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The Complete Guide to Renting Movies on YouTube

Have you ever wanted to kick back and watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster, a classic film, or catch up on a hit TV show but didn‘t want to pay for an expensive streaming subscription? Then renting movies on YouTube may be perfect for you.

YouTube has long been the king of free online video content. But buried within the cat videos and vlogs is a surprisingly robust on-demand rental library. With just a few clicks, you can be streaming almost any movie or TV episode.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll walk through everything you need to know about renting films on YouTube. We‘ll cover:

  • A brief visual history of home movie rentals
  • How YouTube rentals work and what they cost
  • Steps to rent on mobile, the website, and smart TVs
  • Finding the best movies and shows in YouTube‘s ocean of content
  • How YouTube rentals compare to Netflix, Amazon, and others
  • Tips for trouble-free streaming and customer support

Let‘s get started! This in-depth guide will teach you how to unlock YouTube‘s hidden treasure trove of movies.

The Evolution of Movie Rentals: From Video Stores to Streaming

Before we dig into YouTube rentals, it helps to understand how we got here. Renting movies for home viewing has changed enormously over the past few decades.

The VHS Era

Inside a video rental store

Up until the late 1990s, video rental stores were the only option for watching films at home. Chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video let you browse thousands of VHS and DVD titles to rent for a few days at a time. Rewinding tapes and paying late fees were just part of the experience.

DVDs Take Over

DVD pile

By the early 2000s, DVD had replaced VHS as the new standard. Movies were higher quality but still required a trip to the store. Netflix pioneered a DVD-by-mail rental model that eliminated late fees. Movies arrived in your mailbox in iconic red envelopes.

Rise of Video Streaming

Person watching video on a laptop

Soon broadband internet speeds were fast enough to support streaming movies instantly over the web. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video and others entered the space. Physical discs became obsolete as on-demand digital rentals took over.

YouTube Joins In

YouTube app icon

Today, YouTube has joined the ranks of top streaming movie rental services. With an existing user base of over 2 billion people, it has become a go-to destination for finding films to rent or buy digitally without leaving your home.

And that brings us to present day! Now let‘s dive into everything YouTube movie rentals have to offer…

How YouTube Movie Rentals Work

YouTube provides both movie rentals and purchases through its platform. What‘s the difference?

  • Rentals – Pay a one-time fee to access the movie for a limited time period. Typically costs between $3-$6 and lasts 30 days after rental.
  • Purchases – Buy the movie for a higher fee and access it indefinitely. Own it permanently in your YouTube library.

For casual viewing, renting is the way to go. But buying can make sense for all-time favorites you return to frequently.

YouTube offers a massive catalog of major Hollywood movies, including new releases that are often available the same day they come out on DVD. There are also thousands of classic films, independent movies and TV episodes.

Other key things to know about YouTube rentals:

  • 48 hour viewing window – After pressing play on a rental, you have 48 hours to finish watching before it expires. Can pause/rewind as needed within that period.
  • Many payment options – YouTube supports credit/debit cards, PayPal, mobile carrier billing and gift cards.
  • Streaming quality – Movies are available up to 1080p HD resolution depending on the title. Requires a fast internet connection.
  • Apps everywhere – YouTube works across smartphones, tablets, computers, smart TVs and more. Start watching on one device and pick up on another.

Next let‘s walk through exactly how to rent movies step-by-step. We‘ll cover the mobile apps, YouTube website, and smart TV experience.

Step 1: Open the YouTube App and Sign In

The YouTube app provides the simplest way to rent movies on mobile devices like your phone or tablet.

  1. Install the YouTube app from the App Store or Google Play Store if you don‘t already have it.
  2. Open the app and sign into your Google/YouTube account. Make sure it‘s the one connected to your payment method intended for rentals.
  3. Tap on your profile icon in the top right if you have multiple YouTube accounts to switch to the correct one.
  4. You‘ll arrive at the YouTube homepage. Now you can start searching for movies!

Step 2: Search for a Movie or TV Show

Finding something specific to rent in the vast YouTube catalog is easy using the app‘s search feature.

