Buying a Laptop from Another Country

Mary Gardiner has written a lazyweb post asking about how to solve the problem of laptops being more expensive in Australia than in some other countries. She didn’t post contact details or enable comments on her blog, but that’s OK as this information may be useful to other people.

Some years ago I was living in The Netherlands and discovered that the cheapest Thinkpads were available by US mail-order (which didn’t support shipping to other countries). As I was attending a US conference (the Colorado Software Summit) anyway I decided to get a Thinkpad at that time. So I found an friend in the US who was attending the same conference who was willing to receive the Thinkpad for me. I arranged to have the Thinkpad delivered to his doorstep (he assured me that he lived in a safe neighbourhood) and a couple of weeks afterwards I met him at the conference and received my nice new Thinkpad!

I’m sure that most people who are active on the net can find someone in the US who they would trust to deliver them a package costing >$1000 and finding such a person who attends the same conference as you shouldn’t be too difficult (I’ve done it).

Another way I bought a Thinkpad was that I arranged to have a holiday in London at the same time as the wife of an American who ran a computer store. I met his wife at Heathrow airport and made the final cash payment for the Thinkpad that she delivered. I was worried about a police reaction to seeing a cash sale of a parcel in an airport, but there weren’t any problems…

In terms of warranties on laptops, the Thinkpad warrantee is world-wide. You can quote a serial number of a Thinkpad when arranging the warranty repair and they will tell you which country it was purchased in, but they always cover you. I’ve had many Thinkpad repairs, I wear out keyboards regularly through constant use, and due to the extensive travel and hard wear often other parts wear out too. It’s been pretty rare for me to have a warranty repair in the country where my Thinkpad was purchased and I’ve never had a receipt available. It’s never been a problem, they know from the serial number whether the warranty is valid and take care of everything.

Thinkpad repair (both under IBM and now under Lenovo) also operates when there is no hard drive in the machine. They don’t even ask a question about the lack of a drive, just note that it doesn’t have one.

Update: It has been pointed out to me that importing a laptop without paying tax on it is illegal in most places. But of course if you pay the tax then the total cost will probably be about the same as buying it locally.

7 comments to Buying a Laptop from Another Country

  • Note that when you come back to your “home” country with your brand new laptop, you’re supposed to declare it to the customs, and pay taxes (usually VAT + some other tax).

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, and in theory the same thing applies to people who live in a state with sales tax and buy goods out of state. Good luck with that.

  • etbe

    Anon: you are correct that people don’t tend to get caught about such things. But as the companies that sell laptops have databases tracking where they were sold it wouldn’t be impossible for the tax office to track these things down. So blogging about beating the tax-man in this regard would be a bad idea.

    For the record when I bought Thinkpads in this manner I was living in the Netherlands. I really doubt that the Dutch authorities are going to try and extradite me for this.

  • […] Coker describes (technically) illegal ways to import laptops if you really want to save some […]

  • Are you sure it’s worldwide ? I’m trying to get a lenovo from Canada but it has 3 years of limited warranty. I asked the support if the warranty will be available in Finland and they said no!

    I’d really appreciate any tips ?

  • etbe

    Mohammed: I’ve bought Thinkpads in Australia, the US, and the Netherlands and had them serviced in other countries without any problem. It could be that they have changed their policy or that Canada is different somehow.

    Maybe try buying it in the US if Canada won’t work – it’s not that difficult to get stuff from the US if you are in Canada.

  • I have no idea but I’ve been trying to get any info from the support:

    Just for sharing:
    “The only way to confirm that a model has warranty in Finland, is to take the first 4 digits of the model number and see if it is available on the Lenovo Finland website.
    Systems that begin with 8744 come with a complete international warranty, and will be covered in Finland.

    Seems the only model I’ll get will cost the same amount of money like in Finland. I’ll only get better specs that I won’t use :)