(Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images)
(USA TODAY) -- Most people are pretty smart when it comes to buying computers and other tech gear.
use the Internet to research products and compare prices. And when
they're ready to buy, they take advantage of coupon codes and free
shipping offers. But the tech retail jungle is filled with booby traps
that can snare even savvy consumers.
Steer clear of these bad deals and save more of your hard-earned cash.
1. Extended warranties/phone insurance
Extended warranties for computers and electronics can add hundreds of dollars
to the price of your purchase. And they're usually bad investments.
basic manufacturer warranty on most gadgets typically covers a year of
use, which is when repairs are most often needed. Extended warranties
will bring that out to two or three years, but by then most gadgets are
outdated and not worth repairing.
The exception would be an expensive computer that you carry around, like a MacBook.
nightmares of dropping your smartphone keep you up at night, you can
buy yourself peace of mind by self-insuring. Put what you would have
spent on protection into a savings account.
If something goes wrong, pay for the repair out of that fund. If nothing happens, take a vacation!
with your credit card company, too. Buying a gadget with certain cards
can double the length of the manufacturer's warranty at no cost to you.
2. Expensive cables
When you're shelling out big bucks for a high-end LED HDTV and a new Blu-ray player, spending
an extra $100 or more on HDMI cables doesn't seem like a big deal.
However, it's money you don't need to spend.
running digital cable through an entire house, there isn't any
difference between the $10 or less 6-foot digital cable and the pricey
Back in the days of analog A/V, it's true
that more-expensive cables did a better job of shielding the signal from
interference. Digital cables, like HDMI, carry a stream of 1s and 0s.
It either works perfectly or not at all.
Some companies recommend
you purchase their expensive branded adapters when you buy their
products. You can get generic adapters online for less that work just as
3. RAM and hard drive upgrades from computer makers
Most computer manufacturers allow you to customize your computer a bit before
ordering. You might add RAM or switch from a conventional hard drive to a
While convenient, it's less expensive to buy
the base model of the computer and perform your own upgrades. You can
find RAM and SSDs for much less at an electronics store or online than
computer manufacturers charge.
For example, if you order a Mac
mini from the Apple Store and bump the RAM from 4GB to 8GB, Apple will
tack on $100. The RAM itself only costs $60 elsewhere. HP and other PC
makers have similar markups.
A PC maker will charge $300 or more
to put a 256GB SSD in a desktop. A similar drive costs $220 or less
elsewhere. Apple charges $400 to put a 256GB SSD in a non-Retina MacBook
4. Carrier-provided GPS
For an extra $5-$10 per month, wireless carriers will turn your smartphone into a GPS navigation device! Isn't that great?
There's just one catch.
Android phone comes loaded with Google Maps. It's the best navigation
software you can get, with spoken turn-by-turn directions, millions of
points of interest, live traffic information and more. Don't forget it's
iPhones are preloaded with Apple Maps - again, it's free -
which may or may not be good depending on where you live. However, you
can download Google Maps free from the App Store.
Want to try something else? Waze is another very popular free navigation app available for both mobile operating systems.
5. Tablet data plans
If you're on the go quite a bit, a tablet with a cellular connection sounds like a good idea.
you drop more than $100 dollars for the privilege, however, there's an
alternative. Those with a 4G smartphone and a shared data plan from
Verizon or AT&T can share Internet with other gadgets - even a
Enabling Internet sharing on your phone - also known as
tethering - creates a Wi-Fi hotspot for your other gadgets to connect
to. It's great when you need a minute or two to send or receive a file
securely on a laptop or tablet.
That's better than spending $10-$20 every month for a tablet data plan or dedicated mobile hotspot.
Be careful, though. Tethering chews up cellular data very quickly and drains your phone battery even quicker.
Android users who aren't on a shared data plan can try third-party tethering apps like FoxFi or Easy Tether.
(Kim Komando, Special for USA TODAY)