  1. Tap on the search magnifying glass icon at the top of the app window.
  2. Type the name of the exact movie, TV show or actor you want to look up. For example "Minions: The Rise of Gru" or "Game of Thrones".
  3. Tap the search button on the keyboard to execute the search.

This will display results related to your search query. The actual movie or TV show will typically appear close to the top.

Step 3: Select Rent or Buy

Now it‘s time to get your hands on that movie!

  1. Tap on the movie result you were searching for from the list.
  2. The movie page will open, showing details like ratings and a preview video. Scroll down until you see the "Rent" and "Buy" buttons.
  3. Tap on "Rent" unless you wish to purchase the movie indefinitely. Renting provides 48 hours to finish watching.

Rentals are usually priced between $3-$6 depending on the title. Make sure you don‘t tap "Buy" accidentally!

Step 4: Confirm Your Rental

You‘re almost done! The last step is confirming the movie rental purchase.

  • Review the title, rental timeframe (30 days to start watching, 48 hours to finish) and price.
  • Choose your preferred payment method if prompted.
  • Finally, tap "Rent" one last time to complete the transaction.

That‘s it – the movie will now show up in your YouTube "Library" ready to play instantly! Just tap on it to start watching on your mobile device.

Renting Movies on YouTube from a Computer

Prefer to watch movies on something bigger than your phone screen? No problem! You can easily rent films on YouTube from any web browser too.

Here‘s how:

  1. Open in any desktop or mobile browser and sign into your account.
  2. Click on the three horizontal line "hamburger" menu icon in the top left corner.
  3. Select Movies & TV from the drop-down Explore menu.
  4. Use the search bar to find something specific or browse categories like New Releases.
  5. When you find a title to rent, click the Rent button on its page and confirm your order.
  6. Start watching right away!

Renting through the website provides more flexibility to search and browse YouTube‘s nearly endless catalog of movies and shows.

Watch Movie Rentals on Your Smart TV

Don‘t have a computer nearby? Modern smart TVs make it just as easy to rent movies on the big screen with YouTube.

Here‘s how to use your TV remote to rent movies:

  1. From the Home screen, open the YouTube app. This is usually found in the "Apps" section of the menu.
  2. Sign into YouTube using your account email and password.
  3. Select Movies & TV from the sidebar menu.
  4. Browse or use the search tool to find something to watch.
  5. Tap the Rent button on a title and confirm to complete the purchase.
  6. Start streaming your rental!

Browsing movies on a smart TV

The process will be slightly different across TV brands, but fundamentally the same. Within a few minutes you can have a high-quality movie playing straight from YouTube.

Digging Through YouTube‘s Massive Movie Catalog

With such an expansive library, the hardest part can be deciding what to rent on YouTube. Here are 7 tips for digging up exactly what you want to watch:

1. Search for movies by title

The most straightforward approach is looking up a specific movie or TV show you want to see. Use the search bar at the top of any YouTube page or app.

2. Check out the browsing sections

Scroll through areas like New Releases, Action Movies, Comedies, Sci-Fi and more based on genres.

3. See personalized recommendations

Based on your viewing history, the Recommended for you section will suggest undiscovered movies and shows to enjoy next.

4. Look for award winners

Find critically acclaimed films recognized by the Oscars, Golden Globes and more under dedicated award sections.

5. Unearth forgotten favorites

Peruse the Classics section to relive all-time great movies from past decades you haven‘t seen in ages.

6. Search by actor or director

Look up a particular actor‘s name to see their full catalog of films available to rent.

7. Check most popular lists

See what‘s trending based on what other YouTube viewers are watching in lists like Popular on YouTube.

Following actors, creators, and topics you like is another great way for YouTube to recommend movies and TV shows perfect for your tastes.

How YouTube Movie Rentals Compare to Other Services

YouTube holds its own against competitors when it comes to on-demand movie and TV rentals. But there are some differences in libraries, pricing, and features.

Selection Size

YouTube has an enormous catalog, but some competitors edge it out in terms of sheer volume:

  • Netflix – Over 14,000 movies & shows. Massive original content library.
  • Amazon Prime – Over 17,000 movies plus original content.
  • YouTube – Over 10,000 movies from major studios, plus some indie and international films.
  • Apple TV – Over 8,500 movies. Focuses on more curated selection.

