Is Making Money Building Computers Still Possible?

At LockerGnome.net, pavleap writes:

This may seem like an odd question, but what I want to do is invest $300-500 to build a computer, sell it on Craigslist for a small profit, and use the money to build another, better computer. Do you think this is possible up to the point where I have $1,000 to build a computer for myself? If so, what would be a good amount of money to invest in the first computer; what parts should I use for it, and how much should I sell it for? Thanks!

building and selling computers

Is it possible to make a profit from building, then selling, computers?

Unlike in days of yore, I don’t think that it would be possible to build your money by investing in computer parts to build a $300-$500 computer. The reason is because most consumers nowadays are smart about how they shop and know how to use the Internet to find better deals elsewhere. They will find your computer at $600, then check for other machines at that price point. Unless you can build a machine that has a better set of specifications than brand X or computer Y at a competitive price, you will be left with an unsold computer. The competition you face can likely buy parts in bulk at a heavily discounted rate from manufacturers, assemble a bunch of machines from these parts, and pass those savings along to consumers.

The other point that I want to bring up is the End User Licensing Agreement (EULA). Have you checked it for the parts that you’re putting into this machine? The EULA may say that these parts are not for resale or that you cannot build them into a machine without paying royalties. I may not have a lot of experience in building a modern computer, but it stands to reason that you should make sure that you have every license covered so that your customer or OEM (original equipment manufacturer) can’t come back to you with expensive grievances.

The last point I’m going to make is that when the computer breaks or a component breaks, who do you think your customer is going to come running to? Yeah, you. If you’re a nice guy, you’ll replace the part or fix the machine. There is money down the drain because they’ll expect this for nothing; after all, you did build the machine. This may not make sense to you, but as consumers, we expect some sort of service structure. If you provide a disconnect at the point of purchase, then they will tell their friends. Good customer service is never shared, but bad customer service will spread like wildfire.

Those are the three main points that tell me you’ll be fighting an uphill — and losing — battle. There are so many people who have the same idea and either can’t compete with places like Dell or get pushed out of business by users who drain them of everything, including their sanity. I hope this helps.

Image: New Computer Project by aresauburn (via Flickr)

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Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.

  • paulmichael

    As much as you can’t compete with the retail giants, most people the like to have someone to call for help With internet setup and trouble shooting or printer installalations. When I was running a small IT business I would say buy it from Harvey Norman and I’ll set up the rest. If I were to build a machine and sell it, I would make sure it has a limited warranty. And I’d pretest the machine.