Every year, shoppers rush stores on Thanksgiving day or the day after to start the holiday season off with a door-busting bang. This year, crowds were more subdued, but Thanksgiving online sales topped $5 billion.
Black Friday may be behind us now, but that doesn’t mean you’ve missed your chance to save big on laptops this holiday season. You still have plenty of time to find great deals for your dream laptop and get it wrapped beneath your tree.
Our detailed laptop buying guide will give you a roadmap to finding the best possible prices for your personal computing needs.
Do You Really Need a Laptop?
If you want to save the most money possible on your computing needs this year, we advise you to consider whether or not you really need a laptop.
You might think: “What do you mean, do I really need a laptop? I’m looking at a laptop buying guide right now, aren’t I?” Let’s clarify what we mean below.
Do You Need a Laptop for Your Usage?
If all you use your laptop for is light email sending, internet browsing, or streaming Netflix, you might not need a laptop at all.
Consider whether or not a tablet might work better for you. If you dislike working with touchscreen keyboards, there are many keyboard attachments or Bluetooth keyboards available for use with every existing tablet.
However, if screen and text size are a concern for you, perhaps you need the upgrade to a laptop.
Can You Fix Your Current Laptop?
Most of the time, when people want to buy a new laptop, it’s because they’re experiencing slowdown or other issues while using it. If your laptop is slow, it must be because it’s old and needs to be replaced, right?
Not quite. Most slowdown issues are due to software issues, not hardware defects. So, performing basic upgrades or program maintenance will help clear away many performance issues you’re experiencing.
However, if the device hardware itself is damaged, then you’ll be better off purchasing a replacement.
Buy for Your Needs
As tempting as it may be to grab the steepest discount or most popular computer and leave it at that, if you don’t get the right computer, you’ll end up spending more time and money in the long run.
So, how do you determine what works best for your needs? Let’s summarize below:
Business Use: You need something portable, usually Windows-based, and fast, so a notebook or netbook would serve you best.
School Use: Given the intense video component of most online courses, you need something that can handle slightly heavier use, but still easy to carry, so go for a notebook or traditional laptop.
Light Use: If all you use your computer for is social media scrolling, the occasional Netflix stream, and sending emails without dealing with a phone keyboard, a netbook or more tablet-like two-in-one is your best bet.
Creative Use: As an artist, you’re likely to need something with intense visual and processing power, so a traditional laptop or a stronger two-in-one is best for you.
Gaming: If you want the best gaming experience, you need a laptop optimized for it.
Price: A Laptop Buying Guide
You might ask, “So, how much is this going to cost me?” The answer to this question depends on what type of computer you get. Below, we have a list of price ranges, and the types of computers that fall within it based on usage.
Business use: Can range from $150-500, depending on how powerful of a laptop you end up purchasing.
School use: Also runs in the range of $150-500, though if you have more graphics or programming heavy classes, it might stretch to $700 or $800.
Light use: Any laptop intended for light usage will cost $250 or less, even without sales, as they’re the least powerful of the bunch.
Creative use: It depends on what creative field you work in, but anything with powerful graphics or good built-in speakers will cost in the neighborhood of $450-800.
Gaming: Given the required specs for a computer to game properly, you can expect to pay $800 or more, and on average, over $1000.
Check Manufacturer Websites
Did you know that the recommended markup for external retailers or distributors is between 8-15%? That means that if a laptop costs $350 from the manufacturer, you can end up paying a $385 base cost. That’s not even accounting for state taxes!
Sometimes, you’re better off checking the manufacturer site itself. You’ll avoid markups, and sometimes, the manufacturer site will have products that stores have already cycled out of their inventory. For examples of what specials manufacturers can offer, check these out!
Compare Prices Between Retailers
If you’d rather work with a retailer than the manufacturer, make sure you’re comparing prices between the retailers in order to get an exceptional price.
Competition between stores is always steep. Many large retailers will even offer price matching. For a list of the big stores that offer this service, check out this article.
Consider Refurbished Laptops
Yes, yes, the thought of anything pre-owned in the tech industry leaves a bad taste in most consumers’ mouths. However, you can snag some amazing savings on quality computers by going pre-owned.
However, buyer beware: not all refurbishments are created equal. Buying something refurbished by the original manufacturer will have different risks compared to buying something refurbished by a third party. (Though it is important to note that buying seller-refurbished items can mean the older tech comes with substantial upgrades!)
Open Boxes Aren’t Just for Presents
An open box product is one that was purchased by a customer, returned for some reason or another, and found to be in working order by store employees. Most open-box products are not returned due to defects, but due to some other issue.
Perhaps the laptop the customer purchased wasn’t powerful enough. Perhaps it was too complicated. It could be that they didn’t like the operating system. The reasons someone would send a non-defective laptop back are numerous.
Typically, open-box products will have all their pieces and cables. The only issues you might find are minor cosmetic dents or scratches and a missing manual. Thankfully, if you know the laptop model, you should be able to find the manual online!
What About Older Models?
When it comes to tech, the buzz is always around newer, bigger, better, faster laptops. It’s easy to feel like there’s no need to consider an older laptop. However, sometimes you can find a much higher-end computer new-in-box for around the same price as a mid-range brand new if you go back a model year or two.
Shopping for older models also gives you the advantage of more reviews to pull from. Standard consumer reviews, not the reviews of someone paid to test the laptop for less than a week. If there are issues with the battery life, the screen dying out, or the disk drive or USB ports failing within a few months, you’ll see that in your research.
Think Long Term
When we try to capitalize on holiday shopping events and save the most money, it’s easy to get suckered into buying the cheapest one in the store. Your average laptop should last you between 3 to 5 years, so thinking of only what suits your current usage will handicap you in the long run.
Laptops encased in cheap plastic and constructed from subpar parts will last you maybe a year or two. Then, it’s off to the store to replace them again. It may cost more now, but buying a step-up model from your original choice might save you more down the line.
Putting Everything Together
This laptop buying guide has a mind-boggling amount of information. It’s hard to keep all of it in mind at once, so let’s distill it to its most important points.
Point 1: Make sure that a new or new to your laptop is an investment you need to make. Point 2: Don’t walk in looking for the cheapest laptop on the shelf. You want to find the best cheap laptop for your usage and money. Point 3: Shopping around is key to finding the best bargain. Finally, point 4: don’t sacrifice the long term in favor of saving a few dollars.
Keep all these points in mind, and you’re sure to find a bargain on a laptop that works well for you.
If you liked this article and want to see more content like it, feel free to browse our main blog!