Availability of New Releases

YouTube gets most major films shortly after their DVD release:

  • Netflix – No new theatrical movie releases. Content is exclusive originals or catalog movies.
  • Amazon – New movies available for rental the same day as DVD/Blu-Ray release.
  • YouTube – Most new movies shortly after DVD release, usually within 1-2 months.
  • Apple – Gets new releases around the same time as YouTube.

So while not always day-and-date, YouTube gets new films faster than something like Netflix.

Pricing Comparison

For single video rentals, pricing is very similar across competitors:

Service New Release Rental Older Movie Rental
YouTube $3.99 – $5.99 $2.99 – $3.99
Amazon Prime $3.99 – $5.99 $2.99 – $3.99
Apple TV $3.99 – $5.99 $2.99 – $3.99
Vudu $3.99 – $6.99 $2.99 – $4.99

Where YouTube differs is not offering a subscription for unlimited access like Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Streaming Video Quality

YouTube‘s video quality is on par with competitors. Resolution depends on your internet speeds:

  • YouTube – Up to 1080p HD quality. Most titles available in 720p.
  • Netflix – Up to 4K quality. 720p-1080p for most streaming.
  • Amazon – Up to 4K/UHD. Typically streams 720p-1080p.
  • Vudu – Up to 4K quality with select titles. Most stream in 720p-1080p HD.

So while not the very highest 4K quality, YouTube delivers excellent HD streaming given sufficient bandwidth.

Ease of Use

YouTube and Google Play offer the most frictionless rental experience:

  • YouTube – Sign in with your Google account. No additional apps or accounts needed.
  • Google Play – Same Google account login. Very similar interface and operation as YouTube.
  • Amazon – Must have full Prime account. Some different steps than YouTube.
  • Apple – Apple account required. Must access rentals primarily through Apple devices and iTunes.

Given YouTube‘s massive existing user base, it‘s arguably the simplest option since most people already have accounts.

Handy Tips for Smooth Streaming on YouTube

While renting movies on YouTube is mostly straightforward, you may occasionally hit bumps like videos buffering, subtitles not working, or errors renting titles.

Here are some handy troubleshooting tips:

  • Check your internet speed – YouTube recommends at least 3 Mbps speed for 720p HD quality video. Use to test. Upgrade if needed.
  • Try adjusting video quality – Tap the settings gear on a playing video to manually set resolution lower until it streams smoothly.
  • Update the app – Ensure you have the most recent version of the YouTube app, which may resolve playback issues.
  • Restart your device – If all else fails, a reboot can clear any glitches. Power down and back up your streaming device.
  • Enable subtitles – Tap the CC icon on a video to turn subtitles on if they aren‘t working automatically. Try different language options.
  • Use an Ethernet cable – For smart TVs and media players, a direct wired internet connection can provide faster, smoother streaming.
  • Contact YouTube support – If you can‘t get a rental to play properly or other major issues, you can request help through the YouTube Help Center.

With good internet speeds and an up-to-date app, you should encounter few hiccups. But these tips can rescue you from any streaming failures.

Wrapping Up – Who Should Rent Movies on YouTube?

From this complete guide, you now know how remarkably robust renting movies on YouTube has become. The days of YouTube just being home to amateur cat videos is long gone!

If you‘re someone who:

  • Occasionally rents newer movies but isn‘t ready to commit to a streaming subscription.
  • Wants to conveniently watch movies across all your devices.
  • Prefers to hand pick individual movie titles instead of choosing from limited monthly selections.

Then YouTube is likely an ideal on-demand rental option for your needs. The ability to instantly access just about any major movie in a few taps makes movie night easy.

We covered a brief visual history of movie rentals, step-by-step guides for all platforms, tips for finding the perfect films in YouTube‘s ocean of content, how YouTube compares to competitors, and troubleshooting for smooth streaming.

Now you have all the tools to unlock YouTube‘s hidden world of movies from your living room, desktop, or mobile device! Time to kick back and enjoy the show.