Importing your next PC from Amazon vs buying local

The rand’s excellent performance against the US dollar over the last few weeks is good news for PC gamers who are looking to save money on upgrades to their gaming rigs.

Even with healthy competition between South African stores which sell PC hardware, building a powerful desktop is not a cheap exercise.

You would be hard pressed to configure a capable rig for anything less than R15,000, and would more likely have to spend in excess of R25,000 to enjoy constant frame rates of over 60fps in the latest graphically-demanding titles.

With gaming gear so pricey, those who build their own PCs from components shop around for where they can get the best price and the best service.

One option that has grown in popularity in recent years is importing through Amazon.

Ecommerce industry commentators in South Africa have warned that local retailers like Takealot are under threat from international competitors like Amazon, Wish, and Shein which are growing rapidly thanks to improved cross-border logistics.

Two major reasons for Amazon’s growing popularity is because it makes it easy to import certain items for cheaper than buy locally, and the online retail giant frequently has items that are not available in South Africa.

The price disparity between local retailers and importing items on Amazon can be due to multiple factors, often related to foreign exchange rates.

A local distributor of a product may be locked into a disadvantageous forward cover contract, for example, or a seller may still have stock they brought in when the rand was weaker.

Normally, working out how much import duties and taxes you will have to pay to import something can be a challenge.

This is where Amazon shines as the world’s biggest online retailer, as it calculates an estimate of the taxes you are liable for on an item and includes these costs in an import fees deposit that you pay at checkout.

Conveniently, if customs ends up demanding more tax for the item, Amazon will cover the difference. If the tax works out to be less than what Amazon charged, it will refund you that amount.

This eliminates any nasty price surprises.

We compared the prices of a number of PC components — processors, graphics cards, RAM, storage, and motherboards — to see how Amazon’s prices compared with local retailers.

We searched for the cheapest prices from several different sources in each case, and considered local listings from the most popular online retailers including Takealot, Loot, Evetech, Wootware, Titan Ice, and Makro.

The table below shows our findings.

The first converted Amazon price is based on the exchange rate at the time of writing, which was R13.83 to the US dollar, and excludes foreign currency conversion fees charged by your bank, which could be up to 2.75% of the purchase price.

The Final Amazon price includes a 2.75% conversion fee.

Note that Amazon also offers the option to use its own currency conversion scheme instead. This is calculated at a higher exchange rate to eliminate bank conversion fees, but generally results in a more expensive price than when bought in US dollar.

However, certain banks also charge a foreign transaction fee even if the amount is in rand, so it is advisable to check with your bank before going through with a purchase.

PC hardware prices – Amazon vs local
Item Listed price Import taxes + delivery Amazon price Final Amazon price (including 2.75% conversion) Local
Processors
AMD Ryzen 5 3600 $209.99 $63.98 $273.97 (R3,879) $281.50 (R3,893) R3,618
Intel Core i5-10600K $214.90 $46.87 $261.77 (R3,620) $268.97 (R3,720) R5,399
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X $299 $63.57 $362.57 (R5,014) $372.54 (R5,152) R5,499
Intel Core i7-10700K $315.64 $63.72 $379.36 (R5,247) $390.07 (R5,395) R6,399
Graphics cards* (see below)
MSI Gaming GeForce GTX 1650 4GB Ventus XS OCV1 $498.91 $99.00 $597.91 (R8,269) $614.35 (R8,509) R4,499
RAM
Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 3,200MHz $102.99 $28.03 $131.02  (R1,812) $134.62  (R1,862) R1,699
Klevv Cras X RGB 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 4,000MHz $99.98 $28.37 $128.35 (R1,775) $131.88 (R1,824) R1,899
Crucial Ballistix 32GB  (2x16GB) DDR4 3,200MHz $175.99 $40.41 $216.40 (R3,033) $222.35 (R3,075) R3,499
Storage
Seagate BarraCuda 4TB Internal Hard Drive 5,400 RPM $79.99 $28.01 $108 (R1,494) $110.97 (R1,535) R1,799
Samsung 870 EVO 1TB SATA SSD $114.99 $30.07 $145.06 (R2,006) $149.05 (R2,062) R2,433
WD Black SN 850 1TB NVMe SSD $199.00 $44.07 $243.07 (R3,362) $249.75 (R3,454) R4,749
Motherboards
ASUS ROG Strix B450-F Gaming II for AMD AM4 $134.00 $46.00 $180.00 (R2,489) $184.95 (R2,558) R2,755
MSI MPG B550 Gaming Carbon Wi-Fi for AMD AM4 $219.34 $62.31 $281.65 (R3,895) $289.40 (R4,002) R5,219
Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Pro Wi-Fi for Intel LGA1151 $229.99 $61.52 $291.51 (R4,032) $299.53 (R4,142) R4,079

Our comparison showed some mixed results, but it illustrated that in many cases buying from Amazon was the cheaper option.

Three out of the four processors from Intel and AMD we compared were hundreds of rand cheaper from Amazon than when bought locally. The same was the case for motherboards.

The cheapest price of the MSI MPG B550 Gaming Carbon motherboard with Wi-Fi and AMD AM4 socket in South Africa was R1,200 more expensive than on Amazon.

All three of the storage drives we compared were also cheaper from Amazon, in some instances by more than a R1,000.

Notably, the WD Black 1TB NVMe SSD was around R1,300 – or 37% – more expensive in South Africa.

RAM prices were generally similar, with one option out of the three being cheaper from Evetech than on Amazon.

Photo of graphics card-based cryptocurrency mining rig
GPU-based cryptocurrency mining rig

The graphics card category was an anomaly, likely due to the huge demand for graphics hardware caused by the current cryptocurrency mining boom and global chip shortage.

There is huge demand for GPUs among gamers and crypto miners, particularly following the launch of Nvidia’s powerful RTX 30 series. Coupled with the chip crunch brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, prices of graphics cards have skyrocketed.

Scalpers have been selling these cards at more than double their retail prices in many instances, and Amazon happens to be one of the platforms which has suffered from this practice.

We were unable to find any RTX 30 series cards available on Amazon, while the GTX 1650 we found was 89% more expensive than its listed price on Evetech.

This is completely abnormal, as the recommended retail prices for graphics cards are typically much cheaper in the US than the prices charged by local retailers.

It is therefore not advisable to import a graphics card until the situation has normalised.

However, while local list prices for graphics cards compared well on paper, the truth is you can’t actually buy them as there is barely any stock available in South Africa.

At the time of publication, Evetech did not have a single RTX 30, GTX 16, or GTX 10 series card in stock to buy as a standalone product, with only the low-end GT 710 and GT 730 on offer.

Warranties — The big “but”

While you could save a few hundred rand on your initial purchase, it’s important to understand it might come at a big cost down the line.

PC parts bought from reputed dealers locally will typically come with good warranties which allow for local repair or replacement.

Should an imported component start giving problems within the warranty period, it’s likely that you will have to ship it back to the US at great cost to get fixed or replaced, even if the fault lies with the manufacturer.

In select circumstances manufacturers may offer international travellers warranties which may cover replacement in South Africa.

This is why it’s important to check the terms of the warranty on an item’s Amazon product page before making a purchase. Alternatively, you can ignore this if you think the saving is worth the risk.

Certain shipping companies that offer international forwarding services, such as Aramex and DHL, also offer discounted return shipping for repairs and replacements on imported goods.

Now read: Nvidia will limit crypto mining power on new graphics cards

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Importing your next PC from Amazon vs buying local