Computer Shopping At Costco

Pros and Cons of Shopping at the Warehouse Retailer

A customer looks at a display of laptop computers at a Costco warehouse store July 13, 2007 in Richmond, California.
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While Costco may be best known for its bulk food items, they also have a very large electronics department that specializes in televisions and even computers. With the promise of lower pricing, many may consider purchasing a computer from the retailer but is it a good idea? This article looks at the good and bad aspects of buying a personal computer through the popular retailer.

Membership Required

In order to purchase products through Costco, there is a requirement that you be a member of the retailer. They use this as a way to help offset some of the discounts they use and restrict the number of people who shop at the store. The basic membership is not very much at just $55. If you shop for a large number of items at the store, it is very easy to recoup the cost in the savings on purchases. If you only intend to purchase a computer through them, membership costs may outstrip the savings generated by buying the computer through them.

There is a way to get around the membership requirement to purchase products at Costco stores. If you happen to know a Costco member, you can have them purchase a Costco Cash Card. This is essentially like any retailer gift card. It can be loaded with anywhere from $25 to $1000. Non-members can then use this to make their purchase. Don't worry if you do not have a full balance on the card to purchase a computer system. It is possible to make up the difference via any of Costco's accepted payment methods. Non-members also cannot add more money to the Cash Card balance.

Costco also makes some of their items through their online website to the general public. The site is very good about listing items with a price or an icon noting that you have to log in with your membership to view the price and purchase. Of course, the best offers are general member only.

Limited Selection

One of the primary methods that Costco uses to help keep their costs down is to limit the number of items they sell. By offering a limited selection, they can get larger bulk discounts from the manufacturers. To give an example of how few items they offer, a recent visit to a local Costco store only had four desktops, eight laptops and two monitors available for purchase. This is far less than you will find from a retailer like Best Buy and even many office supply stores.

Those willing to shop online will be offered a wider variety of items. Their online offerings offer roughly five times as many products as the physical stores. In an interesting twist, a number of the items that can be found in the stores cannot be purchased online. As a result, it is best to check both the physical stores and online before selecting a computer.

Variable Pricing

Consumers will just assume that for the most part that the computers offered by Costco will be less expensive than can be found at other retailers. For the most part, this is true but not in every case. In particular, people looking to purchase an entry-level tablet will likely find identical or similar models from other retailers for the same and even possibly less than what Costco is offering. Some desktop models available online are no different in price than ordering them directly from the manufacturers.

While some computers may not be a better value, there are still some great deals to be found at Costco. Most of their best pricing can be found in the moderately priced systems. Most budget oriented items like low-cost laptops have such thin margins that the manufacturers are unable to offer much of a discount to Costco to be passed onto their members. The key to buying a PC from Costco like any other retail is to do your research ahead of time to make sure that you are getting a good price.

Incredible Return Policy

Costco has always been known for its incredibly lenient return policy. Until a few years ago, members were able to return products years after their purchase if they were unhappy with the product for just about any reason. Unfortunately, a number of members were starting to abuse this policy as a means to continually upgrade items such as televisions every couple of years. Because of this, they tightened their electronics return policy.

Costco's new return policy allows for the return of electronics within 90 days for a full refund including shipping on online orders returned to retail stores. Even though this is far more restrictive than their original policy, it is still extremely lenient in the electronics world. This alone is a major reason for many buyers to elect to purchase a PC from Costco. It is a great way to test out a possible machine and if it doesn't work out, return it for another model that may work out.

In addition to their return policy, Costco also offers to extend the warranty of most electronics beyond the basic manufacturer warranties. This is part of their Concierge Program provided to members. It includes the extension of warranties to a full two years from the date of purchase and a special tech support service that members can call for assistance with setup and troubleshooting of products.


Should you buy a PC from Costco? The answer really depends on what you are looking to get. In terms of selection or options or pricing, Costco isn't always the best option available. What really sets Costco apart from other places to buy a computer is the return policy, extended warranty, and free tech support. This is very useful to those who might not be as comfortable with computers and technology. Those who are very familiar with computer technology and are willing to search out deals might be better served by other retailers.​