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UK vs US prices: who’s getting the best deal?

The price difference on popular tech revealed - are you better off shopping for bargains abroad?

UK vs US prices: who’s getting the best deal?

It’s fair to say that we get the raw end of the deal when it comes to tech prices, and with the fluctuations in the value of the pound making the price disparity even greater, how much more are we paying than our transatlantic cousins?

Macbooks, Sonos speakers, Amazon Echos, Samsung Galaxy phones and Bose headphones are some of the most desirable devices around and certain to be on many a Christmas list.

It’s a long-held belief that we pay a premium for goods in the UK, but does the high cost of importing mean you’ll actually make a saving when you buy tech from the US?

We’ve crunched the numbers on all these devices, and delved into the complex world of importing, to see how big the price disparity really is.

Best cheap laptops – spend less on a Best Buy laptop.

How much are you paying?

We’ve checked the prices from leading retailers in the UK and across the pond and here’s what we discovered.

In case you want to check our maths we’ve used the following exchange rate for all our calculations – £1 is worth $1.31. The exchange rate, and all the prices shown, are correct as of 9 November 2017.

Macbook Pro

The version with a 7th-generation i5 processor, 8GB of Ram, a 128GB SSD and that snazzy touchbar to be exact. We’ve gone direct to Apple for these prices.

  • UK price – £1,249 ($1,636.19)
  • US price – $1,299 (£991.60)
  • We pay £254.70 more this Macbook Pro.

We pay a fifth more for the Macbook Pro than Americans do. That’s enough to buy a Magic Mouse 2, a spare power adapter and Microsoft Office.

2nd generation Amazon Echo

Amazon’s next-generation hub is brand new and we’re comparing prices using Amazon’s UK and US website.

  • UK price – £89 ($116.59)
  • US price – $99 (£75.57)
  • We pay £13.43 more for the Amazon Echo.

It’s not as significant a price gap as the Macbook, but we’re still paying 15% more for the Amazon Echo.

Sonos Play:1 speaker

This popular wireless-speaker manufacturer has a wide range of speakers and we’re comparing the price of the smallest model, the Play:1. We’ve looked at the price at US retailer, Best Buy, and compared it with UK retailer, John Lewis.

  • UK price – £180 ($235.80)
  • US price – $199 (£151.90)
  • We pay £28.10 more for the Play:1.

It’s a similar story as with the Echo – we’re paying 15% more for the Sonos Play:1.

Samsung Galaxy S8

Samsung’s flagship handset was recently voted the most innovative device of 2017 by Which? readers, but how much more are we paying for it? We’re comparing prices direct from Samsung’s website.

  • UK price – £689 ($902.59)
  • US price – $750 (£572.51)
  • We pay £116.49 more for the Samsung Galaxy S8.

We pay 16% more for the S8 in the UK – slightly closer to Apple’s 20% increase, but there’s still 4% in it.

Bose Quietcomfort 35

These Bluetooth, noise-cancelling headphones are top of the range with a price to match. We’ve compared Best Buy with Currys to see how much more we pay.

  • UK price – £320 ($419.20)
  • US price – $330 (£251.90)
  • We pay £68.10 more for Bose Quietcomfort 35 headphones.

With a 21% increase, the Quietcomfort 35s have just edged the Macbook Pro as the device with biggest mark-up.

Is it worth importing?

We pay a higher rate of tax (VAT) on goods in the UK, but it’s not high enough to completely justify these price differences. Apple has admitted that the fluctuation in currency value and the cost of doing business in the UK has led to it charging more for its devices.

To take advantage of low US prices you could consider importing. You need to do your calculations carefully though, shipping, import duty and taxes could see that saving evaporate.

You need to be aware of VAT, which you’ll need to pay on anything over £15. Even if a website will ship to the UK you need to think about the warranty. The device you’ve bought will be covered by a US warranty – some of which won’t apply on devices shipped to the UK. The cost of returning a faulty product to the US is likely to be high.

You could be charged up to 2.5% duty if the goods you’ve bought are a gift and cost between £135-£630, depending on the item. Anything worth less than that and you won’t be charged at all. Goods over £135 or gifts over £630 are charged at different rates depending on the type of goods. You can contact HMRC to see what you’ll need to pay on a specific item.

It’s the right time of year for a bargain. Make sure you’re prepared with our top 15 tips for shopping on Black Friday.

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