Is Building a PC Really Cheaper than Buying One?

Is It Cheaper to Build Your Own Computer?

If you plan to get a new PC, you have two choices: building a PC or buying a PC. The problem is that you don’t know which method can help you save money while not degrading PC performance.

Is it cheaper to build your own computer? Some people may tell you that building a PC is cheaper than buying a PC. Actually, it depends.

If your budget is not high or you don’t have a lot of specific needs, buying a PC is a good deal. The reasons are as follows:

  • PC manufacturers have the power of buying in bulk that you’ll never have.
  • A pre-built machine usually comes with a copy of Windows (usually $100), a mouse, keyboard, and often even a monitor or speakers.

Due to the above two reasons, if you plan to buy a low-end PC that for web browsing, Microsoft Office, and other low-powered tasks, buying a PC is cheaper than building a PC.

On the other hand, if you have higher price points and more specialized needs, building a PC may be a good choice. The reasons are follows:

  • If you plan to build a PC, you can spend less money on unimportant devices and spend more money on important devices. For example, when building a gaming PC, you can skip the hyperthreaded CPU and put more money toward a better video card.
  • When you build a PC, you can re-use certain components of your old PC.
  • If the PC you build can’t meet your needs, you can upgrade it by replacing some components.

9 Necessary Things to Consider When Buying a Computer

FAQs

Here are some common questions we are asked before building a PC.

How much can you save by building your computer?

There is no significant difference in the cost. You will be able to save $50 to $100. The amount depends on how worthy devices you picked to maintain the quality.

Should I buy a laptop or build a PC?

Building a PC will give you some facilities such as upgrading and changing parts when you need them. The most important thing is controlling and optimizing.

If you are not familiar with the pieces, I suggest buying a new one.

Learn More On Windows: What happens if you turn off computer during windows update

Video

Best Cheap Gaming PC Build Under $200

Unfortunately, at this range, finding a decent gaming PC can be an incredible challenge.

It’s impossible to find a new-prebuilt system at the $200 price point. Finding a used $200 PC in your area on Craigslist is possibl but the age and condition of the system are likely not great…or guaranteed. And that's if there are any results for this price.

However, if you’re willing to make compromises on certain aspects of performance, a usable machine can be built for incredibly low prices.

The main costs of our cheapest gaming PC in the $200 range are focused mainly on the CPU/APU & the motherboard, which take over 50% of the budget.

Buying a PC Is it Cheaper?

You will get a warranty and support

One of the biggest points in favor of buying a PC is the ability to just send off the PC if there’s any problem with it.

You don’t have to know or do anything and the manufacturer will take care of everything.

As I outlined above, it can be a bit of a double-edged sword, but it’s hard to disregard the ease of just having someone else take care of your problems for free.

Main Benefits:

  • You don’t have to bother with any troubleshooting. The manufacturer will take care of everything for you.

It will be more convenient

Building your own PC can be quite inconvenient.

There’s quite a bit that goes into it.

It’s easy enough to do if you have the time, but it can’t be denied that building your own PC will never match the convenience of just buying a prebuilt PC that’s ready to go instantly.

Even more so if your PC is critical to your work.

If you have to wait around a while to get a PC, you might not be able to do your work, which will definitely cost you money.

Main Benefits:

  • You don’t have to wait around if you just buy a PC.
  • If your work is reliant on your PC, it might be more economical for you to go with the faster, more convenient option.

It can be a lot cheaper if you want a low-end PC

One of the places that pre-builts shine is when it comes to low-end PCs.

There are tons of lower-end, sub $300 PCs out there that you can just buy off the shelf and use instantly.

Now, would I ever recommend you do this? No, absolutely not.

These are the lowest quality computers you can imagine made with bargain bins and proprietary parts.

But if you really, really need a PC now, and you don’t have the money to spend on something better, they can come in handy.

Main Benefits:

  • If you absolutely need a PC for work or something similar, a cheap prebuilt PC can come in handy.

You can potentially get it for cheaper due to the current global situation (2020 – 2022)

One of the biggest reasons that prebuilt PCs have been given the limelight is because of the global hardware shortages, crypto booms, and “scalpocalypses”.

The price of hardware, especially GPUs has gone up 2 – 3 times what it should be.

