Whether you want a new or used laptop, you can choose from name brands or even build a customized laptop on some manufacturer websites. While buying a laptop online has its many advantages, it's a good idea to be aware of the entire process so you know what to expect.
Where to Buy
When buying your laptop online, you can choose from many online shopping sites and brand retailers. Many sites offer advanced search tools for finding laptops that meet specific requirements, and you can read reviews from buyers to get a better idea of the product you're buying. Free shipping, discounted prices, and special bundle offers also make buying online a great choice for obtaining your next laptop.
Major Online Shopping Sites
These shopping giants are known for competitive prices, fast shipping and great customer service.
Amazon sells laptops from most brands and offers competitive prices and free shipping. Known for its simple return policy, you can return or exchange a laptop within 30 days, and you can print a prepaid shipping label for your item online. Amazon can charge a restocking fee of up to 15 percent if you return a laptop that is opened and not defective.
TigerDirect offers a wide selection of laptops from popular brands and regularly offers special sales events that include laptops, bundles, and free shipping. The website's search features make it easy to find laptops by brand, price range, or hardware specifications. Although you can return or exchange a laptop within 14 days, most laptops sold at TigerDirect have a limited warranty specified by each individual manufacturer.
NewEgg is another great place to find a laptop and includes many advanced search options to find the laptop that fits your needs. Many computers come with free shipping and a manufacturer's warranty. An important thing to note is that NewEgg has a stricter return policy for laptops, with many brands having a replacement only policy. You can view each computer's return policy on its detailed description page.
Best Buy is a good choice if you prefer to buy online and pick up your computer in person, or if you want to take advantage of one of the store's many laptop bundles. Since most Best Buy stores have a built-in Geek Squad, you can bring your new laptop into the store if you experience troubles, which reduces the need to ship the laptop back and wait for a replacement. You can also return a laptop within 14 days and not pay a restocking fee.
Laptop Brand Retailers
Know which brand laptop you want? These retailers offer the best bang for your buck.
HP sells both preconfigured and customized laptops and offers various discount programs and prom for students, businesses, and home users. Laptops come with free standard shipping and a limited warranty. If you have problems with your computer, HP offers support via phone and from live chat on the HP website. You can exchange or return your laptop within 21 days.
Dell is another brand retailer that sells both customized and preconfigured computers that are new or refurbished, and it offers pricing programs for corporate and student users. Each computer comes a one year warranty that includes phone support, and you can choose from various extended warranties as well. Dell has different return policies for refurbished and new items, so users can return refurnished items within 14 days and new items within 21 days. A restocking fee of 15 percent may apply.
Apple is the place to go for Mac laptops, especially if you want to take advantage of the site's chat feature. The feature lets you work with a personal assistant to find the laptop that best suits your needs. All laptops, both refurbished and new, come with a one year warranty that includes support online, on the phone, and in a nearby Apple store. You can make a return or exchange within 14 days, either online or at a local Apple store.
Shipping and Return Policies
Shipping Methods and Insurance
Some online stores offer free shipping for laptops costing over a certain amount, but others charge varied fees based on the laptop's weight, the shipping speed, shipping provider, and the buyer's location. Most shipping providers give you a tracking number that allows you to view your laptop's shipping status, determine when the product will arrive, and find out if you need to be present to sign for the package. Insurance is also important to have when you buy a laptop online. Depending on the shipping provider and the store's policies, the basic shipping fee may include insurance, or the store will charge you an additional fee to insure the package.
Damage During Shipping
If your laptop gets damaged during shipping, either the seller or the shipping provider will be held responsible. Shipping providers often don't allow claims for packages that arrive damaged due to improper packaging, so the seller is responsible in these cases. While online stores often have clear policies for replacing items damaged during shipping, online auction websites, like eBay, can make the process more complicated. If the damage was not the result of improper packaging, the seller will need to process a claim with the shipping provider.
Returns and Exchanges
When buying a laptop online, carefully review your chosen store's return and exchange policies. If you receive a laptop that does not work or arrived damaged, the store may send you another immediately and require you to return the defective laptop before it sends the replacement. An online store that also has physical locations near you may accept returns or exchanges in person, and some places have onsite repair centers as well.
Although most stores allow you to exchange or return a defective laptop without a fee, others charge a restocking fee for returning laptops that do not have defects. The store usually deducts the cost of the restocking fee from your refund, and the fee can cost 10 percent or more of the laptop's original sale price. Additionally, the store will often require you to pay for return shipping and insurance if the return is not due to a defect. Return shipping fees may not be an issue if you return the laptop to a physical store.
Pros and Cons of Buying Online
- Convenience - You won't have to worry about traveling to multiple stores to find the laptop that fits your needs because you can conduct the entire research and buying process from your computer.
- Wider selection - You can chose from many retailers and even design your own laptop if others don't fit your needs.
- Lower prices - Online retailers often have special sales and discount codes.
- Easier comparison - Laptop review websites make it easy to find the newest laptops and see how they rate against competitors.
- Option to buy used - You can save money if you don't need the latest technology.
- Inability to try before you buy - Unless you already did your research at a physical store, you won't get to touch the laptop or try out its features before you make your purchase.
- Shipping costs and issues - You may also have to pay extra for shipping, insurance, and an extended warranty, and there's always the risk of damage during shipping.
- Restocking fees - If you decide you don't like the laptop, you may face a restocking fee, although this problem is not unique to online shopping.
- Risk of dishonest sellers - Buying used products or buying from an auction site runs the risks of receiving a laptop in bad condition or with defects not noted in the listing.
Make a Wise Decision
Although there are risks of buying laptops online, doing a lot of research on laptop models, buying from a reliable seller, and purchasing insurance helps offset the cons.