Which Netflix Plan is the Best Netflix Plan?

Netflix currently runs the online DVD rental business with more than 23 million active subscribers.  With Blockbuster struggling to keep it’s doors open after bankruptcy, Netflix continues to develop new streaming technology that allows the company to produce higher than expected earnings each and every quarter.  However, Netflix has recently decided to increase the cost of their plans, if you use both their DVD by mail and streaming options.  Here’s a look at how their NEW (as of 7.17.2011) pricing structure works for DVD’s by mail.

The economics of Netflix is quite simple.  The more DVD’s you’re able to rent at a time, the more money it’s going to cost you.  Each additional DVD costs between $5 – $8 and the most complicated thing about Netflix is just which plan is best for you. That said, I want to know which plan presents the best value regardless of how often you watch DVD’s.

First, we need a price list of current Netflix plans.

  • 1 DVD out at a time – $7.99
  • 1 DVD out at a time – $9.99 (Blu-ray)
  • 2 DVD’s out at a time – $11.99
  • 2 DVD’s out at a time – $14.99 (Blu-ray)
  • 3 DVD’s out at a time – $15.99
  • 3 DVD’s out at a time – $19.99 (Blu-ray)

So now that we know how much these plans cost, what’s the next step?  Well let’s play out a scenario that maximizes the value of each plan.  For example, let’s say Johnny Drama watches a movie every night he can and decides to return the DVD’s together (very important).  This means that if three Netflix movies arrive on a Tuesday, Johnny watches a movie that night, Wednesday and Thursday and has all DVD’s in the mail Friday morning.  Assuming two business days, including Saturdays, mailing time for each set of DVD’s, (if Johnny lives relatively close to a sorting facility) just how many movies could Mr. Drama watch in a 31-day month with each of the above plans?

One Netflix DVD At A Time (Packaged Return)

The first table shows the results for regular DVDs, while the second table compares Blu-ray plans.

Plan DVD'sCost of PlanNumber of DVD's That Can Be RentedCost Per DVD
Plan DVD'sCost of PlanNumber of DVD's That Can Be RentedCost Per DVD

So in the above scenario, the best value plan for both regular DVDs and Blu-ray is the two disc option. Now, let’s play out the exact same scenario except for the fact that Johnny returns DVD’s right after he watches them. So if again he has the 3 DVD plan, he’ll receive all of his movies on Tuesday, watch one Tuesday nigh, return it Wednesday morning, watch one Wednesday night, return it Thursday morning, etc.; Same plan, but returns DVD’s individually. What does the value of the plan become?

One Netflix DVD At A Time (Separate Return)

As above, the first table is for the DVD plans and the second table compares the Blu-ray plans.

Plan DVD'sCost of PlanAmount of DVD's That Can Be RentedCost Per DVD
Plan DVD'sCost of PlanAmount of DVD's That Can Be RentedCost Per DVD

For Blu-ray, it looks like the 3 DVD plan comes out on top this time and the 2 DVD plan comes in just second. For regular DVDs, however, it’s the 2 DVD plan that that’s the best value.

Kicking things up a notch, let’s say Johnny Drama just can’t get enough of movies and decides he can watch two movies each and every night.  Having four hours of free time on his hands probably means Johnny doesn’t have much of a personal live but to each his own.  Going back to the very first set of rules, let’s assume Johnny watches the movies as soon as possible and returns them when all DVD’s have been watched.  Will the 3 DVD plan come out on top for a third time?

Two Netflix DVD’s At A Time (Packaged Return)

Plan DVD'sCost of PlanNumber of DVD's That Can Be RentedCost Per DVD
Plan DVD'sCost of PlanNumber of DVD's That Can Be RentedCost Per DVD

At $0.67 per DVD and $0.83 for Blu-ray, the 2 DVD plan comes out on top this time with the 3 DVD plan a very close second place. If you look back at previous performance, the 2 DVD plan has been the cheapest or second cheapest option each time. So going into the last scenario, it would appear the 2 DVD and 3 DVD plans are the best bang for your buck. Finally Johnny Drama will watch 2 DVD’s per night and return them as fast as possible (meaning individually).

