Canadian Online DVD Rental Comparison

While in the process of upgrading my home entertainment center, I’ve purchased a new high definition LCD TV along with a planned Blu-ray player. Next, I’ll need access to some high definition movies! As the type of person who enjoys watching a movie once, renting rather than buying movies is my preferred choice. The downside is that going to the video store to pick out a movie can be a hassle if the store is busy. Not only that, some video stores charge late fees which I’m not a fan of.

Seeing the limitations of brick and mortar video stores, I started doing some research on the online video rental stores. How do these stores work? They are basically the same idea as a regular video store, except that you place your order online and they mail you the DVD’s that you request. Once you receive and watch the DVD’s, you can return them in the provided postage paid envelopes whenever you please, so no late fees. Of course, you want to return them as soon as possible as they don’t ship the next requested item until the original batch is returned. Also, in order to get the best “bang for your buck”, the physical store location should be fairly close to your home to reduce shipping times as most of these online video stores charge a flat monthly fee.

Here are the Advantages:

  • No late fees
  • Never have to leave the house (except when going to the mailbox)
  • Potentially lower cost / movie rental

Disadvantages:

  • Depends on the mail system to get your movies, could be delayed or even lost.
  • I’ve read complaints that it can be difficult to get the movies that you want, like the latest release. Whereas big box video stores have guarantees on the latest block busters.

To me, it looks like the online video rental pros outweigh the cons. Below is what I came up within the Canadian market place as a good place to start. For the sake of simplicity, I only included the price plans for unlimited rentals / month.

Store Cost/mo # DVD’s at a time Location Selection Blu- ray? Free Trial?
Zip.ca $10.95/ $24.95 1/3 Ottawa 72k Yes Yes
CINEMail.ca $23.98 /$27.98/ $39.98 3/4/ 6 Winnipeg 25k No Yes
Canflix $21.95 / $24.95/ $29.95/ $36.95 3/4/ 5/ 6 Calgary 11k Yes Yes
Premieres $9.98/ $16.98/ $19.98/ $24.98/ $35.98 1/ 2/ 3/ 4/ 5/ 6 Kitchener 4k+ No Yes
DVDFlix.ca $19.99/ $29.99 3/5 Vancouver 8k+ No Yes
DVDHype $25.00 3 Montreal 10k+ No Yes
Cyberflix $9.99/ $15.99/ $18.99 1/2/3 Kitchener 4k+ No Yes

As an East Coaster along with my requirement for Blu-ray movies, it seems that Zip.ca is my best choice. I’m going to give the 2 week free trial a whirl and see how it works out!

If you have some experience with these stores, I would love to hear your opinion on them.

For our American readers, here is a review of Blockbuster vs. Netflix
.

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Jonathan Bennett
10 years ago

Don’t go near DVDLink! I had a contract with them, then cancelled it because their holdings are so small. The last disk they sent me didn’t arrive; but because I haven’t returned it to them(!) they continue to draw nearly $30 a month from my charge-card account. I tried phoning them: only ansering machines, and never a return of the call. And writing to them via their “Contact us” link. No reply. They just go on taking my money.

amit
12 years ago

I have had a lot of issues lately with DVDFlix.CA and I would advise against these for everyone. Please stay out! Since September when I switched from 3 DVD a month option to 7 DVD a month option there have been a lot of issues with DVDFlix.CA. I have been a DVDFlix.CA customer since beginning of 2005. And, the problems that I have been seeing lately are just becoming unbearable.

In January there were some movies that they said that they sent to me but I never receieved them. At first I used their website to let them know that the movies haven`t arrived for over 5 days since being listed as “sent”. They don`t have any phone number listed on their website. So, after that, I tried to send them e-mails. Someone replied back to me after a lot of e-mails apologizing for the problems and asked me to move my billing date by 15 days. So far so good. I was happy that I will get extra 15 days to recover from the lost 15 days when I hadn’t received their movies. But since then I noticed that 3 more movies had the same issue. They are listed as being sent on Feb 9th and Feb 10th. I never received these either. I reported the issue to them on Feb 14th, Feb 16th, Feb 23rd and again on March 1st. Noone responded to my e-mails. With no phone number to contact them at the only way to contact them is via the e-mail. Their website doesn’t let you report issues with the same DVD after you have reported the issue once. So, since Feb 9th they haven’t sent me the DVDs that they claim to have sent and they don’t respond to my e-mails.

Today morning I received an e-mail that my account has been de-activated and I have to return all the DVDs that they believe I have (including the 3 that they never sent to me). I suspect foul play here. I have read on other forums and realize that according to their terms and policies they can charge me for missed DVDs. I am suspecting that they are doing this on purpose so that they can charge me for the lost DVDs or worse – keep charging me a monthly charge without sending me any DVD at all (something that’s quite common for StarFlix – another online Canadian DVD provider).

