Love watching movies? With in store movie rentals at Blockbuster and other similar stores costing about 5 bucks a pop, if you’re an avid movie watcher, participating in a movie-by-mail service is definitely a wise choice. Blockbuster and Netflix have two extremely popular movie-by-mail programs, both of which are a great deal. The two companies sport similar movie options, and neither requires you to pay postage. So how do you choose which service to buy?

I started out as a Blockbuster customer about a year ago. I was enticed because Blockbuster and Netflix plans are blockbuster.gifidentically priced, but Blockbuster offers free in-store rentals every week on top of your online movie rentals. At first, this proved to be a fantastic deal. If I ended up without a movie from the mail, I could stop at the Blockbuster store and use my coupons to pick up a movie for free on the way home from the office. After a few months of doing this, however, I basically ran out of movies I wanted to rent at the store. Blockbuster stores do not have anywhere close to the rental options offered online, and while the store gets new movies every Tuesday, it’s easy to run out of things in the store you want to rent. And, isn’t the whole point of having a movie-by-mail service that you don’t have to go to the store to get movies?

Even after I realized this problem with the in-store rentals at Blockbuster, I decided to stick with the company because the service was solid and I had a big list of movies lined up that I did not want to lose. Recently, however, I ran into some other problems with Blockbuster that caused me to switch over to Netflix.

It makes sense that new customers to either service will get their movies faster than older, more established members, since companies will try to entice and lock in trial memberships. But, towards the end of my Blockbuster membership, this really got out of hand. It was taking me up to a week to get movies in the mail, and three times in the last month, movies that were shipped to me from Blockbuster simply never made it to my mailbox. In addition, It was pretty common for Blockbuster to send me movies totally out of order. For example, at one point, I had a television series in my movie lineup. Blockbuster didn’t follow the order in my queue, and sent me the third disc of the series before I had the chance to watch the first disc. This was really frustrating. After I found out about the fun functionality of the Netflix service, the switch from Blockbuster to Netflix seemed like a no-brainer.

For its part, the Blockbuster site is easy to use and has a solid customer support system. In my experience, the company reacted quickly to my complaints, and I never had any difficulties managing my queue. But, besides the actual searching of movies, the Blockbuster site does not offer much. While you can rate movies, the site does not give you customized recommendations, and you can’t see what any of your friends are renting. Netflix has taken a step above and beyond simply renting movies, and offers a kind of social networking for movie lovers.

On the Netflix site, you can rate the movies you’ve seen, rank the genre of movies you like, blacklist movies you netflix.bmpcompletely are not interested in, and then receive recommendations based on these choices. If you are like me and sometimes feel overwhelmed by movie choices and are not sure what to rent, this can be very helpful. On top of that, you can see what your friends are watching, what movies they liked, and what they hated. This can also be helpful when you’re listing movies for your queue. Because of these options, the Blockbuster site doesn’t hold a candle to what Netflix offers on the Web. I should note here that Blockbuster has been advertising a new site for its online movie rentals, but even the new site does not promise all the functionality of Netflix.

As far as the service goes, I have not been a Netflix member long enough to make a fair comparison. But I have heard that the mail times for Netflix movies are short and reliable, compared to Blockbuster’s helter skelter mail service. Does anybody have an opinion on this?

When it boils down to it, both services have similar, if not identically priced movie rental plans. If social networking and interactivity is your thing, go with Netflix. If you have a Blockbuster store next door to your house, you might want to consider using Blockbuster for its in-store rentals (but don’t be surprised if you get bored with this feature–I did).