All of this has made it pretty much impossible for your average Joe to get hardware at the price they were originally supposed to be at.

The keyword being average Joe.

Again, large manufacturers haven’t been affected as much by this as the PC component sector.

This is because they order parts in bulk and get discounts for them.

Allowing them to get it for cheaper than you ever could.

This also gives them the unique opportunity to sell you PCs at a lower cost than they could before.

Even with the labor costs, markup, and everything else, some pre-builts come out to be cheaper than getting those parts individually and building the PC yourself—which was the exact opposite just a couple of years back.

Now, not all pre-builts are going to be like this. Some of them will still cost more than if you had just built the thing yourself.

But, if money’s tight, during shortages is a

But, if money’s tight, during shortages is a great time to peruse prebuilt PC sites to see if you can score a PC for cheaper than you can build it.

Main Benefits:

  • Because of global shortages, you can potentially get a prebuilt PC for cheaper than if you buy the parts individually.

You might get bad parts

One of the biggest reasons that people campaign against getting pre-builts (from companies like Dell, HP, etc) is because of the way they cut costs.

By using lower quality parts for the non-critical components and ordering these in bulk, these sorts of monolithic companies can cut costs massively.

But because of that, you might get a machine that has gimped cooling potential or a dangerously shoddy power supply, or lower quality storage.

However, if you’re buying your PC from a company that specializes in building PCs such as Maingear, Origin, or Pugetsystems, you’re less likely to run into these sorts of issues.

But the chance is sadly never zero—unless you pick

But the chance is sadly never zero—unless you pick out all the parts yourself, but at that point, creating your own PC isn’t that much more work.

Main Drawbacks:

  • You might get bad parts that don’t perform as well because of how some manufacturers gimp the cooling of parts by using substandard cooling solutions.
  • You’ll have a harder time changing anything by yourself if you want to because of proprietary parts.
  • If the manufacturer cheaps out on something like the PSU of a PC, it could become a very real fire hazard as well.

You will have to pay more for labor and the manufacturer’s markup

No manufacturer sells anything at the price they buy them at.

They’ll factor in labor costs and add a nice markup on top of that to make a profit off of what they sell.

This can add quite a pretty penny on top of everything and this can be anywhere from 50 to 250+ dollars.

Main Drawbacks:

  • Compared to a similarly specced machine that you build a PC yourself, you might have to pay more for assembly and manufacturer’s markup if you buy a PC instead.

You will have to wait for weeks for repairs if there’s even a minor problem with the computer

Sometimes PCs can act erratically. That’s just how computers are.

And unless you know your way around a computer enough to troubleshoot and fix the problem yourself, you will have to send your PC back to the manufacturer to get it fixed.

This might sound like a pretty good thing on the surface.

But the fact is that a large majority of issues faced by PCs aren’t all that hard to fix by yourself, you just need a little know-how.

And if your PC is critical to your work, you having to send the PC out to get repaired—a process that can take a couple of weeks—will mean that you won’t be able to work for that entire time—which will definitely lose you money.

Main Drawbacks:

  • If there’s a problem with the PC and you don’t know how to fix it, you will have to send it back to get fixed and this can take a long time.
  • However, this doesn’t apply to you if you know your way around a PC.

Conclusion

Hopefully, that explained everything you need to know about the cost of building a PC vs buying one.

The gist of it all is that, if you want a basic computer of general needs and you don’t want to spend a lot of money:

Buy a PC.

If you want a more focused PC that you will use for resource-intensive tasks like gaming, 3D work, simulations, etc.

Build a PC.

Build a PC.

And if you have a more niche use and you’re still not sure what you want to do, head on over to our forums and ask whatever you want and we’ll be happy to help.

Build The Best Budget Gaming PC Under $600

This is the price point where we can start to get some more performance for great games. As always, we have two paths for you to choose from at this price point.

We really excited about the upgrade later build, as it has the newest 3400G from AMD. If you want even more options, we have written a dedicated page for our $600 Gaming PC build.

Cons of Buying a PC:

Less Customization

The prebuilt PCs come in many different configurations. Those days are gone when the user needs a huge amount of money on a PC or go for the cheap prebuilt PC. The vast list of components makes it, so there are several PC models to select from in the market. In many cases, it is not likely to tailor all the components as per your requirements.

