A laptop computer is an essential tool for students and workers to get their work done, but figuring out the best place to get one can feel daunting. Every electronics retailer offers an entire slate of laptops, so it can be difficult to assess whether you're getting a good deal or choosing the right model.
If you're stuck trying to figure which machine to get, Futurism has dedicated buyer's guides to help you select the best laptop, whether you need a general-purpose machine, or a one that's geared toward a specific task like gaming. Once you feel comfortable that you've found the laptop you want, it's time to actually pick one up.
We've done research to find the best places to buy a laptop. We've also covered the best practices for buying a refurbished laptop, and how to make sure you're getting an education discount if you'll be using the machine for schoolwork.
Online shopping is a lot more convenient than in-person shopping, but it can also be very helpful to see the laptop you want in person before picking it up. This gives you the opportunity to feel how heavy it is to lift, how the keyboard feels when you type, and whether the screen is large and high-resolution enough for your needs.
If you're going to look for a laptop in-person rather than online, Best Buy is the first place you should shop. The store has dozens of laptops from multiple manufacturers in their retail locations, and if you find the one you like, you may be able to walk out of the store with it the same day. No shipping required. If you've already done some homework (or consulted our guides!) you may be able to decide between the two or three laptops you're interested in after testing each one out.
Like all retailers, Best Buy has staff members who can answer your questions and offer their opinion and insights to help you make the right choice when shopping for a laptop. If you prefer shopping online, but also want the near-instant gratification of walking out of a store with your new laptop, Best Buy offers a "pick-up in store" option at checkout. This feature actually serves two purposes.
The first is that it'll indicate whether the laptop you're interested in buying is available at your local store. This is an important piece of information to know before you leave the house to check the machine out in person. If you know the laptop you want isn't available at the nearest Best Buy, it may not make sense to shop in-person. Saving yourself some time and effort, especially if you've got a tight schedule, is always a good idea and Best Buy makes it really easy to check your local store's in-stock items.
If the laptop you want is available at your local Best Buy, and you're confident in your choice, the pick up in store purchase option will make it fast and easy to grab your new machine and go. You won't need to spend time browsing, or asking a Best Buy employee to unlock the case where the laptops are stored. Instead, you can walk to the customer service area, present the clerk with your order information and ID, and leave. Many Best Buy locations also offer curbside delivery, so you can pick up your laptop without having to enter the physical location. Going to a store may take more effort, but you'll be rewarded by getting your machine as quickly as possible.
One of the biggest reasons we're recommending Best Buy over other brick-and-mortar stores is its price-matching policy, which is pretty great. Best Buy will price match any competitor — online or otherwise — as long as the items are identical, and being sold by the store itself. That means items sold on Amazon through third-party sellers, even those that offer Prime shipping, cannot be price matched. A Best Buy employee can quickly adjust the price of your laptop as you're checking out, just show them the laptop's product page on the competing website. In our experience, price matching has always succeeded, and only added an extra minute to the checkout process.
While we encourage you to shop for a laptop in-person when possible, you may not have the time, means of transportation, or a Best Buy location that's close by. In our experience, shopping at Best Buy's online has been relatively painless and hassle-free. The store's site is fast and well designed, so you can easily find the item you're looking for, whether you have a general idea of what you want, or can search for the exact laptop you'd like. Best Buy's search tools allow you to narrow down your laptop choices based on preferences like screen size, amount of memory, amount of storage, and price.
Best Buy has over 1,200 laptops currently available, so we're confident that you'll be able to find one that suits your needs. We've also found the store's laptop prices to be in line — or lower — when compared with online-only retailers. Best Buy also holds regular sales, which offer a limited-time discount on laptops and other electronics.
Whether you're shopping for a laptop in-person or online, Best Buy is the first store you should consider.
Amazon's clever logo design implies that the store offers everything from A to Z, which naturally includes laptops. If you don't care about in-store shopping, and want to get your machine quickly and inexpensively, shopping at Amazon has a few perks.
The biggest upside to shopping at Amazon is its vast selection of laptops. The store's laptop landing page offers a curated list of machines broken down by category — best laptops under $500, for example — as well as the overall top-rated machines. If you're having a hard time picking a laptop, these lists can be a big help. Amazon also allows you to break its laptop inventory down based on its processor type, operating system, price, and other factors, which is another way to narrow your choices. Amazon doesn't offer price matching, but that's okay because it typically has the best laptop deals anyway.
If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you can expect two-day, one-day, and same-day delivery based on where you live, and the inventory at the closest warehouse. Shopping for a laptop online means waiting longer than you would if you picked one up in-store, but Amazon has continued to close that gap very quickly.
