The internet is an essential tool for the majority of the population, but one problem that many will encounter when trying to get connected is finding an affordable laptop computer. Many products come with steep prices, even when it comes to devices that have lower-quality components and less functionality than their expensive counterparts. It’s not uncommon for the average computer to start at a price point of $600 or more.
The problem? Computers are often a must-have device. If you need a laptop, you have to get one. However, you shouldn’t have to spend thousands of dollars to purchase something that is considered to be a necessity in this day-and-age. So, what is someone in the market for a cheap or free laptop to do?
Best Ways to Get a Cheap/Free Laptop
Free/Cheap Resources for Individuals in Need
This year has been hard on many, to say the least. Between the pandemic and the economic downturn, there are millions of people who are struggling to pay for their monthly essentials, let alone things like laptop computers.
Although times may be difficult, there are some resources available that can help you access the tools you need and provide you with additional aid that can support you as you navigate these uncertain times. The first few recommendations in this guide will direct you to charitable organizations and companies that provide such services. If you believe that this may be of some help to you, let’s dive in!
1. The On It Foundation
It seems that we see children playing with technology at younger and younger ages, and to a certain degree, this is good. After all, our economy relies heavily upon technology (especially in these times), and having the skills and knowledge needed to operate various devices is essential for children as they grow up.
That said, there are many children who live in a household where there are no electronic devices or internet connection. Fortunately, there are organizations like the On It Foundation that are dedicated to helping students gain the access they need to electronics and more. As their mission statement says:
“The On It Foundation’s – (Opportunities Necessary to Increase Technology) mission is dedicated to providing free computers along with computer training and Internet access to low-income families with students in grades K-12 receive a free or reduced school lunch and reside within the United States.”
If the hardships that you are facing are making it hard for you to provide computer access and internet access for your child, this is one organization that may be able to help you receive the support that you need during this time. Additionally, if there are no computers currently available, you will still be added to a waiting list where you will be able to receive one as more devices come in!
Some organizations serve to provide relief to those in need by helping them to connect with the best local resources. One such example of this type of organization is EveryoneOn. Rather than directly giving individuals free computers and internet access, the offer locator tool helps people search for nearby relief resources so that you can find multiple opportunities for your given needs. Some of these opportunities may provide you with free devices and internet access while others may connect you with heavily discounted devices and services.
They also offer free programs and resources in their digital learning center that tackle topics like computer and internet basics, education, health, financial literacy, and employment.
3. PCs for People
PCs for People is another organization that offers discounted products and services to individuals who are living 200 percent below the poverty line or are currently enrolled in an income-based government assistance program. This organization offers a very comprehensive eligibility list that will show those looking for relief exactly what qualifications they will need to meet in order to potentially receive support.
Once you sign up (and are approved), you can either go to a local store or purchase a computer online from them. Generally, these discounted computers will range anywhere from $0 to $150, which is a steal for many of the makes and models that they have to offer.
4. Computer Technology Assistance Corps
The Computer Technology Assistance Corps (CTAC) is an organization that accepts donated computers and wipes their hard drives and fully restores them to provide refurbished computers to those in need on a cost-recovery basis. Those who are looking for support for this organization can accept discounts like $75 for a desktop system (monitor, keyboard, mouse, tower) and $120 (and beyond) for laptops.
Those who wish to apply for a computer must be receiving some form of state or federal aid in order to be eligible. However, if you are not receiving aid but still wish to get a discounted computer, they can provide these services for a somewhat higher fee.
5. Computers With Causes
At Computers With Causes, the motto is “ask and you shall receive”. Rather than taking the same approach as other organizations on this list, signing up is as simple as providing them with your contact information and letting them know your current situation as well as why you need a computer or computers.
Keep in mind, however, that this is a reputable organization and they do extensive background checks in order to make sure that your story is accurate. If they do see that you are in need, you can expect them to reach out to you in a matter of weeks (or, if they do not get to you within 30 days, send another application in).
(Note: they also make you aware that receiving a device from them may have an impact on any current financial aid or assistance programs you may be enrolled in. Keep this in mind when you are searching for a computer.)
6. With Causes
Not to be confused with the above organization, With Causes is a charitable network that provides a host of support and relief to those in need. Although not directly stated on the website, this organization does provide computers and other electronic devices to those who are in need of them.
Where With Causes does share something in common with the previous recommendation is that you will go through a similar application process, providing With Causes with your contact information as well as the situation that you are currently faced with. Should they find that they are able to help you, they will contact you within 30 days. If you do not hear back from them, you can submit another application in an attempt to receive assistance. They also provide you with the warning that accepting a computer may compromise assistance programs you are enrolled in (if applicable).
These are only a few examples of the types of organizations out there that help people gain access to resources like computers and internet service. If you find that the recommendations above may not be the right fit for your situation, make sure to look for other resources in your area as there are far more than what you see above. If you need help, it is most certainly available!
