Buying a notebook can be a thoroughly confusing experience, but with these 10 steps you can reduce the confusion and get a better buy.
1. Know What You Want
The smartest shoppers are the ones who’ve already figured out what sort of notebook they’re looking for. They know what kind of notebook best suits their needs, they know the size they want, the features and tech specs they require, and the price they can afford to pay.
We’ve put together guides for all the eight types of notebooks that should help you decided what you really need; allrounders
, thin and light
. There’s also a comprehensive guide
to what you should expect for your money, so after a bit of time reading you’ll be much better prepared to get the notebook you need for the price you want. Of course the constantly updated Notebook Hunter database for all eight types of notebooks should also be one of your main resources, because we rate and compare all notebooks available at major retail.
Not only will you be a more confident shopper who’s in a better position to bargain, but you’ll be able to recognise a truly great deal or a hot special as soon as it appears. Then, instead of wasting time starting your whole “What do I need?” process from scratch, you’ll be able to swoop in and grab the gold.
At the same time, you’ll avoid costly the mistake of an ill-informed impulse buy.
So do a little legwork. Develop your shortlist of brands and models which have the specs, features and upgrade options. And don’t worry if that ideal notebook or netbook seems a little beyond your budget – with this article and the Notebook Hunter pricing database, you’ll be able to get the laptop you want and still pocket some change.
2. Strike a Bargain
Most of us are too shy to ask for anything resembling a discount. But it’s your money, and it’s better off in your pocket than someone else’s.
Begin by shopping around so you can find the best price. If you’ve got a preferred local dealer, have them match or even come in under that lowest price.
This is a hard and fast policy at some stores. For example, Officeworks guarantees to not only match the lowest listed price on products including notebooks and netbooks, they’ll also shave another 5% off.
Stage two is to try rolling a desirable but relatively low cost extra into the deal. Once again, it helps if you know what extras you value the most.
This could be a free memory upgrade, a notebook mouse, an extended warranty, even a high capacity USB memory key or an external drive. Or shoot for a discount on something else you want, like a great notebook carry bag.
Finally, bring out the cash. Few things ring up a discount faster than a wad of that crinkly colourful folding stuff.
3. Buy a Bundle
If you’re in the market for some other piece of kit – a wireless router, printer or a digital camera – buy them at the same time as your new notebook. You’ll stand to make a larger saving, and be in a better position to bargain, than if you purchased these one at a time.
4. Get a Longer Warranty
If you value the peace of mind that comes from an extended warranty, make this part of your bargaining list.
Even if the price of the manufacturer’s extended warranty is fixed, there’s plenty of wiggle room in the extended warranty plans offered by many retailers such as Harvey Norman.
For most of these chains an extended warranty is largely pure profit – you’ll be surprised at how low they can drop the price. If you feign disinterest and say that while an extended warranty's a good idea, it's just too expensive, you'll see the price drop by as much as 50% (this may take several rounds of feigning disinterest).
You can even get an extra year’s warranty on your notebook or netbook for free if you buy with an American Express card. Most Amex cards, excepting the Blue and Gold credit cards, let you double the manufacturer’s warranty for up to 12 months on most electrical products purchased in Australia for personal use. This turns a laptop’s one year warranty into two years’ coverage, with Amex contracting a third-party company to take over the warranty in the second year. Other credit cards, especially 'gold' and 'platinum' ones also offer warranty extension options – check with your card provider before buying.
Check out our brand specific buyer’s guides for information about the standard warranty coverage and extended warranty options before you buy too.
5. Buy Before You Fly
Heading overseas on business or a holiday? There’s a risk free way to get 10% off the cost of your new notebook without a hint of haggling.
It’s the Tourist Refund Scheme, or TRS. Originally created for tourists but also available to locals, this little known solution provides a GST refund on goods worth over $300 (it can be one product, or several totalling over $300 a single invoice) bought 30 days before you travel.
You’ll even be able to use the laptop before you step onto the plane – meaning you can load it up with all your software, emails and more so you’re ready to hit the road.
