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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Purchasing PCs and Components ]

Purchase Timing

There's an old joke in the PC industry that says that the best time to buy a new PC is "next month". :^) It's a joke but it's also true: since computers become faster, more capable and cheaper every month, you will usually get more for your money if you wait before buying.

Of course this creates a little problem: you will spend the rest of your life waiting, and never get your PC. :^) A lot of PC buyers allow themselves to become "paralyzed" with this waiting: it always seems like "the ideal time will be in just a couple of more weeks". Well, it will seem the same way in two weeks also; if you are ready to buy, and you need to buy, buy.

What this quip about buying next month does mean is that you should wait to buy a PC until you really need it, and are going to use it. Buying "in advance" is usually not a good idea; if you are buying a machine for college, don't buy it three months before you leave. You may indeed be offered a "great, limited-time deal" at the end of May, but you could be surprised how much worse that deal looks in late August. Similarly, don't buy a PC right before you are going to go on vacation, or for an employee who isn't starting work for two months, etc.

While what I said above is true as a general rule, there are certain times of the year when prices and technologies change more rapidly than others. If you aren't in a hurry, you can time your purchase to get yourself a better deal by taking advantage of the following:

  • Buying In The First Quarter: The fourth quarter of the year is the busiest in the PC industry, due to increased sales of systems for students, employees returning from vacation, and then the big run-up towards Christmas. This is a time when sometimes new technologies come out, but also when vendors are very busy with lots of orders. After Christmas, the market comes to a screeching halt, and many vendors and PC makers become much more flexible on price and options, as they try to beef up sales.
  • Announced Price Cuts: The big CPU manufacturers (Intel and AMD) announce well in advance when they are going to drop the prices on their products. Prices on systems tend to drop to match within a couple of weeks of these dates. You can find these announcements by checking any current online technology news source. Intel used to drop their prices in February, June, August and November, but with AMD now competing strongly with them, there doesn't seem to be as reliable a pattern as there once was.
  • New Technology Announcements: Whenever something "newer and better" is officially released, like a larger or faster hard disk model, the now "older and worse" models decrease in cost.

Tip: Unless you like adventure, do yourself a favor and don't buy anything that is radically new or different within the first two or three months of its release. This applies whether it is hardware, an operating system, software package or whatever. Prices on brand new items tend to be very high, and since many companies don't adequately debug their products, you become a guinea pig for the firm's engineering department. See here for more.

Next: Delivery Methods and Issues

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