Two Netflix DVD’s At A Time (Separate Return)

As with the scenarios above, the first table compares DVD plans while the second compares the more expensive Blu-ray plans.

Plan DVD'sCost of PlanNumber of DVD's That Can Be RentedCost Per DVD
Plan DVD'sCost of PlanNumber of DVD's That Can Be RentedCost Per DVD

So what does all of this mathematical madness mean?  Well looking at all of these plans on a consistent movie watching basis, the 2 and 3 DVD plans are the best value, depending on how you return the discs and whether you want Blu-ray.  With that said we can also make some other inferences about what you see above.   First, if you’re not able to watch a DVD at least once a night, then the only plan for you is one DVD at a time.  Any other plan will simply cost you more than the value you will receive so keep that in mind.  Finally, no matter which plan you choose, try to pinpoint your rhythm of DVD renting early on so you can change your Netflix plan to suit your needs.

Topics: Smart Spending

57 Responses to “Which Netflix Plan is the Best Netflix Plan?”

    • Did you hear about the prices going up? Now it will be $16 per month if you want a DVD out and streaming movies. What a rip off! They say it is because of the economy. I don’t even watch that many movies to justify spending that per month–and if I am desperate to see a newer flick I’ll swing by a redbox.

  1. I just changed my membership from the 4 at a time to the 3 at a time. However, now with instant watching on my wii, I might decide to cut it down to 2 at a time as I have not been able to return the DVDs fast enough to make the 3 at a time worthwhile.

    Great breakdown!

  2. Wow, great charts! I think that getting two at a time seems like it would be the best deal, but we stream most of the movies instantly anyway which is easier. And instant! I might not be in the mood to watch a comedy once it comes in the mail…but if I have a sudden craving then I can pick something that will whet my appetite!

  3. I’ll tell you which plan is the best… any one of them which let’s you stream movies for free (and I think they all do). Streaming Netflix is a wonderful invention, especially in combination with TiVo, straight to your TV.

  4. PureOceanBreeze

    Awesome. Can we factor in online streaming of movies too? 🙂 It’s so hard to find pricing on their site unless you give them your information.


  5. One thing that isn’t taken into consideration is that some members are renting for multiple members of the household. So they go with the larger quantity plans so that Junior can always have at least one kid title on hand at any given time, Sally can have at least one tween title on hand at any given time, Mommy can have her romantic crap on hand, and Dad can have his action flick at the ready. For that to work, you have to go with at least the 4 DVD plan, but with mailing lag time you actually need to go with one of the larger plans. That is why those plans exist — they are for families and not for individual users.

  6. Jean Toomey

    Both my DVD player and my computer need repair. I would like to cancel membership temporarily and resume it once my computer and DVD are up and working. Where do I cancel?

    • Jonathan

      Just Call Netflix and explain your situation, their customer service is great
      1-(888)-NETFLIX or 1-800-585-8131.
      Mon-Fri 9am-10pm Eastern Time Sat-Sun 9am-5:30pm Eastern Time.

  7. Jen Knox

    In our case, we do the 1 DVD per month plan because we want the streaming content via our Roku box. In fact, there are months we don’t rent any physical DVD’s at all because we have so many great things in our streaming queue. We use our Roku every single day and have found tons of great kid’s programming that we can access anytime. We’ve also queued entire sets of seasons of TV shows that we’re catching upon including shows on premium cable channels that we don’t subscribe to. In my opinion, if Netflix subscribers aren’t taking full advantage of the streaming options via a Roku or XBox or some other device that’s where the real savings and value come from.

  8. Tom Tucker

    I haven’t had cable for over 10 years. I loathe commercials. I mostly watch TV shows via Netflix. Please note that several DVD players allow a watch faster feature with sound. Sometimes I watch some older/ slower shows at 1.5 to 2x.

    Netflix raised their prices that include DVDs today 🙁 What if you live where you only have crappy dial-up and streaming is worthless? They should offer disc only options with NO streaming. I know they are betting on streaming as the way of the future, but some of us are stuck with dinosaur phone lines from the late 1800’s [with no cable, FIOS, DSL, etc as an option].