All you have to do is:
(a) Buy your notebook or netbook inside of 30 days before you depart ,
(b) Pack your notebook and receipt into your carry-on luggage (if the notebook cost more than $1,000 make sure the invoice includes your name and address) ,
(c) Line up at TRS Office inside the customs checkpoints at the airport, and the refund amount will be made on your credit card. Visit the Customs TRS Office website for more information on the TRS.
Be aware that if you plan to bring the notebook back into Australia, you are meant to declare it as Duty Free goods and pay GST on the way back into Australia. The TRS website advises:
"If the goods are to be brought back into Australia, please be aware that they may be subject to GST. Normal passenger concessions apply and include any items for which a TRS claim has been approved. If the value of those goods together with overseas purchases exceeds the passenger concession, the goods must be declared to Customs on your return to Australia. Penalties apply to undeclared taxable goods. If in doubt you should declare the goods to Customs on your return."
6. Claim the Education Rebate
If you’re a school student, or if you’re buying a laptop for a school student, don’t forget to take advantage of the Federal Government’s Education Tax Refund package.
While the scheme covers a broad range of education expenses it’s most effective in offsetting the cost of computers for primary and secondary students.
The Education Tax Refund lets you claim up to half the cost of selected education expenses in your 2009-2010 tax return, as long as you’re eligible to receive the Family Tax Benefit Part A.
For children attending primary school there’s a spending limit of $750, which means you can claim up to $375 per child. For secondary school students the ceiling is boosted to $1,500, so the rebate is up to $750 per child.
Visit www.educationtaxrefund.gov.au for all the details.
7. Online Stores
Apple and Dell both offer a range of discounted notebooks models through their online stores.
These tend to range from superseded models and demonstrator machines to ‘refurbished’ models that have been ordered by customers but returned unused due to a change of heart or finances.
They’re all covered by a 12 months parts and labour warranty, so it’s a good way to chalk up substantial savings it you know what notebook you’re after.
Harris Technology also cycles through some excellent discounts for leading brand laptops in the Clearance and Promotions sections of their website.
8. Take Advantage of Interest-Free Sales
Major department stores love their heavily promoted interest-free sales on furniture, bedding, and electricals – and that includes computers.
Of course, sky-high interest rates kick in as soon as the interest-free period expires. The trick is to save up your money and make the full payment just before the interest-free period ends. So even if you’ve got the money on hand to buy the PC, consider going for an interest-free deal and putting your money in a short-term investment account that’s locked away until the first payment is near due. Then pay it all off at once.
You’ll have enjoyed an interest-free loan from the store while earning interest on your own money at the same time!
Beware that interest free deals do cost stores money – it can be as much as 10% - 15% of the cost of the notebook paid to the finance company. This comes out of the profit margin on the notebook, and therefore a store might be unwilling to give you any discount that you might otherwise be able to negotiate.
9. Timing is Everything
Some stores set targets or apply commissions calculated on monthly sales. Many vendors and distributor offers incentives and rewards for those who move the most product within a set period. In both cases, the last few days of the month can be make-or-break time for the salesperson – which gives you an advantage in cutting the best deal.
This is by no means a hard-and-fast rule, but if all else is equal than it’s worth a try – you’ll certainly be no worse off haggling at the tail-end of the month compared to halfway through.
10. Stay Informed
Notebooks and netbooks live in a fast-paced world. On average, every four months will see a new model rolled out while some existing models are refreshed – their base specs bumped up with a faster processor or large hard drive, for instance.
By keeping across the latest models you’ll know if it’s worth snapping up that factory-fresh notebook or opting for a model that’s just been superseded. If it’s the later, of course, you’ll be in a better position to insist on a discount.
Also listen out for scuttlebutt on new models before they’re officially announced. Apple is a top example of this. There are usually leaks and rumours in the weeks leading up to the launch of its new MacBook notebooks, so you’d be insane to buy an Apple notebook when those whispers are building. It’s far better to cool your heels for a few weeks and see how the new models shape up once they’re unveiled.