Expensive due to manufacturer overhead

Building your PC takes knowledge and time. Not everybody has time to sit down; parts scattered everywhere, and start building. It depends on the setup; it may take many hours to get the setup up and start working. It takes a lot of time to assemble too. Also, cable management can be one tricky task, which will lead to harm than good when an inexperienced person is handling.

The assembly works come in the form of the premium in building PCs. And the manufacturer will take care of it so that you do not need to. But, they add assembly costs to your bill that will significantly improve the final cost of your PC.

Void the warranty when upgrading to your prebuilt system 

When you tamper with the hardware components of the prebuilt PC can void the warranty. Thus, there’s not any freedom to disassemble, customize, and manipulate various components without forfeiting the manufacturer’s support.

Moreover, it is just impossible to do any upgrades on your computer without even sacrificing its warranty. But, it all depends on it makes, it can take many years for a PC to need an upgrade, by that time warranty will get expired. But, when we talk about prebuilt PC’s, everything, whether it is opening up or cleaning its components, will result in voiding its warranty.

Pros

  • Single contact point for any support problems.
  • Warranties.
  • The software comes pre-loaded.
  • No trouble with software and hardware compatibility.

Cons 

  • Not much customization is available.
  • Much higher in the cost.
  • Not very good familiarity with the internal components.

SSD

(Image credit: WD)

WD_Black SN770 500GB

Deent capacity and low cost makes the SN770 a winner

Capacity: 500GB | Interface: M.2 PCIe Gen4 x4 | Sequential IO: 5000/4000MB/s read/write | Random IO: 460K/800K IOPS read/write

Decent capacityGen4 without breaking the bank Easy installationYou might use up 500GB pretty quick

1TB is tempting

You can’t have a PC without storage, and you’re going to need space for your OS as well as whatever games you want to keep on hand. Thankfully, with memory and SSD prices dropping in pretty rapid order, we’ve finally found a way to slot an M.2 SSD into our budget build. Not only are M.2 NVMe SSDs easier to install, but they offer better performance than their SATA counterparts. And when you get 500GB for so little nowadays WD_Black drive is great value.

This drive isn’t exactly what anyone would call the top-of-the-line performance, but this is still one of the best SSDs for gaming if you’re on a budget. Definitely one of the best ways into PCIe 4.0 performance.

You just might want to upgrade to a larger model someday. Luckily, that ASRock B660M motherboard has space for a few SSDs, and at least one at PCIe 4.0 speeds, so you could add a larger, cheaper PCIe 3.0 drive to your PC with ease at a later date.

How Much Does the Cheapest Gaming PC Cost

To play modern PC games, you are going to need to spend at least $800 to get the most use out of your gaming PC. That being said, if you goal is not to play the latest releases, and instead indulge in some nostalgia, then you may be able to get away with spending $400.

At $400 of course, you are still spending more than a regular game console and not even able to play new games. We would recommend against investing in a gaming PC unless your willing to put down at least $800. The benefits of the extra money compared to a gaming console is the customizability and superior game play experience. There is little point in spending a lot of money ($400) and not even being able to enjoy the main benefits.

Case

(Image credit: Corsair)

Corsair Carbide Series 100R

Understated and attractive

Type: ATX mid-tower | Motherboard Compatibility: ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX | Drive Bays: 2x 3.5-inch internal, 4x 2.5-inch SSD | Front Ports: 2x USB 3.0, Audio | Max GPU Length: 414mm | Dimensions: 471mm x 200mm x 430mm | Weight: 4.8 kg

Does what you needInterchangeable SSD/HDD traysLacks the latest bells and whistles

Somewhat unexciting to look at

Buy it now

(Image credit: ABS) Your best chance of getting hold of the best graphics cards and CPUs right now is to buy one of the best gaming PCs or best gaming laptops.

Cases can be extremely subjective, and while it’s easy to spend more than this, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better one for less. We’ve settled on this relatively spacious and inexpensive case from Corsair, which is something of a go-to for us when we consider cheaper cases. It lacks many of the bells and whistles that a more expensive case can provide, but it gets the job done without cutting too many corners.

