Five Ways VHS Tapes Still Rock

Friends of mine have barely gotten over the Blu-ray vs. HD DVD war, and I’m still stuck back in the 80’s (remember when Betamax was struggling to be on top?) It’s not that I don’t appreciate the finer points of DVD’s. I just still love certain irreplaceable features of good ol’ VHS tape.

1. They are kid-proof. There’s less chance of a freak-out if my 3-year-old toddles in with my VHS copy of Rumble in the Bronx than if he starts using my DVD version of Rounders as a coaster. It’s not that I like one movie better. There’s simply a durability with VHS that DVD hasn’t been able to provide me. And you can tell me to keep my kids away from my DVD collection – but you obviously know little about the mobility of a toddler. While it is possible for a faulty VHS player to unravel the tape or a misplaced stack of Magnetix to erase the video, the tape usually outlasts the DVD, hands-down.

2. They are cheap. The frugal in me can’t part with $16-25 for a movie, no matter how good it is. Even with the recent Blockbuster deal , I know that I won’t get my money’s worth in encore viewings of even my most coveted movies. While I may only review my copy of Office Space once or twice a year, the kids will watch and rewatch Elf a few times a month (and even more during the holidays.) It’s good to know that I can pick up a few new favorites at a garage sale, Goodwill, or Ebay for 25 cents to a buck anytime we need some variety. (And if the movie is faulty or generally stinks, I’m only out some pocket change.)

3. They offer some variety. If you are a fan of foreign or hard-to-find indie films, sometimes DVD will fail you. I have been in search of certain Japanese subtitled films with no luck – until I tried VHS. They are out there, but good luck finding some on the newest medium.

4. They are virtually maintenance-free. Clean my VHS tapes? Are you kidding? I don’t even clean my 4-head VCR. Since picking up a VCR for around $5 on Craiglist or a yard sale is pretty easy to do, I rarely do anything to prolong my player’s life. Maybe I’m lazy, or maybe I’ve discovered that my time is worth much more. Compare that to the 4 or so DVD players that I’ve replaced due to the laser function going out. (It doesn’t matter how high-quality I’ve gone with a house that’s fairly dusty due to location, the reader on a top-of-the-line model seems to only last a bit longer.)

5. They are all mine. What do I love best about my extensive VHS collection? No one seems to want to borrow them. I have some great titles, but they just aren’t appealing enough in format for them to wander off permanently. I love sharing with my friends, but can someone please tell me when I’m going to get my DVD copy of X-Men back?

I’ve finally come to terms that there will be fewer new VHS versions produced, and many stores have quit carrying them altogether. But for all the reasons I’ve come to love VHS, it’s worth it to continue (at least while the kids live here.)

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Guest's picture

I couldn't agree more!

My kids have been watching the same Thomas the Tank Engine video for years, but the Letter Factory DVD video I bought a few months ago is already junk because the toddler scratched it getting it in and out of the case.

We'll be sticking with VHS so long as there is a toddler in the house.

Guest's picture

My hubby is a movie collector. We have 400+ movies, mainly VHS. The problem is they take up a lot of space. A LOT. And moving with them is a giant PITA.

Guest's picture

I love the jump to the scene of a DVD. I love stop a VHS tape, pull it out, watch something else, then put the first one back in and it's still on the same spot.

I still have a VCR because I refuse to pay for cable and a digital recorder. I record all my favorite shows in my VCR so I can fast forward through the commercials.

I'm a frugal man who hates to part with is money, unless it's a really worthy cause, like high speed internet or my iPod.

Guest's picture


Guest's picture

The solution is hard-drives. Especially for the guy with high-speed internet who records TV on cassette??!!!! Although the movie studios want to lock you into a single degradable physical object, they will lose.

Guest's picture

And those VHS tapes from the 80s are probably unwatchable. Magnetic tape only has a shelf life of about 15 years. That may be no big deal for movies, but if you have family video on VHS, digitize it or loose it.

Guest's picture

I have VHS tapes from 1979 and early 80's they play as fine today as the day they were bought i got some unopened tapes from the early 90's i opened one and it plays well. the weddinng video is fine too plays like the day it was new too its got a bit of mold on it though but if you keep it in a nice dry place and dark it will live for many many many years more perhaps it will still be playable 50 years into the future and dont believe the things online 15 years is the minimum life if its being stored in a damp area.

Guest's picture

I'm still waiting on my X-Men DVD to come back too. I've been waiting for about 4 years.

I've never had a problem with a DVD player conking out, 10+ years and still going strong. Have you ever tried a laser lens cleaner? That may be all you need...

Guest's picture

I still have my favorite Disney classic VHS movies-- I'm glad I'm not the only one who still has VHS tapes lying around.

But you know what's even more fun? If you're willing to get a Netflix account and free DVD ripping software, you can copy all of your DVD's on to your computer. It's an all-access pass to your movies with just a few clicks and some patience (with all of the waiting for the movie to arrive and dvd ripping buisness). I have a portable hard drive to store all of these movies, which is great!

Guest's picture
Jeepers Peepers

I love my VHS movies. Most are unreplaceable and not offered on DVD. With VHS I can tape my favorite shows/movies with ease. And the cost to purchase one is inexpensive compared to buying a new DVD movie or show. Why is that? Those DVD discs could not possibly cost more to manufacture than a VHS tape. So not only am I being forced to buy DVD's (if I want to purchase new programs or movies), I am also getting hit a double whammy in the pocketbook. I had to buy a new unit to play them on too!

