How to Save Money When Buying a Computer: Buy a Refurbished Model

There's no good time of year for James Rott to buy a new computer. His company, First Choice Lawn and Landscape, has two locations: a main office in...

Refurbished computer

There's no good time of year for James Rott to buy a new computer. His company, First Choice Lawn and Landscape, has two locations: a main office in Tulsa, OK, and another in Bartlesville, OK. When the cold weather arrives, things don't slow down: Instead of maintaining lawns, the company keeps busy by managing snow — assuming there is some to plow. Busy or not, Rott's machines in Bartlesville needed an upgrade this winter. "I was like, how am I going to swing this?" he recalls.

Every small business faces challenges like this. Thankfully, there are ways to shop and source computers that will make sure you've got plenty of green (the financial kind) all year round, and great computing power to keep your operations running smoothly in good times and bad.

How Will You Use It?

When asked for ways to save money while buying a computer, Sean Nicholson, the worldwide manager for Microsoft's refurbisher programs, has a unique response: Rather than talking about the specs of a computer, he asks what the prospective buyers are looking to do with the machine. "All they want to buy is the ability to do stuff," he says. "They have to spend the money on tools that will let them do that."

For example, Nicholson knows of a school that had a $10,000 budget. They could have spent it on hardware, but if they spent more of it on services and software, they could get the tools that would allow them to actually achieve their educational goals. "You're not trying to save money for the sake of losing functionality," he says. "You're just trying to invest it in the right place."

With that in mind, buying a refurbished desktop or laptop computer helps you save much more money than you would if you had bought a new machine. Over the years, as more refurbished computers become available, it's become clear that the reconditioned systems are around 30 percent less expensive than similarly performing new machines, Nicholson says.

As a result, refurbished computers can help a small business save a significant amount of money, something Rott learned firsthand. "When I was looking at buying new systems, they have all these packages with everything that you have to buy — which may be great for a brand-new system, but I didn't need it," he says of the peripherals like monitors and keyboards. "New systems are around $2,500 or $3,000, and I didn't need all the stuff. I just needed to upgrade the box, basically." By going with a refurbished computer instead, Rott estimates he saved more than $2,000 in the end.

Less Expensive to Maintain

Part of the reason refurbished systems are so cut-rate is that they don't cost very much to ensure they are in perfect working order. Where new computers have to offset the millions of dollars in research costs that went into initially developing the computer, the only costs associated with refurbished computers are testing and de-sanitizing, and the updating of software.

The fact that Rott could get a refurbished Dell¨ computer — a brand he knew and loved — made him even more confident that the reconditioned system was the right choice for him. "I felt like, if Dell did the refurb on it, then I was basically almost getting a brand-new computer for a refurbished price," he says.

Moving forward, as he replaces his entire company's computing solutions, Rott plans to exclusively use refurbished computers in his business. "All of a sudden, it became an affordable thing to upgrade two or three computers, versus just one every year," he says.