’ve used both and am a current Netflix user, but finding myself at Redbox a couple times per month when I really want to see a movie.

    Found another good overview here:


  39. Penny says:

    NETFLIX! I don’t know if anyone remembers several years ago when Blockbuster had the class action suit for charging late fees that weren’t legit but they got me for around 30$. I never got to benefit from the settlement. So not long after that we had Netflix and loved it! Then we went years with no movies by mail. Four months ago we decided to rent movies by mail again and went with BB ( I have no idea why but I figured they learned from their wrong doing). I cancelled last month because we just don’t have time to watch movies. We had a month from the cancellation date to return our last movie. Which we returned within 2 weeks. As soon as the month was up they charge me for not returning this movie. ARRR! Are you kidding me? I emailed them to tell them I returned the movie and they needed to refund these fraudulent charges, was told they would contact me in one business day. Have not heard from them. Go with Netflix which from my experience is an honest company.

  40. Beverly says:

    I have Netflix and Blockbusters. I prefer Netflix. I have been with Netflix since they started and I love it. They are quick and very responsive. Blockbusters is very slow and not responsive. In my household there are 7 adults. The kids watch on there xbox’s and I rent. I actually on the 8 at a time plan and the price is not bad at all. I can rent seasons and watch as I want. Blockbuster does not give you that opition they send you what they want not the order you want sent in. I only watch movies not television unless on DVD. Dont like commercials. So I pick Netflix over Blockbuster any day. I even us Redbox once in a while I only use them to buy a used movie.

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