While timing is important when it comes to scoring a good deal, you’ll want to think beyond the date you make a purchase.
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Thinking of buying a new computer? If you’re not in a rush, there are certain times of the year that are best to buy one.
According to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which hosts the popular Consumer Electronics Show, American retail sales of consumer tech – like computers and laptops – will rise 2.8% in 2024 to $512 billion. That’s after a couple years of falling sales.
One reason for the rise in sales is that many people purchased computers to work from home during the pandemic. Now, some of them are in the market for an upgrade.
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So, if you’re thinking of making this big purchase, read on for suggestions that may help you score the best price.
The Best Time to Buy a Computer
As a general rule, the best times of the year to buy a computer are during the following time periods:
- Holiday weekends.
- Back-to-school season.
- Black Friday.
- Small Business Saturday.
- Cyber Monday.
January can be a prime time to snag a bargain on a computer.
“If you are able to be flexible in your requirements, the best overall prices are in January, during post-holiday shopping efforts to clear inventory,” says Diana Brown, a technology director for the Puget Sound Education Service District in Renton, Washington.
Often, she says, you’ll find computers in January at prices 10% lower than on the same models that were sold in December.
One reason stores are clearing inventory is due to the annual Consumer Electronics Show, where a lot of new computers debut.
Another excellent time to land a bargain is during holiday weekends throughout the year, including Presidents Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend.
Amazon Prime Day, typically held in the summer, is another good time to secure deep discounts on laptops and computers.
Many children and college students are in the market for computers when school starts.That’s a good time to find deals, especially if your state has a sales-tax-free weekend in the summer.
Keep in mind, however, that there might be limits on how much the computer can cost to avoid sales tax. You may get a sales tax holiday on a $1,000 laptop but not a $3,000 desktop, for instance.
Historically, steep discounts on desktops and laptops have been one of the main draws to entice shoppers to show up on Black Friday.
To ensure you get a great deal, do your research well ahead of the day so you have a good sense of what features you want and how much the computer typically costs.
Small Business Saturday
Small Business Saturday is the day after Black Friday, and it’s considered a day to shop at mom-and-pop stores. If there’s an independent computer business in your area, this would be a good day to check out its sales.
Cyber Monday is the Monday after Thanksgiving, and typically when online retailers offer steep discounts, so that’s always a good day to look for computers on sale.
Is the Supply Chain Still an Issue When Buying a Computer?
“While pandemic impacts have eased, we do definitely still see periodic fulfillment challenges,” Brown says. “So, supply chain impacts are still a thing, but not like they were a couple of years ago.”
She suggests that anyone who orders a computer online look carefully at anticipated delivery dates.
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“And if they are custom configuring, they should look frequently as they go. If adding that one custom video card moves the date a month or more, they can explore their choices,” Brown says. “If they don’t notice until they get to the final screen, it’s harder to understand what choices are creating the delay.”
The Best Time to Buy an Apple Computer
While you can find discounts for desktop and laptop computers during the holidays for all brands, you may want to buy an Apple computer at a different time to get the lowest price.
When a new Apple computer comes out, look at what it replaced. You may want to buy that older version, which is likely to be offered at a steep discount.
Brown says she’s gotten really good deals on Apple laptops and desktops during Black Friday, too.
The Best Time to Buy a Microsoft Computer
If you’re interested in a Microsoft laptop or desktop, stick to shopping holidays but don’t worry if you can’t find what you want. Brown says you’ll have plenty of other chances to get a good deal during the year.
“For those with the patience, or who are planning ahead, Amazon Prime Day is also becoming a force in sales. Other vendors match prices or plan sales of their own to capitalize on the shopping frenzy,” she says.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Computer
While timing is important when it comes to scoring a good deal, you’ll want to think beyond the date you make a purchase. Take the following considerations into account before you buy:
You may not need a new computer. Dan Gudema, founder of SEO Turbo Booster and a software developer based in Boca Raton, Florida, says he doesn’t think it’s necessary to buy new computers – often, an upgrade is all you need to make what you have work better.
He also often purchases refurbished computers or open-box computers, which simply means the customer returned the computer in the box but the computer has been inspected.
Often, you’ll get a pretty decent discount on these products – say, 20% – but make sure there’s a warranty available before you buy one. Gudema also points out that if you buy computers online, it’s often cheaper than buying them in store.
Think about features. Buying a cheap computer that works well is a win. But if you buy a cheap computer that doesn’t work for you, you’re just wasting money.
If you’re a serious gamer or are running a business, you might want to opt for buying a computer from a company that custom builds them. You’ll likely pay more than at a typical electronics store, but you’ll probably get more for your money.
Tim Lynch, owner of Psychsoftpc, an artisanal computer hardware manufacturer based in Quincy, Massachusetts, says that while “many folks will be satisfied with a cheap machine” at big-box stores and office supply stores, they’re taking a risk.
“They will perform OK for internet browsing, word processing, email and the occasional noncomplex spreadsheet, but will struggle to handle gaming and video streaming – and will find virtual reality will be impossible,” he says.
Lynch also points out that with more people than ever working from home and doing more sophisticated and complex tasks, cheap computers often simply aren’t up to the job.
Both Lynch and Gudema say that if you see a computer with, say, 4 gigabytes, it’s extremely cheap and you should steer clear. Brown says that 8 gigabytes should be the bare minimum.
“If you tend to keep lots of programs open at the same time, or lots of web browser windows, more memory will reduce the amount of time you spend waiting to switch between them or load new ones,” Brown says.
Geoff WilliamsNov. 9, 2023
Updated on Jan. 25, 2024: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.