Personal Computer: Buy New or Repair?

Categories: Budget, Spend

computerYour family’s budget for technology is greater today then ever before, good tech-decision making is merited

You might wonder why an article about computer purchasing at a financial planning website. However, in the last 30 years your personal budget for electronic, such as laptops, smart phones, tablets and e-readers has probably expanded a lot; good decision-making is important!

Forty years ago, budgets only had to include monthly telephone charges and maybe cable TV. Now you have regular costs for computer software, and hardware maintenance, repair and replacement; a large expense in the past your parents once didn’t have to worry about. That is why I thought it would be great sense to cover the issue of repair versus replacement. A good friend of mine Ben Martin who owns BRM Laptop Repair at 3171 N. High St. in Columbus Ohio (614-313-9901, laptop.repair@gmx.com), has been repairing computers for decades,  has written this helpful article to assist your replace or repair decision.

I’ve personally been repairing computers for close to 20 years.  I can’t say I’ve seen everything but I’ve seen a lot of different things along the way and had a lot of questions.  Some questions involving birds and rabbits.  Yes, I said birds and rabbits.  Rabbits love chewing through things and birds love the clicking of keys.  I’ll leave you to imagine the mess that those created.

In any case, we receive a lot of standard questions and have a lot of experience with handling those.  We love the exotic questions which keeps us on our toes and make us think outside the box.  The standard questions keep customers coming back because we always answer with honesty and integrity, even if we don’t make money on the answer.  The big box stores are paid on selling stuff.  Their first and main intent is to get you to buy something.  While this is good, this isn’t for everyone.  We try to make sure that the customer’s needs are clearly identified and taken care of, not just put a purchase on credit that may not have been needed in the first place.

Related to this, we often get the question “Should I repair or should I purchase a new computer?”  We make it imperative that the customer think through this as they know their finances better than we do.  We can generally understand where a customer is at in life and make recommend based on that.  We also ask questions that go a little bit deeper than that too.  Let’s dig into this a little bit to understand what questions to ask and why we’re asking.

For repairing we ask the following:

  1. HOW OLD IS THE COMPUTER?

Working in the engineering field for close to 20 years, I’ve seen a phenomenon called Designed Obsolescence.  It’s where you design a product to last so long.  Maybe 2 years, 5 years, 10 years before some failure occurs.  Cars, laptops, TV’s and cell phones all have it.  Most computers are designed to last a couple of years before having some problem.  Sometimes the problem is a fan, screen or some other component.  This is intentional.  The typical warranties last anywhere from 2-3 years, never 5 years.  Most computers don’t typically have problems occur in the first 6 months.  If they did, the manufacturers warranties cover that.  The extended warranties (the ones for 2-3 years) cover that gap but we don’t normally see computers being repaired in that time frame unless there was some accident intentionally or unintentionally caused by the customer.  Guess what, the warranties usually don’t cover things like that, only normal wear and tear.  As an example, a laptop computer has a keyboard suddenly stops working.  If there’s a liquid spill and the repair center finds out about it, forget about your warranty covering it.  Your can also expect to not get your computer back for 4-6 weeks.

Getting back on subject.  If computer equipment (wi-fi routers, laptops, desktops and tablets all fall under this description) is approaching the five+ year mark you should probably start looking for sales on a replacement and data backup if needed.  We do more data recovery on 5-year-old equipment than any other variable influencing a repair.  3 years old?  You’re past the typical purchased warranty add-ons but you’ve still got a bit of life left in the computer.  The repair is probably worth it.

  1. WHAT PROGRAMS DO YOU HAVE?

We see customers with all sorts of different programs.  Architects, engineers, photographers and students are probably the customers with the most expensive programs on their computers.  Some of these programs will exceed the cost of the laptop itself.  We see other customers with nothing more than a word processor program and some way of checking Facebook.  We try to be very mindful of the customer and the cost to repair.  In the first group, it becomes very critical to repair and cost is usually not an issue as they are losing money or not able to finish an assignment while the computer is down.  In the second group, a repair becomes cost prohibitive as the laptop is not worth repairing and a $200-400 dollar laptop do everything they were doing before.  Coupling that with question 1 (How old is the computer?); if it is approaching the 5 year mark then it definitely doesn’t make sense to repair.  We get questions from other customers that are in between the power users (engineers, photographers, etc.) and the casual user and we address the situation on a case by case basis.  Keep in mind on a new computer that you will likely have to purchase Microsoft Office, Antivirus and data transfer (external hard drive or computer service) and you can easily add $300-400 to that new computer purchase.

  1. WHAT WILL YOU BE USING THE COMPUTER FOR?

Much like question 2, if the customer is a power user, gamer, etc. you want to make sure you get the most for your money out of the computer and you want it to perform well.  The casual computer user needs nothing more than a $200-400 computer needs to provide.

  1. HOW MUCH DID YOU ORIGINALLY PAY FOR THE COMPUTER?

The price of tech equipment is coming down considerably.  You can do more than you did 10 years ago and things are getting faster, smaller, etc.  This is about as misleading as it gets.  A $299 laptop from Walmart will never perform the same at the $1999 laptop from the Apple store.  The $299 laptop will likely be seen in our shop sometime within the first 2-3 years provided you didn’t buy the warranty.  We have seen a trend in our repairs.  Typically for every $200 you spend starting at $400 is how many years you’ve gone before having something repaired.  As an example, a $400 computer, you’ve gone 2 years before visiting our repair shop.  Wouldn’t recommend going below that.  $600 purchase.  Well, you’re at about 3 years.  $800 purchase, 4 years.  $1000+, 5 years.  What’s the average repair bill cost?  $175-200.   You are better off spending the money on a $600 computer than a $400 computer and having to visit our shop in a couple of years and paying us the $200 you saved.

Ok, so we’ve went through a few questions regarding buying new versus repairing.  In 90% of the cases we see, the computer is either a high-end computer or the customer is about midway through the life cycle of the computer.  Whatever the situation, 90% of the time it makes more sense from a money point of view to repair the computer versus buying new.  Not to mention the hassle of not having your tech device.  Certainly can’t get away from being connected in today’s world.

I hope this helps in making your decision in buying versus repairing.  Please visit us at www.brmlaptoprepair.com, call/text us at 614-313-9901, email or stop in with any questions.  We’re on Facebook too if you’d like to follow!  Thanks, Ben Martin.

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