  9. if you have the 1 dvd a month plan, there’s no way you’re watching 9 a month. netflix always makes sure there’s a near 1 week turnaround from when you mail in your dvds to when you get them back.

    • Michael

      Depends where you live Steve.

      There’s a sorting facility roughly 50 miles where I live, so when I return DVD’s on a Monday, I receive a new one on a Thursday. Without fail.

      The farther away you live however from a sorting facility, the longer it could take for your DVD to be received and a new one sent out.

      • Steven what Michael stated is correct, it depends on how close you are to a sorting facility. I recieve my movies two days later. I mail them back on day 1, they ship me new ones on day 2, and I receive it on day 3. So, essentially, I can receive a new movie every other day.

        • Robert Mustari

          Good luck with the “every other day” scenario. I joined NF several years ago and almost immediately got on their shit list by renting/returning current releases as quickly as possible. I found out the hard way that the term “unlimited ” is a lie. If you exceed a number (known only to NF) of new releases in a given time they punish you by making new releases virtually unavailable to you. You’ll see the words ” long wait” or “very long wait” appear in your queue. I’ve waited months for some of those before renting from Red Box. Also, their streaming service has always been in violation of a law requiring content providers to make their content available to the deaf. That means sub titles which they have only recently begun to implement at a snails pace. NF is digging their own grave and I hope someone buries them.

  10. Paul N Mavini

    I get consistent next-day service from Blockbuster. Too bad they soured everyone back in the in-store late-fee days. I don’t want to buy a blu-ray player, and I don’t want to move my xbox to my living room, but looks like I’m going to have to get with the times eventually.

  11. We were members of Netflix. We had the three at a time plan. If you watch a lot of movies like we do, Netflix has a “braking” system for you. Instead of returning them to a close by distribution center, your movies are returned to and shipped from a location 1500 miles away or more. We started noticing how the films were taking 3-4 days longer than usual to reach us. That might not sound like a lot, but when you get used to a day or two of turnaround, and it now you are 5 days or more, it feels like the level of service suddenly declined. I went on line to see if anyone else was expereiencing the same thing. That’s how I learned about the “brake” used to slow down customers who watch “too many” videos thus narrowing the Netflix units-per-customer profit margin.

  12. Forget finding any price levels information on their website. I HATE being managed by only being given a sliver of information on a website while I’m wasting my time trying to get to the information they refuse for some brilliant reason to divulge.

    Doesn’t make me want to do business with them at all. But when you have a monoply such as theirs now that they killed Blockbuster, you will pay if you value your time, and understand the value of free delivery vs. going to the library or video store.

    • That is exactly how I feel about it. I miss being able to go to Blockbuster or Movie Gallery and rent what I wanted at the moment.

      Just because I put something in my Que four months ago doesn’t mean I’ll want it when it comes in the mail randomly (yes, I know you can change the order of the videos)

      Having things arrive in the mail takes all the spontaneity out of the movie watching process. It makes me sad.

  13. Phillip Greene

    If I remember correctly, you use to have a plan for about 3 videos per month for a small monthly amount. I remember my Pastor telling us about it a while back.
    We are Christian, so many movies we do not care to watch because of their ratings. Also, we are probably the last people on the planet with ‘dialup’ Internet service, so streaming and such is out of the question.
    When friends send me ‘youtube’ emails we simply throw them out.
    Being retired, the majority of our evenings we’d rather spend reading a good book. We haven’t had a ‘TV’ for over 5 years and don’t miss it at all.
    Recently, I bought a projector and screen and would like to watch maybe one or possibly two movies per month, do you have any plan for people who occasionally desire to watch a movie?

    Thanks for taking the time for my email.

  14. Phillip Greene

    David January 4, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    They do have disc only with no streaming. I still have the old $4.99 plan still which is 1 DVD at a time, limit 2 per month, and no streaming.

    I read this after sending my previous email just moments ago…Is this plan still available???


  15. Mrs. Jan McLucas

    I am interested in ordering the 1 DVD plan at $9.99 a month.
    Does this cost include return postage?
    Can we pay by check?
    How do I select a DVD? Is there is list with ratings, time it plays?
    Do you rent Hallmark Hall of Fame Movies?
    How do I get started?

