Brand new? Second hand? Superstore? Internet? Supermarket? There are many options when it comes to buying a computer and the right answer for one person won’t necessarily be right for another.
In the article What computer do I need?, we looked at choosing your computer and what sort of price you could expect to pay. Here, we’re going to assume you have an approximate idea of what you need and a guideline budget.
If you know precisely which brand and model you want and have a credit or debit card, it’s straightforward – find out who’s selling it cheapest online, or elsewhere, using tips from our article on financial deals.
If your needs are modest then you might want to look at something second hand, although it’s best if you know the seller – it can be a nightmare when second-hand things going wrong and you can’t trace the seller.
Supermarkets and online stores
If you know the specification you need – how much RAM, that sort of thing – then it’s worth looking at online stores by all means, where you can often enter this information and build your own system.
If it’s a common configuration then look at supermarkets too - they sometimes have erratic stock, so when it’s gone it’s gone, but there are some bargains to be had.
Many people will have a rough idea of what they need, but will want to try out a keyboard and maybe get some advice. The supermarkets and more general shops will be less help here than superstores and specialists.
Computer stores and electronics shops that sell computers will have staff who know their stuff and be pleased to offer advice.
They will also do their best to sell you something more expensive than you came in for – remember that these guys are incentivised and are there to earn a living.
They will also try to sell extended warranties. If you think you’re going to be using your computer for the length of these warranties rather than upgrading, they can be worth taking out. But they are expensive.
A maintenance contract with a local computer supplier once the machine is out of warranty can be cheaper and just as effective (as he or she will be counting on your recommendations for further business).
Finally, remember to look at the room into which you’re putting the computer. A big screen might do well in a review, but will you be able to get it home and will it fit into the box room?
And whatever you do, don’t lose the receipt. If it goes wrong in 11 months and 30 days’ time, you’ll need it.