Costco Computers: Pros & Cons of Buying PCs from Costco

Should you buy a computer from 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, the company also boasts of a large electronics department that specializes in televisions and even computers and laptops.

Costco Membership Required

You must purchase a membership with a yearly fee before you can buy from Costco. This approach helps the company offset some of the discounts it offers and manage the number of people who shop at the store. The basic membership is affordable at $60 per year. If you shop regularly from Costco, it is easy to recoup the membership cost through the savings on purchases. However, if you only intend to purchase a computer through them, there's a chance the membership cost may exceed the savings on the price of the computer. You'll want to compare prices between Costco and other retailers, and factor in that membership cost.

Costco online ordering offers many items through the company's website to the general public. The site is good about listing items with an icon or tag noting that you have to log in with your membership to view the price and purchase the item. Of course, the best offers for members only.

Limited Selection of Costco Computers

One of the primary methods that Costco uses to help keep costs down is to limit the number of items the company sells. By offering a limited selection, Costco earns a larger bulk discount from manufacturers. This includes the computers the company offers.

People willing to shop online will be offered a wider variety of items. The online store offers roughly five times as many products as the physical stores. Some items that are available in Costco stores cannot be purchased online. It is best to check both the physical stores and online before selecting a computer.

It's also worth noting that Costco computer, laptop, and tablet brands may change from time to time, so don't expect to see the same offerings each time you visit the store or the website.

Costco's Pricing May Not Always Be the Best

Consumers often assume that Costco computers will be less expensive than the same machines at other retailers, but this isn't always true. In particular, an entry-level tablet may have an identical or similar price compared to competitors. Some desktop models available online are no different in price than ordering them directly from the manufacturers.

While some Costco computers may not be a better value, there are still some great deals to be found. Most of the best pricing covers moderately priced systems. Many budget-oriented items like low-cost laptops have such thin margins that the manufacturers are unable to offer much of a discount to Costco that they can then pass on to their members.

Costco-only Products and Bundles

Some products and product bundles can only be found at Costco. For example, Google Wi-Fi mesh networking products generally sell as single units or in sets of three units in most stores; Costco offers a four-unit pack at a price slightly more than the three-pack.

For computers, check Costco for bundles that include accessories. Also look at the offered specifications on computers, such as storage space, memory, CPU speed, and other details to see if there might be variations between Costco-only models and the models found at other retailers.

Costco Electronics 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.

Costco's new return policy allows for the return of electronics within 90 days for a full refund, including shipping for online orders returned to retail stores. Even though this standard is far more restrictive than the company's original policy, it is still extremely favorable in the electronics market.

In addition to its return policy, Costco also offers to extend the warranty of most electronics beyond the basic manufacturer warranties. This benefit is part of the Costco 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.

Conclusions

Costco isn't always the best price available, but the company is competitive and you can sometimes find an amazing deal. What really sets Costco apart from other places that advertise incredibly low prices is the confidence you'll have knowing Costco will stand by the products it sells through its return policy, and the extended warranties and free tech support the company offers.