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If you’ve been on the hunt for a new laptop, but aren’t sure which stores (online or otherwise) are going to offer you the best combination of price discounts, shipping speed, and customer service, then you’ve come to the right place! You can also look at our best laptops guide for more laptop options.
So, after more than 30+ hours of research, ordering, returning products and testing each store’s customer service team, we can confidently say that Newegg is the best place to buy a laptop. The site offers a powerful suite of search tools, the selection is almost unparalleled, and the support staff ranked A+ during our testing.
We’ve spent the time and man hours necessary to research many of the top retailers in the laptop space to break down the good, bad, and the ugly when it comes to your online (or offline) laptop buying experience. This means buying laptops from many of the top retailers and tracking dozens of metrics to whittle down exactly what you need to know about the top shopping portals online.
To evaluate which stores on this list were the best possible place to buy a laptop on the web, we personally bought laptops from each of them and recorded a series of metrics which fed into the overall performance score they received.
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This included the price of the laptop itself (compared to other sites at the time of purchase), the cost of shipping (to our testing facility located in Portland, Oregon), the amount of selection available, the most recently updated models added to the lineup, as well as the effectiveness of their customer service departments and the amount of time it took to receive our refund after the return process was complete.
Taking all of these different factors into consideration we were able to test and review many of the top portals and whittle down our options from around 12 different major stores on the web down to five. These five exemplify everything you should look for when you want to optimize your laptop buying experience, and represent the peak of buying a laptop online!
Delivery Options: With Amazon setting a new bar in online delivery, many e-commerce retailers have stepped up their speeds in kind, offering programs and shipping options that often rival (and sometimes even beat) the juggernaut at their own game. Optimally we want anything under two days, though we know for testing some of the smaller retailers it’s more reasonable to expect times between three days to one week. Anything over this (as a default option) was seen to be too slow, which would disqualify them from making it on our top list. The price of the shipping method was also an important delineator here, though we were unable to standardize this portion of the test due to the area where we personally shipped the items to. Given that Portland, OR is a major city we experienced shipping times and quotes that may be significantly lower than what rural customers can expect, though we did our best to include this variable as much as possible when arriving at our final rankings.
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Shipping Insurance: Also, since we were shipping laptops which are both fragile and expensive, we wanted to make sure that all the stores chosen for this list offered some level of insurance that could be purchased during checkout. The last thing you want to open up your box to is a shattered screen or a busted hard drive with no option for recourse,
Shipping Options: Finally – in terms of shipping – we looked at the actual number of shipping options available, whether it was through UPS, USPS, FedEx, DHL, or otherwise. Amazon was the only standout in this category (given that some laptops can actually be found on their Prime service and will arrive from their own fleet of vans in two hours or less), but several others did offer alternative shipping methods if one provider or another didn’t deliver to your specific area.
Return Policy: When shopping for laptops it’s important to keep an eye on their return policy, because it can change pretty significantly from portal to portal. Whenever you get a new laptop it helps to be able to actually get your hands on it for a bit to see how it handles the tasks you need it to, and if for any reason it’s underpowered (or overpowered) for your standard tasks, being able to ship it back or replace it with a new one in a reasonable amount of time is paramount to a pleasurable user experience. A pleasurable experience includes the company covering re-shipping costs, as well as not being sticklers about restocking fees or what they define as an “opened” package.
Customer Service: This is a big one, because the differences in customer service between say an Amazon and an Overstock.com couldn’t be greater. We reviewed several metrics here, including the number of customer support options, the quality of support received, as well as how effectively the support reps in question were able to handle our inquiry.
Selection: This metric was measured in two separate areas: actual number of models they have in stock, as well as the frequency at which they update their stock with new models. Laptops are one of the fastest evolving technologies on the marketplace today, with bigger hard drives, better graphics cards, faster processors and higher-resolution webcams being added to them upwards of twice or three times per year. This means we only considered outlets that are constantly refreshing their available options, and made a special note to keep track of the number of laptops they would get in for each tech refresh.
User Experience: When it comes to technology like laptops, it’s important that the sites we selected offered an easy way for customers to quickly sort through the noise and find the laptop that’s right for them. This means offering search parameters which allow you to sort by dozens of different metrics, whether that be hard drive capacity, screen size, CPU, and more. For example, special exceptions like Newegg even let you go so far as to sort by the RAM type and included graphics card, which for the extra nerds out there is a must-have feature in the laptop buying process.
Payment Methods: The number of payment methods accepted by a retailer was also an important factor in our decision making process, though there wasn’t a whole lot of differences between most of our top picks. Bonus points were awarded to any retailers that offered alternative payment options like PayPal or Moneygram.
Price: Of course, this wouldn’t be a list of the best places to buy a laptop without taking price into account! Though heavy hitters like NewEgg used to dominate in this category, in recent years companies (like Amazon, of course) have started to narrow the gap between who can offer the absolute bottom dollar prices when it comes to laptops and other pieces of technology.
Award: Best Overall
Bottom Line: Even though they’ve slipped from the limelight over the past few years and no longer offer the insane tech deals they became known for in the early days, Newegg still beats out everyone else as the best place to buy a laptop online. From the forgiving return policy and restocking fees to the ridiculously granular search functions, Newegg makes it easy to find exactly the laptop you want at a price that’s still comparatively competitive with Amazon. Add to this a huge stock of available models to choose from alongside a great support staff, and you’ve got a recipe for success for the #1 place to buy a laptop online!