Cheap or Free Laptop Opportunities
Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the resources you may be able to get in contact with if you are struggling at this point in time, let’s dive into some of the potential opportunities at your disposal if you are simply looking to get a better deal on devices that would normally take a substantial amount of money out of your pocket.
7. Look for Local Savings Opportunities
Cheap laptops online aren’t always what they appear to be. The price of your desired computer does not include the price of shipping, any additional sales taxes and fees that you will need to pay, and any additional warranty purchases or devices that you will need to operate your new computer.
Sometimes, the best way to get a true deal on a computer is to look for local laptop sales. In regards to free items, websites like Freecycle show you local items that people are looking to give away, which may just include laptops. If you want to use a platform where laptops are more abundant, scouring local platforms like letgo or Facebook Marketplace can connect you with local sellers offering deals on their used (or sometimes new) electronic goods.
Remember, you don’t always have to go online to get the best deals!
8. Consider Enrolling in a University That Offers Discounted Computer Rates
Although this recommendation may seem counterintuitive at first, those who are already considering going to college can benefit from seeking out one that provides them with discounts for things that they will need to pursue their education. So while this point may exclude others, this could be very beneficial for those just going to school or going back.
But which colleges and universities offer free or cheap laptops? Some institutions worth looking into include:
- Southern New Hampshire University
- Purdue University
- Seton Hill
- Wake Forest
- Full Sail University
- St. John’s University
If you don’t see one of your desired schools listed here, contact those in your area to see whether or not they offer free or discounted laptops as part of an enrollment package.
9. Purchase Cheaper Laptop Alternatives Like a Chromebook
Many basic laptops will start at $500, which may not be reasonable depending upon your needs and budget. However, there are other types of laptops that fall far below this normal price point. Take, for example, the Chromebooks.
Chromebooks are laptops developed by Google that operate on Chrome OS and utilize Google applications. While this provides a much different experience than the average laptop, users can still access the internet, use Google Drive to create and store documents, and, with some devices, install Linux to access apps that may not be available on the web-store. You can generally purchase Chromebooks for around $200, which is very affordable when compared to other laptop options.
However, it is important to know that Chromebooks offer far less performance than the average laptop. They are great for browsing the internet and accomplishing basic tasks, but you cannot expect to keep multiple tabs open or tackle large projects. If you are in need of something simple, a Chromebook will work for you. If you need a powerful laptop that can handle business or school-related tasks, you may want to look elsewhere.
10. Shop at Online Retailers Known for Their Discounted Devices
Shopping directly with computer companies may provide you with the occasional discount, but it doesn’t give you some of the discounts that you can expect to receive with other retailers. That said, knowing where to look for great deals can be hard if you don’t regularly shop with these online tech vendors.
So, where should you shop if you want to get a good deal on a laptop? If you want to pay less for your device, you should consider retailers like Newegg, Amazon, eBay, Overstock.com, and TigerDirect.com. These online vendors often offer better deals than buying direct from the source. Many of these companies also offer benefits like no sales tax and free shipping, which is something that you will very rarely find when you are shopping with the manufacturer.
Before you start shopping with any vendor that offers reduced prices, however, make sure to your research to ensure that you don’t fall victim to a scam. Stick to more well-known vendors as some online stores are designed to rip you off and provide you with nothing of value in return.
11. Shop Refurbished
When you’re shopping on various platforms, you may come across the term “refurbished”. Unless you are someone who regularly buys electronics, this term may be new and confusing to you. What does refurbished mean?
Refurbished basically means that the device on sale is used. Of course, this can be concerning to many who want to make sure that their device is high-quality and won’t break down after being purchased. The good news? Refurbished items are used items that have been restored to near-new condition. These items are also often paired with warranties that will protect you in the event that something does go wrong with the device.
If you are someone who doesn’t mind buying used products, shopping for refurbished computers instead of new ones can give you access to amazing discounts that you simply wouldn’t find when shopping for a new laptop.
12. Subscribe to Tech Companies and Shop When Laptops Are Popular
Have you ever checked your email around the holiday season to find a ton of emails offering you deals on certain goods? Many computer manufacturers offer these same kinds of deals during certain holidays or periods of increased interest like when people are going back-to-school shopping. Although the deals aren’t always as low as we would like them to be, there are sometimes some excellent discounts that make expensive computers more affordable.
Whatever your favorite brand is, make sure to add your email to their subscriber list to get access to those discounts when those deals roll back around. Who knows? You may just land an excellent product at a very affordable price!
Tech is known for being expensive, but that doesn’t mean that it prevents you from getting the products you need at the prices you can afford. Whether you are in the market for a free laptop or one that has been heavily discounted, use the guide above to get some ideas on where you can access these products without breaking the bank!