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How to Get the Best Deal on a Laptop for College

To avoid overspending, find out what specs you need and where the discounts will be.

In just a matter of months, your kid will be heading off for another school year. And while actual, bound, paper books are sure to be important, chances are they'll also use technology to learn. As such, they'll probably need a laptop.

Fortunately, there will be no shortage of deals to be had on these machines in the upcoming back-to-school shopping season. Here's how to find the best prices.

A Better Laptop for Your Buck

Last year, we saw prices on laptops reach record lows, with the price for a machine with a 15" screen and a Haswell i5 processor (two generations old at that point, but still a good value) dipping to $330. So can laptop prices go any lower? They can, they have, and they most likely will some more.

This year we've seen machines for as cheap as $300, but with a newer (i.e. better) Broadwell i5 processor. Moreover, we've even already seen current generation Skylake i5 laptops for the same price ($330) that we saw for those Haswell laptops just a year ago.

This summer, you can expect prices to continue to decrease; Skylake i5 machines bottomed out at $449 in 2015, which means they've since dropped by 27%. Such laptops should be sufficient for most students, but you can expect to see even the more powerful i7 machines to decrease in price from their current lows of $550 for current generation Skylake processors and $400 for the previous generation Broadwell i7 laptops.

SEE ALSO: 20 Things NOT to Buy Your College-Bound Student

Where to Shop

You will see back-to-school sales on laptops at most major retailers, but obviously some sales are better than others. Newegg accounted for 20% of our Editors' Choice deals on laptops from June to September in 2015, offering great prices on not only new machines but refurbished laptops, which are another way to make your dollar go further. Best Buy also offered a significant number of Editors' Choice deals on new machines, while its CowBoom branch had an equal number of EC deals on used machines .

Other noteworthy retailers include Microsoft Store, Adorama, and Walmart.

Also be sure to check with manufacturers like Lenovo and Dell who will likely have sales of their own.

When to Buy

You can find sale prices on laptops throughout the summer, however, we saw the greatest number of Editors' Choice deals in August last year. But although September had 4% fewer deals than the previous month, you can anticipate many retailers to make deeper price cuts for Labor Day weekend. For example, Dell Outlet bumped up its discount from 35% the month before to 45% off for the holiday.

Students Get the Best Deals

Especially when it comes to computers and software, students are often able to get the best deals. Apple, Microsoft Store, Best Buy, Dell Home, and Amazon frequently extend special prices to students (and teachers) with a valid .edu email address.

SEE ALSO: 4 Things People Without Kids Should Buy During Back-to-School Sales

The Best Prices on MacBooks Are Not at the Apple Store

Although it may seem counterintuitive, as we've told you many times before, if you want to buy a Mac, don't go to the Apple Store. You will always find a better deal elsewhere, and it's no different when shopping back-to-school sales. Last year, we saw the best Mac deals at Best Buy and B&H Photo and Video, who offered a new MacBook Air for more than $100 less than what Apple was charging for a refurb.

Get a Discount by Trading in Your Old Machine

Unless you are a first-time buyer, chances are you are buying a new laptop to replace an older one. Instead of letting that machine gather dust, get some cash towards your new laptop by trading it in. Microsoft offers a minimum of $200 towards a new Dell laptop priced more than $599 when you trade in your old machine, and Best Buy has a similar program.

So readers, what are you shopping for this Back-to-School season, and what price are you hoping to pay? Let us know in the comments below.

Senior Staff Writer

Stephen has been writing for such national and regional publications as The Village Voice, Paste, The Agit Reader, and The Big Takeover for 20 years, and has been covering consumer electronics and technology for DealNews since 2013.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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1 comment

It's been 3 weeks in Aug but haven't seen any significant drop in laptop prices. The prices more or less has remained the same as it was month or two ago!