Return Policy: 14 days, restocking fee is damage dependent
Award: Best for In-Store Pickup
Bottom Line: Though physical Best Buy stores have suffered from a major drop in quality in recent years, their online business continues to set a gold standard for laptop buying. The company offers a 15-day return policy with no restocking fees to be found, and also runs a robust search option that comes close to rivaling what we found at Newegg. The company offers a large number of available support options, however the one drawback we noticed was that our over-the-phone experience was more frustrating than it needed to be. Aside from that small complaint however, Best Buy easily glides into the #2 slot for our dollar as one of the best places to buy a laptop online today!
Return Policy: 14 days, no restocking fee (30-day and 45-day return periods available for Best Buy Elite and Elite Plus members)
Award: Fastest Shipping
Bottom Line: As much as we might have liked to give this slot to another specialty store, there’s a reason why Amazon continues to be one of the best online retailers in the business. Screamingly quick delivery times for Prime members (and even some speedy picks for non-Prime buyers), combined with a great selection and some crazy discounts during big sales adds up to an awesome laptop buying experience. Their 30-day return policy is about as good as you can expect in this business, and there’s no denying the gold-star nature of their customer support team/number of available contact options. If we had to fault them for anything, it would be the inconsistencies we found in resellers, some of whom would take advantage of a model going out of stock and jack up the price by several figures more, hoping that less knowledgeable customers would buy their laptop at the extremely gouged price point.
Return Policy: 30 days, restocking fee dependent on level of damage (0-15%)
Bottom Line: Even though eBay has a sporadic selection and doesn’t always line up perfectly on search results, it’s still a great place for bargain hunters to find some of the best deals on laptops on the web. That said, we do have to dock points in a couple major areas (which is why it’s lower down on our list). These include the pretty abysmal customer support team (worst of all five options), as well as the inconsistencies in restocking fees and model availability. This isn’t so much the fault of eBay itself as it is the nature of the platform, however when dealing with high priced electronics like laptops we would have liked to see a bit more standardization between all the different stores, resellers, and individual sellers if possible.
Return Policy: Varies from seller to seller (average 15 days)
Bottom Line: Yup, Overstock.com is still in business, and although they struggle to maintain focus in some core areas of competency, overall they’re still a solid option when it comes to buying a laptop online. One of the main reasons it gets high marks in our books is the humongous number of search parameters you can choose from when whittling down your choice, rivaling only Newegg in its breadth and depth. As it is with most other products on the portal, Overstock.com makes an effort to provide some of the lowest prices on the web for laptops, and for refurbished items it should be your first stop thanks to its large stock of older models that have long since left the shelves of more prolific buying sites.
Return Policy: 30 days, no restocking fees on undamaged items (partial refund past 30 days)
The retailers listed below, while decent enough for what they are, don’t combine all the elements of a great buying experience into one fluid process like what we expect from the top options on this list. This isn’t to say they’re necessarily bad choices, but just not our first pick when we know it’s time to look at adding a new laptop to the roster.
Bottom Line: High prices combined with a prohibitively limited selection (of course, it’s all Apple laptops all the time), means that unless you’re dead set on sticking within the Apple ecosystem for every step of the process you’re probably better off getting your Apple laptop from Newegg or Best Buy instead. Both companies always have a large stock of the newest Macbooks and Macbook Pros as soon as they drop, and will even offer discounts during the earliest days that Apple wouldn’t even think of putting on their site (lest anyone mistake their products as “bargain” options). That said, take a look at Electronics Valley on Ebay. They at times will offer high competitive pricing that is sometimes unrivaled.
Return Policy: 14 days, no restocking fee
Bottom Line: Target is great for buying a lot of different things for around the home, but on laptops alone the company falls flat. A limited number of models available, at higher-than-average prices means that unless you’re absolutely desperate to bundle a pack of paper towels in with your laptop shipment you’re probably better off going with one of the other options shown in the list above. All this in mind, I was a fan of the SquareTrade protection programs, which offered decently priced insurance on your laptop purchase against just about every different type of damage scenario imaginable.
Return Policy: 90 days unopened, variable otherwise depending on condition and price
Finally, we come to the list of retailers who should be avoided at all costs. Whether this is because they’re a poor choice or it just looks like they’re at risk of going out of business (here’s looking at you Sears) any minute, these are the picks of online laptop retailers we wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.
Walmart.com: Terrible selection, horrible comparative pricing, and just the fact that they’re Walmart alone should be enough to steer you clear of this company. Although Walmart is great for a lot of different items (such as buying a TV) technology has certainly never been their strong suit, and we wouldn’t recommend you buy anything tech-related from them in the near future.
Frys.com: Though it pains me to say it (I basically grew up inside of Fry’s), in recent years the company has really let the online side of their retail operation fall by the wayside. If you live locally and want to place an order for a laptop to pick up this might be a decent option, but aside from that small use case the limited selection, mediocre pricing, and abysmal customer support should be enough to scare any prospective buyers away.