    • Jan you don’t have to pay postage at all. The slip they mail the dvd to you converts into a return envelope with postage paid already on it. Also if you lose the pre paid envelope you can drop the dvd into any mailbox and it gets shipped guarantee’d postage to your closest distrobution center.

      The website has all of the available dvds and you just pick what you want to watch from their library (all of the listings have full ratings and descriptions” and they put it into a list that you can reorder at any time and they get shipped to you in that order.


  16. Just would like to mention that Netflix change some of the terms. I used to have the one DVD plan but switched to stream only and was able to watch 2 different boxes ( roku) at one time now they blocked me and can only watch one stream qt a time. I called them and they say I will have to go to the 2 or 3 DVD in the mail to be able to watch 2 boxes at a time ??? I don’t even care for a DVD in the mail thats the whole idea to go stream only. Lame that’s what u get with monopoly ……

  17. Per Ola d'Aulaire

    Does Netflix still offer the $4.99-one DVD only per month plan? I seldom watch even one DVD a month so that would be more than enough for me. Plus I don’t have or plan to get any streaming devices for my TV, and my computers are all Linux so they lack Silverlight and the ability to stream Netflix at all.

    The $4.99 one DVD per month plan with no streaming is the only one that would interest me. Otherwise I can just skip it, or find another service.

  18. How do you propose getting 9 movies a month? 3 day turn around makes it possible to only get 8 and that’s if you watch the movie the day you get it and put it back in the mail that day for sending. If you have 30 days during a month you only have mail delivery on a maximum of 26 days which is 8 movies a month. In February you have a max of 24 days which really cuts it close for the 8 a month. So over all, you may have to leave the house but Redbox will cost the same per month for rental as Netflix. And for the most part they have the newer movies you want and wont have to wait as you do with new releases from Netflix. Just my opinion.

  19. OK, let me be sure I understand. If I wanted the streaming and wanted to be able to stream 2 different shows in separate rooms, I would need to get the 2 DVD’s in the mail to be able to do this, right? And if I wanted to do 3 different shows at a time, I’d subscribe to get 3 dvd’s?

    • No, that is wrong. I have a Netflix streaming account that I share with my my entire family. We can all watch our own thing at the same time using the same account with different computers.

  20. curious

    Could someone please redo this article? Since Netflix has changed there prices. Found this article very helpful originally. I’m not good enough at math to do it my self with the new prices.

  21. Dixie Kirkpatrick

    I have a bill each month for $17.30. I signed up for 2 DVDs at a time. I have never had but one at a time. I would like to change my account to one at a time. Thank you, Dixie Kirkpatrick.

  22. amanda

    To bad you have to wait for the dvds to come in the mail. I bet the site would make more if they made it possible to rent the dvd right off the site and watch it from your computer with out having to wait for it in the mail..

  23. William Forkner

    Do you have an agent program? or a business partner program? If you do I would like to discuss how I can take part. Company name is Windy Mountain LLC, located in Columbia, SC. Our direct phone number is 803-666-1122. Owner/operator is James H. Griffith, phone number 803-445-4971.

  24. Im very curious why everyone is having so many issues?

    I pay $7.99 a month that came out every 30th. It was very easy to have my payment moved to the 2nd of the month without losing my service as it fell on a pay day and Netflix had no issues doing that.

    For $7.99 I get the Unlimited Streaming – 2 Devices-At-Once plan.
    Love it. Great Videos, My gf and I can watch 2 differnt things at once and have had no issues with them yet.

    Good job Netflix !!!

  25. j bandini

    So it seems streaming has a lot less selection than dvd plans.
    How do you find out the difference in the two libraries?
    Can’t find anything on netflix website.

  26. With the recent slowdowns in USPS shipping, I can’t see anyway to get 9 discs in a month. 6 seems to be the highest amount possible and 4 in a month is the most likely. Basically the USPS has lowered costs for NF by 20-50+% without doing anything. Nice work, if you can get it.

    • janice grivich

      For the past 4 months, I can get no more then 4 movies a month. That means I pay $2.00 per movie. Last year I got 6 movies a month & that was O.K. Now, at $2.00 a movie, I have to cancel my netflex.

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