Today's laptops like you noted are not built to last but a few years.
Have you considered something tough like the Panasonic Tough Book?
I purchased a Toshiba A205 in Aug 2008. Eversince I have spent numbers of hours on the phone with Toshiba Customer No Service, technicians in Phillipines, Korea and other countries. The unit has been sent for repair to Toshiba repair depot twice and it has been repaired by Toshiba authorized service center in Atlanta three times. The motherboard has been replaced twice and the harddrive has been replaced twice as well. Bear in mind that all of this has happend within less than one year from the date of purchase. I have lost all my data several times and had no way of recovering them. I teach and use laptop in my taching and consequently I have been left with no laptop to use for over a month. Customer service informed me that any laptop which has been to the shop three times it will be replaced. This was never kept for reasons beyond beliefe.This is my second Toshiba Laptop. The first one quite beyond repair in less than three years. I do not recommed Toshiaba laptop products to anyone.