I have written several mails to DVDFlix asking them the reason why my account was suspended, and why are they expecting me to send the 3 DVDs back that I have been reporting as missing since Feb 14th. No response till now. It’s like talking to a wall. So, the 15 extra days that they gave me for messing up earlier is all gone now that my account is suspended. This is what I get for being a loyal customer for over 4 years. I report a problem and they try to defraud me.

Is there anything I can do about this? Should I launch a criminal investigation/go through a small claims court if they charge my credit card for the DVDs that they never sent to me? Has anyone else been through this kind of experience?

Traciatim
12 years ago

Dave, just go get a Titanium Pre-Paid Mastercard, or Much Music Pre-Paid Visa . . . or even a Capital One Secured card if you need one. CanFlix you can use gift certificates, so if you gave someone you know with a Credit card the money they could buy you a gift certificate, that works too.

Dave
12 years ago

Is there any companies that DON’T require you to have a credit card? IE Paypal, Debit, Email money transfer?

Gates VP
12 years ago

@Brendan: Think of all the ways you could invest that 2k! Standard DVD quality is certainly good enough for me.

The argument for “you could have invested that money” died a long time ago. It’s rude, judgment imposing and kind of moot, so we don’t do that here.

To support the argument, Blu-Ray already makes up 8% of the home video market. Analyst expectations have 25% of households with Blu-Ray players by 2011.

I don’t even own a Blu-Ray player or a high-def TV, but I would question membership that didn’t offer such service. I mean, would you sign up for a cable provider that had zero HD channels and didn’t plan to offer any? What if you were a sports fanatic? (HD sports are very different from regular TV) If you have 5 movies on the go with DVDFlix, you’re definitely a movie fanatic.

Even without owning the HD TV, it’s nice to know that the provider has thought ahead and is offering the type of stuff you’d want in the future.

Brendan
12 years ago

Gates VP: Re: lack of high-def “unacceptable”: that is absurd. Think of all the ways you could invest that 2k! Standard DVD quality is certainly good enough for me.

Telly: I agree. I was a Netflix subscriber in the US from 2004 – 2006, and their service and selection is much better than Zip (which I have been using since Summer 2006). The major problem with Zip is that they are not very good about honoring your priorities, esp for recently released movies, though even for titles that you would not think would be in high demand. I almost never get shipped the disk that is at the top of my queue. That being said, the services had been “good enough” and is certainly better than brick-and-mortar options if you watch enough movies to justify the cost. One point in Zip’s favor though is that they have never shipped me a damaged or incorrect disc, which happened once or twice with Netflix.

I am actually considering a new scheme though: buy movies from Amazon.ca, and then sell them after watching using the Amazon marketplace. I suspect the overall monthly cost would be competitive, and there would be no waiting in queues for titles.

Jeremy
12 years ago

In addition to Frugal Trader’s list for DVD Rentals there is another name that he is missing called DVDLink.ca (www.dvdlink.ca). I have been using their service from couple of months and very happy with it.

Haven’t had any issue with them so far, far most important navigation on their site is much easier in comparison 2 other companies I’ve subscribed earlier.

Len
12 years ago

I use the following flow chart:

For std format movies :

1. Check library (order online, are free, often 7 days before late fees apply)

For HD (and SD):

2. Apple TV (note hi Def movies can only be ordered via the Apple TV, not itunes on your PC). They are 5.99 in Canada. Downside is still limited selection. And as noted – it can take a frustratingly long time to download HD to the ATV (6-10 hours on my DSL!). So plan ahead. Quality is amazing. Also a very good selection of HD video podcasts are coming online.

3. Rental store – the last resort….

Kathryn
12 years ago

We signed up for the really frugal plan at zip.ca of 2 DVDs a month for $5.95. We have a family movie night every other weekend and have been spending $6.00 a movie at Rogers. Then we had to take it back the next day.

Now we’ve halved our costs and all we have to do is drop it in the mail! Yee Haa! I’m happy so far!

brad
12 years ago

I watch a DVD once every three or four months so these plans don’t make sense for me, but I do rent movies occasionally through iTunes. The selection is pretty limited, especially for someone like me who can’t stand most Hollywood films and prefers alternative films, but there’s some good stuff on there.

The main drawbacks to downloading films are 1) time (it takes a couple of hours even with DSL or cable) and 2) many ISPs have bandwidth limits and if you’re not aware of them you can get saddled with extra fees. I have an unlimited bandwidth plan, but the big internet providers are trying to switch people over to bandwidth-limited plans by enticing them with cheaper monthly rates.