We all probably found that one killer Chromebook deal on Amazon or Walmart that (on paper) appears to be an incredible value for the money. The average, less-informed buyer immediately jumped on the deal, because why wouldn't they? After all, its workhorse specifications are more than enough for basic tasks like Zoom, schoolwork, and light gaming. And for an asking price of just a few hundred bucks, they would be a fool to look elsewhere, right?

Nope. They just fell for a sales trap. And here's how you can avoid doing the same.

Every Chromebook on the market has an Auto Update Expiration date, or AUE, assigned to them — yes, even the shiny, high-end devices have it, too. They're assigned six to eight years before hitting built-in obsolescence, after which Google will no longer guarantee software updates to that device. Here's the problem: online (and even local) sellers fail to mention the AUE date — instead using terms like "newest" and "discounted" to lure you in.

Before you go ahead and purchase that suspiciously affordable Chromebook, check Google's official Auto Update Policy section on its Enterprise help page to see how long the device will continue getting updates. When a new Chrome laptop launches, Google will add its AUE date to the list so buyers have time to make a purchasing decision.

cros_aue

A list of Chromebooks made by Google with their expiration date.

The list alphabetically sorts every Chromebook by the device's original manufacturer. Let's say you found Google's Chromebook Pixel LS (2015) for a whopping 75% off MSRP on eBay — $1300 down to $325. On the surface, it seems like a great bargain, especially if you glance at its specs. But if you look under the Google section on the AUE page, you'll quickly realize that the "deal" it's all cracked up to be — it's expiring this month. While smaller updates may still trickle out after the assigned AUE, that date's still clearly your signal to start looking for a new Chromebook.

AUE is one of many factors a potential Chromebook buyer should be wary of before making a purchase. I believe consumer organizations should do a better job informing the masses about this, since for newbies, the concept of AUE can be confusing. Hopefully, this should give a clearer sign of a Chromebook's actual value behind the listing's masquerade. To check the AUE on your current Chromebook, head over to About Chrome OS in your device's system preferences, then click Additional details.