When you’re about to buy a new gadget or computer, you have to make a ton of decisions – decisions that could end up costing you way too much. So what are the worst tech rip-offs – and how can you avoid them?
Rip-off #1: Buying from the Carrier
Buying a new phone poses lots of questions – starting with: where should you get your new device? The cell service providers would love you to believe that if you buy from them, you’ll get an amazing package deal. They’d also love you to believe that you HAVE to get your phone from them. You don’t. As long as the type of phone is supported by the service provider you choose, you can often save a significant percentage by buying the device from a third party site like Amazon Wireless or Wirefly. Just as an example, I recently found the HTC EVO 4G LTE for $30 on Wirefly, while the carrier wanted $100 bucks on for the exact same phone. Likewise, I found the Samsung Galaxy SIII listed for $200 with the carrier, the same day it was being offered by Amazon Wireless for $70. Note that in both of these examples, I made apples-to-apples comparisons – same phone, same service plan on the same carrier, and equally easy to set up. But speaking of apples, you may not be able to find an iPhone on these sites. So while these third-party cell phone sellers may not have deals on every phone, if you are in the market for an Android, Blackberry or Windows phone, shop around.
Rip-off #2: Software to Speed Up Your PC
Ads and infomercials promise to “keep your PC running like new.” But is that worth $30? Many of these programs will tweak a few settings and get rid of remnant files, but you can accomplish most of these simple fixes with the built-in Windows tools. Further, by installing the speed-up software, or any other program, you bog down your system even more. Bottom line, no software can make a 5-year-old computer run like new.
Rip-off #3: Extra Phone Services
When setting up your new phone service, for the most part, say no to all the extras:
· Insurance: No. The accountants at the phone company have done the math: If they plan to make money selling you insurance, chances are, you’ll lose money by buying it.
· Ring tones and ring-back tones: Again, no. You can make your own for free.
· Navigation services: if you have a smartphone, navigation software comes included. Google maps and the IOS native mapping service both offer turn-by-turn directions. No need to spend between $3 and $10 a month for something you can get for free.
Rip-off #4 Extra Computer Services
When you decide to buy that new computer, all kinds of offers will fly your way:
· Extended warranty: This is just like the insurance case above; manufacturers make money selling extended warranties because most people don’t actually need them.
· Extra tech support: Maybe if you’re a complete novice who has never owned a computer before, this would be worth it. But chances are, you’re currently on a computer you’ve used a lot, and you’ll be fine without paying for this extra.
· CD in the mail ofsoftware you will download or that comes preinstalled?? That’s just ridiculous. Once you download the software, burn a DVD with the files if you want a back-up copy.
Rip-off #5 Extra Hard Drive Space
When you buy a new laptop, you may think you should load up on internal hard drive storage. But adding 500 GB of internal storage on a new Mac laptop costs an extra $200; on a PC it costs over $80. On the other hand, if you buy a 500 GB external drive, it’s only $59. Plus, if you’re thinking of getting more hard drive space now because you might need more storage for all your photos and movies sometime in the future, that’s all the more reason not to buy more storage space now; prices will only drop. So unless you are doing super fast computing that mandates really fast access to a lot of data, wait, and buy an external drive when you really need it.
[Related: What Not to Buy Now]