This Corsair model is getting on a bit now, but it’s still worth looking at as it’s so cheap.

There is a certain temptation to max out your budget on a pretty looking case, but it’s important to remember this piece of your build will have no impact on performance than the other stuff you should be spending money on. Buy something that does what you need it to do and is easy to work with. 

Or go ahead and make a fashion statement; just don’t expect higher framerates.

Build Your Own PC

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For Gaming, Overclocking and Other More Focused Needs: Build

Once you get into higher price points and more spe

Once you get into higher price points and more specialised needs though, the game shifts a little bit. Many gaming-focused desktops, like Alienware machines, are actually very overpriced. You can build a comparable computer yourself for significantly less.

Plus, if you’re building a more enthusiast PC, chances are you have more specific needs, which means you can build the perfect PC for you. If you’re gaming, you can skip the hyperthreaded CPU and put more money toward a better video card. If you want to get more bang for your buck through overclocking, you can pick a motherboard that lets you do so, rather than buy a locked-down, pre-built PC.

Lastly, when you build, you can upgrade more of the components and re-use certain components in your next computer (like the case and power supply) — that isn’t always possible with a pre-built machine as they sometimes use proprietary parts. So, over time, you may save some money depending on how often you upgrade and which parts you can save. This varies from person to person.

Is buying a gaming pc worth it?

While buying a prebuilt PC is easier on the wallet nowadays, the ultimate deciding factor is the user’s expectations. Specifically, what they seek to achieve with a gaming PC will determine how to proceed when looking to acquire one. If the user expects the best cost-to-performance ratio, then it’s possible to find many pre-built machines for this purpose. However, if seeking the absolute best performance, then it’s usually better to build a gaming PC from scratch.

Nevertheless, each method of acquiring a gaming PC comes with its own pros and cons. We will discuss each of these aspects in the following section.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Prebuilt PC

No time spent on assembly

Purchasing a pre-built computer is as easy and convenient as browsing for the desired model, and placing the order. The manufacturers handles everything from assembly and testing, to shipping and handling. Once the prebuilt computer arrives at the doorstep, it’s essentially plug-and-play: It comes ready out of the box, with an operating system and all related software installed, and is usable as soon as it’s hooked up.

Parts are already compatible

Similarly, the user will never have to worry about component compatibility when buying a prebuilt PC. It’s not even possible to make a mistake in this aspect as these computers come already assembled and properly tested.

Warranty if something goes wrong

Unlike when building your own gaming PC, you have full support from the manufacturer when you buy a prebuilt computer. If something goes wrong, or if a component gets damaged in shipping, you may contact the manufacturer for a replacement.

Less customization

Prebuilt gaming PCs, while prohibitively expensive in the past, currently come in a wide variety of configurations. Gone are the days when the user had to invest thousands of dollars on a gaming PC, or settle for a cheap prebuilt work computer. The vast repertoire of components available makes it so that there are many models to choose from on the market. However, when it comes to prebuilt computers, what you see is what you get. In many cases, it’s not possible to tailor the components to your exact requirements.

More expensive because of manufacturer overhead

Building a computer takes time and knowledge. Not everyone can sit down, parts scattered on the table, and get to building. Depending on your setup, it might take several hours—if not more than a day—to get your setup up and running. Need an aftermarket water cooling solution for your powerful CPU? That takes time to assemble as well. Additionally, cable management is a tricky task that can lead to more harm than good in inexperienced hands.

All of these assembly tasks come in the form of a premium in prebuilt PCs. The manufacturer does all the dirty work so you don’t have to. However, they also add assembly expenses to the bill, which can sometimes significantly increase the final price of the PC.

Could void the warranty by altering or upgrading the prebuilt PC

Tampering with the hardware of a prebuilt computer in any way will usually result in voiding its warranty. In this regard, there is no freedom to customize, disassemble, or otherwise manipulate the components without potentially forfeiting manufacturer support.

Furthermore, it’s impossible to perform upgrades on the computer without sacrificing the warranty. However, depending on the build, it may take years for the PC to require an upgrade, by which point the warranty will be expired, anyway. When it comes to prebuilt computers, everything short of opening it up to clean the components might result in voiding the warranty

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