The most common time that I buy a new gadget is just after its predecessor died (the second most common is when I see something shiny), but that really is not the best time. I generally end up forced into paying for whatever is available, and not getting a good deal on features and warranty.
This has resulted in fiascos like my last Dell laptop, where I ended up losing $1,600 because Dell refused to honor its warranty. Naturally I do not want to make that kind of mistake again, so I’ve spent some time since thinking about how to plan for my big ticket gadget purchases.
So what is the best time to buy a new gadget?
Well, that really depends.
Some device makers (such as Apple) follow their own release schedule, and sometimes the best time to buy their gadgets is when the old model goes on sale after the new model launches. Others (such as Amazon) periodically and randomly announce sales, and for them you will simply have to lie in wait. (A site called camelcamelcamel.com might help here – it tracks an item’s price over time, but it only works with Amazon.)
That is rather unpredictable, though. I for one would like to plan to make a purchase at a specific time of year rather than leaving things to chance (see my Dell laptop for an example of why I have this policy).
I asked about this on Twitter and Facebook, and the consensus was that you should look for sales either during August (back to school) or in November or December (Black Friday and Christmas sales).
There is also possibly a third time of year to buy a gadget, but it’s hard to predict. If a gadget has a niche user base, you might see them selling their old gadget all at the same time. (I can’t think of an example, but I bet it does happen.)
Whatever time of year you settle on, you’re going to need to follow the same basic steps.
First, think about your existing gadgets, and when they might need to be replaced. This way you can start looking for a replacement before it’s too late.
Second, figure out what features you need, and how much you can spend. This will help you shrink the number of potential purchases to a more manageable number.
Third, decide on the warranty, sales guarantee, and return policy you need. This will save you countless headaches later, and could even eliminate retailers or device makers from consideration.
Fourth, start tracking sales prices early. Find out what the going rates are, and what an actual sale. This will keep you from jumping on a “sale” where the gadgets are actually selling for the retail price.
That sounds like a lot of work, I know, but to be honest I don’t put that much effort into all my gadget purchases. For example, I’m just going to replace my Kindle Fire with whatever Amazon has on sale this coming holiday season. (I have a price in mind – under $20 – but that’s my only criteria.)
But when it comes to big ticket items like laptops, all this advance work can potentially save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
That is absolutely worth it.