Once you decide what you want, shop around for a good price. Because Apple tightly controls how much stores can charge for most of its products, you won’t find much, if any, store-to-store price variation on its computers unless you buy used. You’ll also find modest store-to-store price variation for many software titles.

For most other computer devices, if you compare performance, features, and prices offered by several manufacturers, you’ll find that prices vary considerably for similar setups from well-known brands. And even when comparing stores’ prices for devices configured with the exact same screens, hard drives, processors, memory, etc., you’ll likely encounter substantial price differences.

Checkbook’s undercover shoppers collected prices for 33 carefully specified and configured devices from a sample of sellers. We used the prices collected by our undercover shoppers to calculate price comparison scores, which are reported on the table below. These scores show how each retailer’s prices compared to the average prices quoted by other surveyed stores for the same mix of items. A price comparison score of $105, for example, means that prices at this store were, on average, five percent above the average for the same items for all surveyed stores.

Our price comparison scores indicate that some retailers, on average, charge as much as 20 percent more than their competitors. In our survey, the lowest prices were offered by Amazon ($88) and shopping bots NexTag ($88), Google Shopping ($89), and Yahoo! Shopping ($91). Costco ($93) also had low prices for its limited offerings. On average, the highest prices among stores we surveyed were offered by Overstock ($112), Zones ($112), and hhgregg ($111).

Which Stores Offer the Lowest Prices?*

Checkbook’s price comparison score
Amazon $88
NexTag $88
Google Shopping $89
Yahoo! Shopping $91
Costco $93
B&H Photo Video $94
Best Buy $96
BJs $96
Newegg $96
Walmart $97
Micro Center $98
Office Depot OfficeMax $99
Abt $100
Sam's Club $101
Staples $103
Target $103
PCMall/MacMall $104
CDW $105
Fry's Electronics $105
PC Connection $107
TigerDirect $108
Dell $110
hhgregg $111
Overstock $112
Zones $112
* This score is intended to suggest the price a customer might expect to pay for computers and peripherals that would cost $100 at the “average” store. A score of $105, for example, means that prices at this store were, on average, five percent above the average for the same items for all surveyed stores. The basis for the score is prices collected from companies’ websites for up to 33 items.

On the table below, we report the highest and lowest prices for several of the products. As you can see, we found big store-to-store price differences for most of the items. For example, prices ranged from $799 to $1,289 for a Dell Inspiron 17 5000 laptop; from $1,260 to $1,999 for a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga laptop; and from $550 to $765 for an Apple iPad Pro.

Our Undercover Shoppers Found Big Price
Differences for Computers and Peripherals

Product Low price Average price High price
Acer Swift 7 laptop with 13.3" screen, 256GB solid-state storage, Intel Core i5-7Y54 processor, and 8GB of memory $897 $977 $1,100
Apple iPad Pro with 9.7" screen and 128GB solid-state storage $550 $667 $765
Dell Inspiron 17 5000 laptop with 17.3" screen, 2TB of storage, Intel Core i7-7500U processor, and 16GB of memory $799 $929 $1,289
Galaxy Tab S2 with 8" screen, 32GB solid-state storage, and 3GB of memory $299 $367 $451
HP Pavilion desktop with 1TB storage, Intel Core i3-6100T processor, and 8GB of memory $430 $449 $484
HP Zbook 17 G3 laptop with 17.3" screen, 512GB solid-state storage, Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, and 16GB of memory $2,149 $2,301 $2,517
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga laptop with 14" touchscreen, 256GB solid-state storage, Intel Core i7-6500U processor, and 8GB of memory $1,260 $1,707 $1,999
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 with 12.3" touchscreen and 256GB solid-state storage $900 $1,113 $1,326
Samsung Notebook 9 with 15.6" screen, 256GB solid-state storage, Intel Core i7-6500U processor, and 8GB of memory $870 $934 $1,000
Canon PIXMA MX922 printer $73 $125 $207
HP Officejet Pro 8710 printer $104 $137 $283
Logitech MK520 wireless keyboard & mouse $30 $47 $87
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 wireless router $157 $173 $205

If a store gives you great advice but you find a much better price elsewhere, before skipping out on the sale give the helpful store a chance to match its competitor’s price, or at least try to match it. As we have previously reported, many stores have little-known price-matching policies that are easy for consumers to trigger—you just ask. If a store won’t match a lower price you found elsewhere, think about whether you want to spend more for better service. After all, a store that has been helpful through the buying process is likely—though no sure bet—to help you if problems arise once you get your newfangled technomachine home.

At checkout, most retailers will urge you to buy an extended warranty on your computer-related purchase that usually extends your warranty for an additional one to four years. Extended warranties are profitable for the stores, and salespeople get a piece of the action, too. We recommend against buying them, unless paying to repair or replace your device would be a financial catastrophe. Many buyers get extended warranties for free and don’t know it. Lots of credit card companies double the length of manufacturers’ warranties when you pay with their cards. Some stores—including BJ’s, Costco, and Sam’s Club—also automatically provide double warranties when you buy electronics from them.