Buying a New Computer? – Not So Fast! How Much Does it Really Cost?

Buying a New Computer? – Not So Fast! How Much Does it Really Cost?


When purchasing a new computer for your business, there are many factors to consider. But before you get to all the details, you should to step back and consider what type of approach your company has towards investing in your IT infrastructure. Specifically, I'm talking about business class vs. consumer class. Comparing these systems side by side, you won't notice many differences on paper (except for the price tag!) However, there are massive differences that most people aren't aware of! In this article, we'll go over many of the differences and break down the cost/benefit of each. Please keep in mind that these decisions should always involve your current IT services company. If you don't have one, consider contacting BrickTech. We offer managed IT services, hourly IT support, and even it consulting project management!

The Big Decision

The biggest decision you'll need to make is how often you want to purchase computers for your organization. Most companies make the decision to purchase computers with either a 2 year lifespan or a 5 year lifespan. In the tech world, we consider the 2 year lifespan computers "consumer class". Some examples of these are Dell Inspiron, Lenovo IdeaPad and HP Pavilion. These laptops typically run between $300 to $800. "Business class" models like Dell's Latitude or HP's EliteBook typically cost about 3-4 times more and are expected to be used for about 5 years.

Quick Answer

As an IT service company in Orlando, Florida, we see this decision being made all the time and we're often asked for our advice. If you'd like the quick answer, save money and reduce your headaches and buy business class! If you're one of those people who want the details, keep reading. Below, I've broken down each of the major considerations between consumer class and business class computers, assigning costs to each.

The Math

Hardware Costs
You can purchase a middle of the line Dell Latitude (business class) laptop for around $1,300. You can also purchase a Dell Inspiron (consumer class) laptop with what appears to be similar specifications for around $400.

Cost per Year
To compare laptops fairly, the costs need to be broken down into the cost per year. Statistically, the Inspiron (consumer class) laptop will have about a 2 year lifespan while the Latitude (business class) has a 5 year lifespan. If you don't believe me, try purchasing an Inspiron with a 5 year warranty. Dell doesn't offer it for a reason. If you break down the price of the computer into cost per year, the Latitude is $260 per year and the Inspiron is $200 per year.

The next step is to look at reliability and loss of productivity. This is difficult to measure and will vary greatly from company to company and user to user. Consider that each time a computer requires replacement, the end user loses 6 hours of productivity. This includes the time spending troubleshooting the problem, requesting a new computer, waiting for the new computer to be delivered and set-up, etc. Now consider this employee produces company $50 per hour for the company. That's $300 in lost time every time the computer is replaced. Keeping with the average lifespan, that's $150 per year for the Inspiron (consumer class) and $60 for the latitude per year.

IT Support
One cost that I am intimately familiar with is the IT support costs for troubleshooting problems. Consumer class computers have a lot more IT problems. Even when the computer is brand new, it takes time for someone to go through the computer and uninstall all of the bloatware that comes with it. Unless you're on a managed IT services plan with unlimited tech support, the cost to support a consumer class computer is about 20% more than a business class computer. This will cost about $360 per year for business class and $430 for consumer class.

Data Loss
One of the most important factors to consider is the potential loss of data. Consider you have an important contract or report saved on your computer and it doesn't get backed up. Even the best backup software can only restore your files if you actually save them. If your computer crashes before you have a chance to save it, it's likely gone forever. Let's give this risk a value of $200 every time the computer is replaced. That's $100 for the Inspiron and $40 for the Latitude per year.

Employee Happiness
Employee happiness is another factor. Companies spend massive amounts of money on benefits and incentives trying to keep their employees content. Did you know that computer problems are considered one of the top stressors at work? Let's give the Inspiron an extra $50 cost per year for the increased stress.

The flexibility of having more reliable IT equipment is a factor not often considered. Let's be honest, most businesses run into cash flow problems from time to time. Even more so for small businesses. The more frequently you need to replace IT equipment, the more likely it will happen at the most inconvenient of times. For this example, we will add $50 per year to the cost of the Inspiron for reduced flexibility

Company Image
The last factor that should be considered is your company image. What do you think about a sales person who comes to your office and can't give an adequate presentation because of technology problems. What about when you call a company to make an appointment and their computer systems are so slow it takes 20 minutes? Even though this negative perspective might cost a lot more, we're going to assign this risk a value of $50 per year for the consumer class Inspiron and $10 per year for the business class Latitude.


Annual Costs Consumer Business
Cost of Purchase $200 $260
Reliability $150 $60
IT Support $430 $360
Data Loss $100 $40
Employee Happiness $50 $0
Budget Flexibility $50 $0
Company Image $50 $10
Total Annual Cost $1,030 $730


As you can see from our example, you can save approximately 30% (or $300) per year, per computer by using business class computers rather than consumer class! This is why most medium-enterprise level companies only purchase business class computers.

Please keep in mind that these costs are based largely on my opinion and do not reflect your unique organization. Feel free to update these costs as you see fit. If you'd like a more comprehensive analysis of your organization's IT spending, give me a call at (407) 244-4494 or email me at