6 Cheap Ways to Get a Laptop for College
August 28, 2014
Laptop for college

If you can’t afford a laptop for college, check out these tips.
Image source: Flickr CC user Dan Taylor

These days, it’s pretty hard to get through college without a laptop. The problem is that most college students don’t have $500-$2,000 lying around for a new one. If you’re looking to get a computer that actually fits into your budget, check out these six cheap ways to get a laptop for college.

Colleges that Offer Laptops

A lot of colleges nowadays offer laptops for their students to use while they are in school. There are several ways these programs may be set up:

  • The school provides a laptop upon enrollment that you can use through graduation. You get to keep the laptop if you graduate from the school but have to return it if you transfer or drop out.
  • The school provides you with a laptop at a discounted rate that you can pay for with financial aid.
  • The school provides you with a laptop that is considered part of your fees or tuition every year. You still pay for the laptop, but it won’t be all in one lump sum.
  • The school provides you with a laptop to use in school, but you have to return it when you graduate. In many cases, the school will give you an opportunity to buy the laptop after you graduate at a heavily discounted price.

If you are not enrolled in college yet, you could look into colleges that offer laptops to see if there is a school you might be interested in. Many of the colleges and universities that offer these programs are available online, so you can stay where you are and still earn your degree. If you are already enrolled in college, you might contact your school to find out if they offer a laptop program.

Note that with most of these college laptop offers, you will receive free tech support through the school. You may also get a number of helpful programs built into your computer, like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop. Some schools trade out new computers every two years so students can have access to the latest technology on the market. You will have to contact your school of choice to find out how their program works.

Rent-to-Own Laptops

Rent-to-own laptops from Aaron’s, Rent-A-Center, and other stores like them allow you to get the laptop you need for a low monthly payment. Instead of paying full price for a new computer, you can make monthly payments over the course of 12 to 24 months. You still get to use the computer while making the payments, and you get to build your credit along the way.

Disclaimer: Rent-to-own programs usually have high interest rates, so you will be paying much more for the laptop when you finally pay it off. You can utilize the company’s same-as-cash timeframe (usually 60-120 days) to avoid these interest rates, but after that, you are locked into a much higher price for the computer.

Rental Laptops

If you don’t want to go through a rent-to-own program for your laptop, you could simply rent the computer through a local electronics store. Not all stores will offer this option, so you will have to call around to find one near you. Your college or library may also allow you to rent a laptop for a short period of time, either for free or for a small fee. This option works best when you only need a computer for a few hours, not an extensive period of time.


Craigslist is an online classifieds directory that you’re probably familiar with by now. There you can find a wide variety of things to buy for college, like furniture, TVs, mini fridges, and of course, laptops. You may not be able to find a brand new laptop, but you can see if someone is selling a lightly used one in your area. Contact that person through the ad and see if you can make a deal.

Disclaimer: To ensure that you are getting a good deal, make sure you test the laptop thoroughly before you pay for it. Never meet at someone’s house or have them meet at yours. Stay safe by going to a neutral location with a lot of people, like a coffee shop. Also, never send money to someone before receiving the item, especially if your only correspondence is through text or email. You always need to be aware of potential scams on Craigslist.


eBay is an online auction site where you can find just about anything. You can buy both new and used computers on here through auctions or outright purchases. You can contact the sellers through eBay to learn more about the computer if you have any questions beyond the description in the ad. Just note that the total price you pay will include shipping, which should be listed on the ad.

One of the main benefits of buying a computer from eBay is that eBay works hard to protect its customers. If you get a computer in that is not as described, you can contact eBay and file a claim. You may get partial reimbursement from the seller, or you may be asked to send the computer back for a full refund. Either way, you’re more protected than you would be with Craigslist.

Laptop Financing

You can look into laptop financing through a computer brand you like. This will function similarly to a rent-to-own laptop, only you will be making a purchase directly through the company, not a store. For example, you could get a laptop with a Dell Preferred Account where you make monthly payments on a new Dell laptop that’s $499 or higher. Dell is in charge of the loan, and Dell is the company you make payments to.

Disclaimer: Just like with rent-to-own laptops, financed laptops often come with high interest rates. This will depend on your credit and the price of the computer you want. Explore the other options first before deciding to finance your laptop to avoid spending more money than you have to.

If you need a student loan to cover your school supplies, click here to sign up for Tuition.io’s free student loan tool. You can also read our blog to learn more about simple ways to save money in college.