How to Buy a New Computer Without Breaking Your Budget

I needed to replace my nine-year-old laptop, but I had trouble finding the right deal. New high-end systems can be very expensive, although you can get a powerful computer and customize it the way you want. New budget models are less expensive, but often have flimsier construction and may lack desirable features. Used computers are even less expensive, but don’t usually come with a warranty and may have damage that you won’t discover until after you buy.

I kept looking into options to purchase a computer and found the right option for me — a refurbished laptop. If you are looking to get a computer without breaking your budget, check out these purchasing options and choose the one that's best for you.

Option 1: New computer, high-end model

If you need a lot of computing horsepower, you'll want to look at high-end models. You can get the latest processors and abundant memory. You can also customize your options such as case color, processor type, RAM size, and accessories. You can have it all: a fast new computer with all the features you want, and a warranty. But it'll come at a hefty price.

How to get best deal on a computer that will last

  • Look for open box items at the store to save around 5 to 10 percent.
  • Shop back-to-school and winter holiday sales.
  • Check to see if your employer has a purchase discount program with certain computer manufacturers.
  • Follow emerging trends to avoid buying before a significant new feature or operating system is rolled out.

Option 2: New computer, budget model

You may experience sticker shock after looking at prices for high-end models, but you can move down to the budget models without sacrificing too much. These are new computers, but may include designs and technology that are a few years old. Budget models may have slightly flimsier construction using less expensive materials. Components such as keyboards, screens, speakers, and input devices may be a step down in quality from high-end systems.

How to get best deal on a computer that will last

  • Check reviews, and if possible, check out the computer in person. One thing that scared me away from a budget laptop I was considering is that many reviewers said the keyboard was terrible.
  • Look beyond the specs. The basic specs cover processor, memory, storage size, etc. but don’t cover quality and usability issues.
  • Consider adding RAM or upgrading to a solid state drive to boost performance of a budget computer.

A new budget computer can cost 30 to 50 percent less than a new high-end model, depending on features.

Option 3: Refurbished computer

There are many definitions for what “refurbished” means, but the general idea is that refurbished computers have been returned to the manufacturer and are then checked out and restored to their original specifications. This may include replacing or repairing damaged or faulty parts and reinstalling the operating system. Some refurbished items have never been used and are essentially new. Others may have some use, but are then restored to new condition.

With a refurbished computer, I was able to find a system that had all of the features I wanted at a price I could afford.

How to get best deal on a computer that will last

  • Make sure the computer being sold as “refurbished” is actually refurbished and not just a used computer.
  • Check the warranty period and conditions to make sure you can return the refurbished item if you are not satisfied.
  • Shop around — deals vary widely from one seller to the next and over time as new refurbished inventory comes in.

I paid nearly 50 percent less for a refurbished computer than for a similar new budget model. The typical savings for refurbished computers is up to 30 percent off.

Option 4: Used computer

If you are looking to minimize your spending on a computer, getting a used computer may be worth the hassle. You can find used computers for sale on Craigslist and eBay. The main concerns with buying a used computer are that they do not typically include a warranty, and you may be getting a computer that does not have original parts due to user upgrades and repairs.

How to get best deal on a computer that will last

  • Consider weight and size in addition to processing power, as older computers tend to be bulkier and heavier than newer models with the same processing capability.
  • Watch out for used laptops with worn out batteries that have almost no battery capacity left.
  • Try to check out the used computer in person to evaluate its condition for yourself before buying.
  • If buying online, make sure the seller has a high rating.

A used computer can cost 30 to 50 percent less than a new budget model, depending on features. (See also: 6 Back-to-School Items You Can Buy Used)

Option 5: Tuneup your current computer

If the problem you are trying to solve is that your computer is slow, you may be able to resolve this by tuning up or upgrading your current computer. I kept my old computer running for years by running tuneup software to scan for malware and optimize its performance. There are inexpensive upgrades you can install yourself, such as adding RAM or a bigger hard drive. And sometimes a clean install of the operating system can bring an older computer back to life. But don’t pour too much money into upgrading an old computer. The best you can hope for is to extend its life by a few years. Tuning-up your current computer can cost 80 percent less than buying a new budget model, depending on features.

No matter what computer you choose, it will be likely be outdated within a few years due to advances in technology. Keeping this in mind, look at what you need from a computer over the next few years and get the best deal you can find on one that has everything you need.

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How to Buy a New Computer Without Breaking Your Budget

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