Beyond simply bargain-hunting for the lowest prices, there's another alternative you may want to explore-especially if you've got to fit lots of PCs into a very tight budget. Refurbished desktop systems sometimes represent substantial savings over their completely new counterparts. The downside is, you might end up with a lemon. Protect yourself by shopping directly from the manufacturer and paying special attention to the warranty (or lack thereof) and whether anything is missing from the box, like program and hardware documentation.
Compaq, Dell, Gateway and IBM all have online store departments that sell refurbished PCs. The Gateway remanufactured PC warranty, for example, is one-year limited with one year of hardware technical support, 90 days of software tech support and a five-day money-back guarantee. Compare that to the standard Gateway warranty: three years parts and labor, limited hardware and software technical support for the life of the system, and a 30-day money-back guarantee. Also, keep in mind that your configuration options may be limited. Supplies vary greatly, so you may not be able to buy 10 of the same model.
A few final things to consider: Shipping costs can make your good bargain go bad. Get a firm figure before you give up your credit card number. Head straight for the business section when you visit a manufacturer's Web site; you'll often find special deals, services and arrangements, like business lease programs for companies your size. They want your business-so take advantage of that.