One very important step when shopping for a laptop on Amazon is making sure you're making a purchase from the store rather than a third-party seller. Buying a laptop directly from Amazon ensures you'll have the best possible experience. Amazon functions both as its own store and an online marketplace, some third-party vendors are able to sell goods. In some cases, a third-party seller will offer the same item as Amazon, but at a lower price, which may tempt you to pick up your laptop from them. However, these sellers may not offer the same 30-day return policy Amazon does, or may choose to charge for shipping. You can see the seller you're buying your laptop from under the "Buy It Now" button on a laptop's product page. There, you'll see two fields called "ships by" and "sold by."
We recommend sticking with laptops that are shipped and sold by Amazon, so you're sure to get the correct product in the right condition at the appropriate price. If something is wrong with your shipment, you'll be able to communicate with a customer support representative that works for Amazon, which isn't always the case with third-party sellers.
Amazon's third-party marketplace is huge, but the steep discounts some sellers offer may be too good to be true. You can certainly get a great deal, but you're also accepting the risk of having a poor overall experience. That’s the primary reason we prefer shopping on Best Buy's site over Amazon. You know you're getting the item straight from the source without any hunting. That said, Amazon is hands-down the best online-only retailer when it comes to just about everything. Just remember to spend an extra minute doing your research before buying your laptop there.
B&H isn't a name known outside of the New York tri-state area, but that's a good thing if you're shopping for a hard-to-find laptop. New York residents can go to the store's in-store location in Manhattan, which is better stocked and has more knowledgeable staff than we've seen at any other brick-and-mortar store. Shopping in-store at B&H has the same upsides as big box stores, but shopping on its website is also very easy.
Despite its smaller size, B&H carries the same laptops as other stores at the same prices. It also offers free expedited shipping to most places in the continental United States on orders over $50, which is applicable to laptops. If you don't need a new laptop right away, it may be worth waiting for one of the store's sales to get the best possible price. Like Best Buy, B&H only stocks and sells its own goods, so you don't have to worry about getting burned by third-party sellers.
Comparison shopping at different retailers gives you the best odds of finding the laptop you want at the best price, so you should add B&H to your list of top electronics retailers if you are unfamiliar with it. The store's relative obscurity means you may find a laptop that's out of stock everywhere else is still available at B&H, which always makes it worth a look.
The Laptop Manufacturer's Website
All laptop makers, from Apple and Microsoft to Dell and HP, allow you to buy a laptop directly from them. This was actually the primary way to buy a laptop in the early days of computers, but it's fallen out of favor because of e-commerce giants like Amazon.
Shopping for your laptop on the company's site means you're guaranteed to get the exact model you want from a reputable source. Most laptop manufactures also allow you to customize your machine, adding a better processor, more memory, or more storage to an existing machine. In many cases, this is the only way to get a laptop that's upgraded to perfectly suit your needs. Some laptop makers offer exclusive discounts, free shipping, and other benefits that other stores can't match. This extends to their customer support system. If you have an issue with your laptop, you can call up the company who makes it and speak with a representative that works on their behalf.
Most companies have a comparison tool at their online store, which allows you to check out two models side-by-side to compare their specs. If you're interested in comparing models from two different companies, be prepared to have two browser windows open simultaneously. If you have a question about a specific laptop, you may be able to take advantage of the manufacturer's real-time chat service, which links you up with a representative who can assist you as quickly as possible.
If you're comfortable doing some homework ahead of time, shopping for a laptop on the manufacturer's website has benefits you won't find anywhere else. The quality of these companies' websites can vary pretty significantly, but they've gotten better recently to compete with other stores.
If you know how to use eBay properly, and assume the risks associated with shopping on the site, it's the best option if you'd like an extremely good deal on a laptop, or any other electronics for that matter. Buying a laptop on eBay is a great way to save money because you're buying the machine from an individual instead of a big retailer. The seller has set the price based on their idea of the item's real world value, which may be significantly lower than a store's price.
Experienced eBay sellers — ones who have accumulated tens of thousands of ratings from previous buyers over several years — know their market well enough to price their goods competitively. In many cases, an eBay seller's prices are lower than the ones you'll see online or in-store because they're used. We're big advocates of buying refurbished or open-box gear online (more on that below), but you need to read eBay listings very thoroughly to know exactly what you're getting into.
If you've never used eBay before, the online marketplace is split up into two types of listings: Auctions, which allow you to bid on an item for a set period of time, and Buy It Now listings, which let you buy an item for a pre-set price without competing with other shoppers. Sometimes, a seller with a Buy It Now listing will allow you to make an offer if you'd like to negotiate the price, which can be a good tool to use if you know the relative value of the laptop you're shopping for, and how often it goes on sale.
It's possible to save a tremendous amount of money on eBay, but you run the risk of having a negative experience if you're buying from a new seller. eBay continuously bans sellers who have accumulated enough negative ratings, and can mediate between buyers and sellers who are disputing a transaction, which is good if you end up in a sticky situation. Still, shopping for a laptop on eBay will feel more like a personal, informal experience compared to picking up your machine from a multinational company. The sale is happening between two people.
If you're okay with a little risk, or are an experienced eBay buyer, the online store is a great place to shop for your new laptop. Just be sure to triple-check the product's listing, so you know exactly what you're getting yourself into.
