Since its launch in 2015, Amazon’s annual Prime Day sale has improved steadily for tech bargain hunters. You can scoop up some genuinely good deals—in fact, last year was the first time you could build a cheap gaming PC using Prime Day finds as the foundation, while filling in the rest of list with offers from rival stores.
But 2020 has upended all regular expectations, including Prime Day’s timing. (Normally, it’s held in July.) Since October 13 and 14 fall so close to Black Friday, a lot of people have asked: Should I buy during Prime Day or wait for November’s sales?
The answer varies—here’s how to figure it out for your situation.
Our general advice is to buy when you need it, at the best price you can get. But for those keen on scoring major savings, ask yourself this series of questions:
1) How soon do you need it?
Urgency plays the biggest role in how fast to spend your cash. Delivery times have improved greatly since the beginning of the pandemic, but it can still take a bit longer for shipments to arrive. Calculate how long you can wait for packages to determine if you want to bite the bullet now or hold out.
2) Do you need a specific model and make?
People with an eye on, say, a particular Sony TV model or Gigabyte Z390 motherboard have to be more conservative about passing up deals. Amazon often says that its best Prime Day offerings are unique, and that can be true for specific items. So if you see the exact Canon camera lens on your wishlist at a steep discount, you’re better off buying now. (Assuming, of course, having one in hand is more important to you than saving the absolute most money possible.)
If you only have general requirements for an item—e.g., you want a 55-inch TV with HDR, or a Z390 motherboard with Wi-Fi—then you have more room to pass up deals that don’t seem quite cheap enough or perfect enough. But even then, you do run the risk of not finding any good deals that meet your criteria. Such is the nature of Prime Day and Black Friday: The spread of deals is eclectic.
3) Can you afford to have paid a little extra?
Related to Question #2, you’ll have to figure out how much you can compromise on your goals. Everyone wants to save as much as possible while getting the precise item desired, but usually you only come semi-close to one goal while maximizing the other. So overall, you have to figure out what matters more—having the exact product you want, or saving as much money as possible.
4) What’s your capacity for monitoring prices?
For any kind of savings, you’ll have to spend at least some time looking for deals, whether that’s scanning info provided by your favorite website (we publish lists of the best Prime Day tech deals, for example) or scouring Amazon’s Prime Day section.
Usually, the less time you have, the harder it is to snag a jaw-dropping bargain. You’ll have to take the one that comes closest to your criteria and call it a day. Either way, help yourself out and make your efforts more efficient by setting up alerts, like on Amazon’s site for specific products or on deal sites.
5) How often does the item go on sale?
Some items go on sale rarely, while others get constantly promoted as deals. A little digging around on sites like Slickdeals.net and other bargain-hunting portals will reveal the frequency and amount of previous discounts. Use that information, along with what you know of the item’s (and manufacturer’s) popularity during the pandemic, to make a guess at how likely you’ll see additional sales in November.
Generally, the more popular the item, the less likelihood for substantially lower prices. But other factors—like cost of manufacturing, vendors trying to increase market share, and how much consumers have been spending overall—can influence the appearance of loss-leader deals designed to open people’s wallets. Most of us can’t pinpoint the exact flow of sales, so gather your info, poke around on forums as needed, and then make your best guess.
6) What were the previous steepest discounts?
Some items just never really go on sale. You might get 10 percent off on rare occasion and that’s already tremendous savings.
Other items don’t drop below a certain threshold. So for example, you can want a Kindle for 50 percent off, but the best discounts usually hover around 35 percent off and go no lower.
You can figure out if either scenario applies by looking at price-tracking sites like Keepa and Camelcamelcamel, as well as the aforementioned Slickdeals.net and other bargain-hunting sites. Knowing this information can help you spot good, great, and outstanding deals immediately—and help you feel satisfied with your purchase.
Get the best Amazon Prime Day deals
If after reading through the whole list of questions, you’re simply exhausted, save yourself some trouble by letting us do the bargain-hunting work for you. Check back on PCWorld.com during October 13 and 14, when we’ll have lists of the best Amazon Prime Day tech deals for you to look through.
Everything that we highlight meets two main requirements: It has to be a product we reviewed favorably (or is highly popular among buyers) and it has to offer a solid discount—usually from 20 to 50 percent off. Enough to leave you feeling like you scored.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld's resident bargain hunter—when she's not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she's scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.