We all want to get our hands on the latest in shiny new gadgetry. Unfortunately, the newest tech tends to come with the most premium prices. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. By keeping an eye out for seasonal price changes, annual product cycles, special offers, and refurbished devices, you can make sure you’re buying your hardware at the best price point possible. If you want the best value from your future tech purchases, check out some of the tricks in this guide.
Become a web detective
Good news for eager bargain hunters: Plenty of online retailers are willing to slash prices in order to attract your business. To find these discounts, head to price comparison sites such as Google Shopping and PriceGrabber, which will list where something is selling for the cheapest price. Before you start your purchase though, check to see how extras like shipping charges and warranty costs will add to your total cost.
Don’t forget the biggest online retail behemoth out there. This guide to saving time and money on Amazon has lots of useful advice, such as tracking price changes with CamelCamelCamel. Plenty of the tips apply to other sites as well. For example, sign up for the email newsletters and follow the social media accounts of your favorite stores in order to receive a heads up on special tech deals you wouldn’t otherwise notice.
On top of individual price comparison sites, you can install price comparison extensions for your web browser. The Shoptimate add-on fits right in your browser; when you visit one of a broad range of shopping sites, it will pop up to share additional price options in real time. InvisibleHand works similarly, and it also covers flight and hotel comparisons in addition to e-tail. Finally, Honey will lead you toward discount coupons and codes to take even more money off your total.
Beyond sites and extensions, you can compare some prices on your own. Scroll down to the bottom of a product listing on Amazon, for example, and you’ll see side-by-side spec and price comparisons of similar products. Every listing shows when the item first went on sale, so you can make sure you’re not comparing TVs or laptops from different years.
Once you’ve finished shopping, you’re almost ready to purchase. Before parting with your credit card or PayPal information, research the history and specs listings of the gadget that’s tempting you. After all your comparing, a low price might have tricked you into selecting an older product, or one that’s not exactly what you’re looking for.
Know your seasons and cycles
The time you shop can make a difference to the price you pay. So if you can hold off on a purchase, you might be able to get it for cheaper. For example, the sales bonanza that kicks off with Black Friday doesn’t really stop until Christmas. The biggest reductions during this period will be on older, mid-range tech rather than the very top-end stuff, so by all means splurge, but make sure you know what you’re getting.
When should you buy to get discounts on the best and newest gadgets? These deals don’t usually hit the scene until immediately before or after an updated version arrives. If you wait for the new model to appear, the current (and soon to be “old” model) is likely to be much cheaper. For the iPhone, for instance, shop in September, while Samsung’s Galaxy phones get less expensive around late February or early March, coinciding with the Mobile World Congress tech expo.
Not every gadget has such a predictable release schedule. But a few minutes’ research online should tell you how long a tablet or a digital camera has been on the market and whether there are any rumors of a new and improved model in the pipeline. If you really want to get technical, look at the components. For example, Apple and all the other big laptop manufacturers base their product cycles around new CPUs from Intel, so you can predict when an updated range is about to arrive. (In case you’re wondering, the next batch at the time of writing should show up in late 2017).
You don’t have to become an expert on silicon. But keep a cursory eye on the tech press for Intel CPU news in order to choose the best time to make a purchase.
Take the refurb route
Ask yourself: Do you really need a laptop or a phone that’s fresh out of the box, untouched by human hands? Refurbished tech sometimes gets a bad reputation for faulty or knock-off gadgets that are priced to sell. But the reality is that you can make some serious savings on refurb tech that is virtually as good as new.
If someone has already opened your laptop, decided they don’t want it, and sent it back to the supplier, what do you care? As long as it works and you’re saving a chunk off the list price, you can enjoy your new product. These days, a lot of refurbed gear comes with a guarantee and warranty, so you’ll still have the security of purchasing a verified gadget—and the discounts can be substantial.
It’s not the only place you can buy refurbed gear, but eBay is a good place to get started. Look for refurbished versions of your favorite devices. Before you spend your money, check for good seller feedback and a warranty. Pay attention to the listing and the supplied photos as well, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting.
Many of the big tech companies, including Dell and Apple, have refurbished storefronts of their own. Coming from the companies themselves, you know the goods will be comprehensively checked and good to go, so you don’t have to worry about the hardware dying on you after a few months. Again, double-check the age and spec of whatever you’re buying so you can do a proper comparison with the prices for the newest, top-end models.
Go for older tech
If you know what you’re looking for, then you can find some great deals on older pieces of technology. You just need to learn the difference between a gadget that’s cheap because it’s almost obsolete, and a gadget that’s cheap because it’s just been replaced by something newer.
We can’t give you advice for every single laptop, desktop, phone, tablet, TV, camera, and wearable line out there. But let’s use smartphones as an example: The Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 7 were launched last year, but they’re both still very capable devices. When you start shopping, focus on flagship tech that’s now slightly older, rather than tech that was originally in the budget or mid-range section of the market and has now fallen even further behind.
Again, the specs list can tell you just what you’re getting. The newest TV sets have support for 4K and HDR, so if you can live without either or both of these (perhaps if you’re shopping for a smaller bedroom set that doesn’t need the highest resolution), you can get a model that launched two or three years ago—instead of the latest TV on the market—for a significantly cheaper price.
If you don’t mind used gear, from sites such as eBay or Craigslist, then you can save even more: Just follow each site’s official buyer advice and do your research into the item you’re purchasing and its seller. That means carefully checking the photos of the device and its description so you know exactly what your money is buying.