How To Buy a Refurbished or Open-Box Laptop
Buying a laptop isn't an eco-friendly act, but you can reduce the environmental impact of your purchase by choosing to shop for a refurbished or open-box machine. Those terms may seem interchangeable, but they're actually two distinct categories of used devices, and it's important to understand the distinction.
Refurbished items have been sent back to the manufacturer because of a defect; open-box items have been returned by another shopper. Every store we've recommended shopping at allows you to get a refurbished or open-box laptop if a machine in that condition is in stock. In some cases, a laptop that's sold out may be available as an open box or refurbished item.
In many cases, you'll be able to tell whether a refurbished or open-box laptop is available directly from its product page. On Best Buy's site, for example, you can scroll down on a laptop's product page to the "Buying Options" section, which will allow you to check whether an open-box or refurbished model is available. If so, you'll be able to add it to your cart in a click.
Amazon allows you to see your refurbished or open-box laptop buying option on the computer's product page too, but it also has a dedicated section to items in both conditions called Amazon Warehouse. Using Amazon Warehouse allows you to search for any open box or refurbished product on Amazon from any category, and it's a handy tool when you're shopping the site for anything.
Shopping for a refurbished or an open-box laptop may seem risky, but stores have gone through great lengths to make sure you have a good experience. The condition of the laptop you're shopping for is clearly listed, and includes any damage or other imperfections, so you'll know what to expect when it arrives. In some cases, open-box items are brand new, but may come without the original package and non-essential accessories — batteries for a remote, for example. Knowing what to expect before you opt to buy a refurbished or open-box also can make the experience seem less scary, especially if you've never done it before.
Many stores also offer a generous return policy — or some sort of free warranty — when you shop for a refurbished or open-box product. You'll have the chance to thoroughly test your laptop, so you can feel confident that the purchase you made was the correct one. If you're wary about shopping for a refurbished or open-box laptop, but decide to pick one up, keep its original packaging, so you can make an easy return if necessary. Keeping the packaging for a laptop shouldn't be too annoying, and is worthwhile if your laptop arrives in worse shape than you thought.
In our experience, buying refurbished or open-box gear from Best Buy and Amazon has always resulted in a good outcome. We've found that stores are very honest about the condition of their refurbished or open-box stock. If anything, these companies have overstated any flaws, and we ended up pleasantly surprised at the condition of the items we purchased.
The biggest personal benefit of shopping for an open-box or refurbished laptop — besides knowing that you've potentially saved it from sitting idly in a dusty warehouse or landfill — is that you can save a lot of money. Refurbished and open-box laptops in like-new or excellent condition are typically 10 to 15 percent cheaper than buying the same item new. The discount you receive will vary based on the laptop model, condition, and store. If you choose to get a laptop in worse condition, you can save a lot of money. Typically, stores have a quality threshold on the open-box and refurbished items they sell, so you shouldn't end up with a lemon.
How to Shop For A Laptop Using An Education Discount
Laptops are extremely popular with college students because they allow you to work from your dorm or classroom rather than using a computer lab. Most stores offer discounts — or back-to-school specials — that are only available to college students.
Apple, for example, offers a discount on any of its laptops or iPads when students shop at its education store. The discount you get will vary based on the device you buy, but any break you get on a premium laptop is worth taking. PC manufactures like Dell and HP also have exclusive deals for college students looking to get a new machine for school.
You'll need to show some proof of ID to prove you're actually a student whether you're shopping online or in-store, so be prepared to use your college email address or go through a more thorough process.
Big box stores like Best Buy also have an education section, though it's typically only populated during peak back-to-school shopping season, so be sure to check back in July or August for the best laptop deals there. Amazon doesn't have a college deals page, but it does offer a free, six-month trial to Amazon Prime for college students, which can help you get your laptop as quickly as possible.
How to Dispose of an Old Laptop
If you're replacing an older laptop with a new one, you should dispose of your previous set in a responsible way. We have an entire guide dedicated to how to properly dispose of e-waste, but we'd also like to highlight two options available through Best Buy.
First and foremost, the store will allow you to drop off older electronics and handle the recycling for you at no cost. You don't need to buy your new laptop at Best Buy to take advantage of this service. The store allows you to recycle three electronics per day, and outlines the specific state-by-state limitations when recycling TVs in particular. To take advantage of this service, you will need to bring your old laptop to a Best Buy location.
Best Buy also offers two paid "haul away" services, which means movers will come to your home and take your old electronics away. This service makes more sense if you're buying larger electronics like a TV or appliances like a washing machine, but it's a little-known service you should keep in mind.
If you take advantage of Best Buy's haul-away service, the same delivery people can take your old one for a "small fee." If you pay $199.99, Best Buy will send people to haul away two large items and an unlimited number of smaller items each year. If you're redoing your home, and want to recycle your old gear in a responsible way, the price may not be that bad.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.