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How and Where to Buy a Computer


This is a tricky question.  The best places to go require a level of knowledge that most people do not have. Hopefully I can lead you in the right direction in letting you know what to expect.  In doing that, you will hopefully avoid the pitfalls that many people fall into.

Do Not Buy Retail

This is tough because buying online is something that most people are not comfortable in doing and it also requires knowing a little bit about computers.  However, I don't recommend buying retail because in too many instances, your salesperson is either ill-informed on what he is selling or trained to lie to you.

Now keep in mind, this rant is not intended to refer to all sales persons, there are many honest individuals out there, but unfortunately, they are in an environment in which it is almost impossible for them to be successful without being deceptive.  The margins (the amount of money a store makes on a sale) on most computers are slim.  Most retail stores make very little to no money actually selling you the computer.  So where do they make the money?  On extra services, accessories, warranties and whatever else they can convince you to buy.  If you are unaware of how much most of these tactics are a waste of your money, you end up spending an extra $200-$300 more on that great computer.  Well, actually it isn't great anymore because of the extra coin you dropped on the waste.  

So what is the waste.  A certain big box store has tons of wasteful services.  I refer to this big box store without actually using their name.  One, I don't want to give them free google juice, as bad news is often good for business and two, they are known for sending out cease and desist letters to web sites that tell the truth about them.  So to avoid those hassles the will be known as the big box store.  Follow the above link if you want to know the store in particular.  Most of the services done at these stores are things that are either not that really helpful or things you can do yourself with relative ease.  They would like you to believe their services are unique and helpful, but if they didn't make you believe that, why would you buy it?

Extended Warranties are typically a waste.  Most retailers have no intention of honoring them.  Most are almost pure profit.  In many cases, you are better off paying for a repair when it happens then using an extended warranty.  Most computers, if they are bad, go bad within the first 30 days.  Approximately 4-6% of computers are lemons.  In those instances, almost all PC manufacturers have warranties that will more than cover that time period, thus rendering your extended warranty useless.  Typically, if your computer gives you no problems within 6-9 months, you are not going to have any issues worth using an extended warranty.  Another issue with extended warranties is that most stores are counting on never having to honor the warranty.  We typically do not read the fine print on the paperwork given to us about warranties.  You should, because you will find that the store has given themselves many outs on having to honor that warranty.  They really do not want to pay out on it, so you will have tons of reasons why whatever is wrong with your computer is not covered by the warranty.

Finally, if you do have a repair, prices for parts have dropped so much that you typically can make a repair or two for less than the cost of the warranty itself. 

Accessories are extremely overpriced in retail stores.  Best example I can give is that your typical retail store will sell a 3ft. HDMI cable anywhere from $20-30.  Visit and buy that same cable for $2.15.  And no, there is no difference in the quality, no matter what the salesperson may try to convince you of.

If you must buy retail

I recommend Costco, Sam's Club or the Apple Store.  The first two just sell you the computer, they don't pin you against the wall trying to sell you extra garbage.   They do have extended warranties, but truth be told, their warranties are actually pretty good and cheap.  If you don't mind paying the premium, go get an Apple computer.  The current line of MacBooks are outstanding.  Apple stores are excellent, the sales associates actually know what they are talking about and will do a great job at helping you get the right computer.  I own two imac's and can personally attest to the service you will get at an Apple store. 

If you go anywhere else to buy that computer.  Buy just the computer.  Please stay strong and resist the sales pitch for the extended warranty, cables, optimization services, etc.  They are a bad deal in almost all instances.  The sales pitch is strong, but save your money and walk away.

Buy Online

Go to the manufacturer's website, you can customize your new computer and generally get the cheapest price

When Should you get a new computer?

Quite simply, when the computer you are using now no longer can do what you need it to doIf it is slow, that typically is another issue that can be dealt with, but if you are able to get done what you need to get done without a headache, do you really need to upgrade?