Guest's picture

I do like VHS for stuff from the library. So often the DVDs we get from the library are so scratched we can't even use them! We rarely had a problem with the VHS tapes.

Guest's picture

Are VHS still available in US?
I use betamax in the old days, now it's broken. No spare part or used ones on yard sale in here (Indonesia). After that, i use DVD player, right now i used portable hard drive to store all of my movies. It's more flexible using HDD.

Guest's picture
Doodle doo

Sometimes I'm pretty willing to sacrifice quality for a decent price, but I can't stand watching old VHS tapes. The blurry picture makes me think I need to put my glasses on when I'm already wearing them. When used DVD's are 6 or 7 bucks a pop at blockbuster I'm all over it. Still haven't made the jump to bluray though. Like I said, I'm cheap :)

Guest's picture

VHS tapes are great for kids, especially younger ones who could care less about video quality. I've always said Fisher-Price couldn't have developed a better video format. Unlike DVD they can't be as easily damaged, lost, or stuck in your player.

Watching a 3 year old with a DVD is a scary scene indeed.

Guest's picture

We still love and use our VHS tapes frequently. If you're only watching a little bit of a movie, they're much better because you can stop them, take them out and come back to them later without having to find your place.

The one thing I do like DVDs better for are for TV shows- The chapters make much more sense for these.


Fred Lee's picture
Fred Lee

I have to confess, I've converted to the DVD set, if not for the simple fact that Netflix won't deliver VHS. And, the selection on Netflix is pretty amazing. You can find some of the most obscure stuff on that site.

That said, I can see your POV, and yes, we've had DVDs abused and broken, but videotapes are not immune to this. One thing that bums me out about DVDs is that few minutes in the beginning where we lose control of our players and have to sit through the government warnings. I grew up with the incredible sense of empowerment in being able to fast forward through all that. Those glorious days are gone.

Guest's picture

CONGRATULATIONS! You have won the Mrs Nespy's Frugal World Bronze Medal for August 9th. Go here to get the code to post your medal if you'd like. Thanks for the great writing!

Linsey Knerl's picture

Thanks so much!  I enjoyed reading the other winning entries at your blog!  Keep up the good work!

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture

Excellent list. There are many people collecting VHS tapes, some for the obvious reasons you list and others because the VHS film they want to see has not been (and may never be) released on DVD. For more information, check out the page I have written, VHS Tapes, A Collector's Guide, which gives a brief history of the VHS tape and it's status today, as well as methods to care for and preserve your video tapes and assistance on expanding your collection or searching for a rare recording.


Guest's picture

I also have high-speed internet and an iPod Nano, I have a modern stereo Mini-System, a 52-inch 1080p HDTV, DVD Recorder and Blue-Ray Player, all sleek and modern black plastic and fake chrome buttons and green digital displays. And at the bottom is a 25-pound, bulky, "12:00" Flashing Zenith VCR from 1986 that sticks out of my modern AV rack like a sore thumb.

I refuse to get rid of this VCR and the shelves of VHS tapes that are next to it. I am to attached to them, I have around 300 VHS tapes and there are to many memories invested in the tapes to toss them and its a major bummer when the VCR occasionally eats one of the tapes.
I don't think that VHS looks to bad, as long as you clean and demagnetize the head of your VCR every 3-months. In fact, I find the analog noise and defects and the feedback distortion at the beginning of blank tapes to be quite endearing to the format. VHS is like a Vinyl LP, analog is better and the minor imperfections add to the watching experience.

I like to record using VHS because when your using a VCR to record a movie or TV show, you see the little red circle and can look inside the VCR and see the little spools of tape slowly turning and you KNOW Your show is being recorded. With a DVD Recorder, your never sure, you can record a show on a blank DVD and then try to watch it and ITS STILL A BLANK DISC!!! Not to mention, unless you use a re-writable disk, you can only record once, whereas on a VHS tape, I've never reached a limit on my tapes of how many times you can re-record them.

Not to mention that magnetic tape recordings can last 150 years under ideal storage conditions, where as a DVD movie could be in the garbage in about 50-60 years and a burned or recorded DVD in as little as 25 or 30.

Guest's picture

i LOVE VHS....

Guest's picture

what about previews for cheezy 80's movies nobody remembers?

Guest's picture

I love VHS tapes, because a lot of the films I like are only available on VHS. I really like classic movies from the 30s, 40s and 50s, and a lot of those are never going to be released on DVD, let alone Blu-Ray! I buy these films over Amazon and Craigslist all the time, they're almost always in good condition.

I also like VHS for recording off of the TV. I refuse to pay for cable or satellite! I record my shows from the PBS "Create Channel" during the day while I'm at work and watch them at night. I have a DVD-Recorder, but I almost never use it!

My VCR is from 1998 and its still going strong, I've had 3 DVD players and they ALL eventually fail on me. Two had burned out lasers, and one, the door wouldn't open, it just said "LOCKED" when I tried to open the door to get my disc out!

VHS is better than DVD Hands-down!

Guest's picture

I enjoy the fact that I can control when I stop/pause a vhs tape instead of trolling about looking for where I ended viewing on DVDs, even after months.

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Vaishak Nambiar

You mean there are japanese movies' VHS copies out there in the market ? Great. In India, that medium is vanished without any traces.