What good is free Internet if you don’t have a cheap laptop, tablet, or desktop computer to use it with? I guess it was inevitable that Jenny would ask us if we knew how to get low cost computers as well. That’s what this post is all about: the best places to buy a cheap laptop or desktop computer!
Fortunately, there are a few options for obtaining cheap laptops and cheap desktop computers.
Here’s what we’ve found so far. Know something we missed? Let us know in the comments!
Apply for Computers with Causes!
Computers with Causes distributes donated computers to families with a genuine need. They do a strict needs assessment, background check and reference check to eliminate false requests. It can take several weeks for your application to process. They give priority to foster children, disabled veterans and K-12 students in need. Click here to apply!
Apply for The On It Foundation!
The On It Foundation has provided free computers and computer training to low income K-12 students and their families for more than 10 years! “On It” stands for Opportunities Necessary to Increase Technology.
To qualify for a FREE computer, you must have a K-12 student in your household who receives free or reduced student lunches, attends a public school and resides in the United States. Anyone who does not qualify can purchase a low-cost computer through the Jump On It! Program.
To apply, you must write a letter to the On It Foundation and include the student’s name, age, grade, school name, school address and school contact information. It must also include the parent/guardian’s name address, phone number and signature. You will need to include a letter from the school stating that your student participates in the free or reduced cost school lunch program.
You can email the letter to [email protected] or mail it to:
The On It Foundation
Attn: Free Computer Application
18520 NW 67th Avenue Suite 186
Miami, FL 33015
In the event that too many people apply, qualified applicants will be added to a wait list.
Apply for PCs for People!
If your income is below the 200% poverty level OR you’re currently enrolled in an income-based government assistance program (such as food stamps or Medicaid), you may be able to get a cheap computer from PCs for People!
You’ll need to show photo ID, proof of eligibility (such as a dated letter from a government agency confirming your benefits) and/or proof of income. Medicaid cards and EBT cards cannot be used as eligibility documents. You’ll need the actual award letter.
Once you are determined to be eligible, you’ll be able to purchase computers online or visit a PCs for People office. If you visit one of their offices (in Minnesota or Colorado), you can pick up a computer for a donation ranging from $0 to $150. Online, you can purchase desktops starting at $75, laptops starting at $100 or unlimited Internet devices starting at $10/month!
EveryoneOn.org believes that “there is no way to achieve the American dream without being connected to the Internet.” In a world where one in four households lacks home Internet access, EveryoneOn.org connects users with affordable Internet, affordable computers and computer literacy programs.
Using this service is simple. Just visit EveryoneOn.org, enter your zip code, select whatever criteria apply to you (such as low income, SNAP benefits, etc) and see what is available to you in your area!
Blind? Try Computers for the Blind!
Blind users can get a discounted laptop with accessibility software from Computers for Blind. This agency serves all of the United States. They do charge a “processing fee” of $130 per desktop and $185 per laptop. When payment is received, they’ll build the computer and ship it to you. It usually takes 2-3 weeks.
Look for discounted computers (like refurbished laptops or off-leases).
Retailers and manufacturers often sell good machines at a discount. These machines usually include warranties but are discounted for various reasons.
- Refurbished laptops and other machines have been owned previously but were returned due to some sort of malfunction. They’ve been fixed up and are working again… but they’re always sold for less.
- Scratch and dent laptops and other machines have surface damage. They may have scratches, dents or other cosmetic flaws but they still function perfectly. However, they are less attractive so they’re sold for less.
- Corporate off-lease laptops and other machines have been returned following a lease period. Often, companies will lease machines for two to three years and then return them for an upgrade. Refurbished business laptops are often a better quality than other refurbished machines because they were used for business and weren’t returned because of a defect.
Buy used machines from the government.
Government surplus stores can be a great source for used but still functional computers. At our local state surplus store, we can usually snag a decent laptop or desktop computer for $50 or less.
If travelling to your state’s surplus store is not an option, you can still browse sites like GovDeals.com and PropertyRoom.com.
Get a cheap laptop, desktop or tablet from your low income Internet service provider.
If you’ve read our posts about low income Internet programs, you know that some low income Internet service providers also provide access to cheap computers.
Here are some of the deals we’re currently aware of:
- Comcast offers cheap laptops and desktop computers for just $149.99! The computer you receive will be a computer outfitted with Microsoft Office and Norton Security Suite. Get details about the computer specs right here. Payment plans may be available. You can purchase this computer at any time as long as you’re an Internet Essentials customer in good standing.
- CenturyLink offers white, 16 GB Apple iPad Mini 2 tablets for $150 (plus shipping and handling), but the entire price must be paid before shipping and you have to sign a 24 month contract.
Wait for Black Friday or another major discount.
If you really want to buy new, Black Friday is always the best time to buy. However, you can usually get cheap laptops on sale (as well as tablets and desktop computers) just after the back-to-school shopping season ends.
We’ve found local agencies that can help, too!
As you know from our other posts, some of the best help can be found from small agencies in your local communities. That’s true with this post, too. There are many agencies working to close the technology gap for low income households.
Students attending grades K-12 who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) may be able to receive a low-cost computer from Idaho Assistive Technology Project.
Computers for Kids provides low-cost computers for K-12 students. Students can buy a desktop for $65, which can be waived if you are receiving government assistance. Laptops are available for $130 to students in grades 9-12.
College students (grades 13 and 14) can also get assistance from Computers for Kids! If you live in Washington, Oregon or Idaho, you can get a desktop for $185 or a laptop for $250. You will need to provide a student ID.
Seattle and Kenmore are home to Interconnection retail stores. These stores provide low-cost computers and laptops to over 400 low income families each month! In order to qualify, you need to prove that you are low income. Thanks for the tip, Rebecca!
You can prove your low income status in one of three ways:
Bring proof that you receive assistance! They accept SSI, EBT, Medicaid, TANF, GA-U, National School Lunch Program participation and more as proof of low income status.
You can provide proof of address in a predominantly low income area. In this case, they’ll just check your zip code against their database to determine if you’re eligible.
Of course, you can also prove that your income is below 80% of the area median income. You can do this by providing pay stubs or tax documents.
They also provide low income internet service for just $11.95 per month through their Mobile Citizen Internet Package (which operates on the Sprint network).