I don't think the OP is asking for a ruggedised or even semi-ruggedised (a la Panasonic Toughbook) laptop. He just wants a sturdy, well-built machine that will stand up to the rigors of daily use and occasional abuse.
That's correct. I wasn't even familiar with Panasonic laptops, let alone Toughbook's, but I don't plan to take the laptop on a hiking or camping trip.
BTW, the expected life of a laptop is 3 years. After 3 years, most corporations pull them out of circulation because their failure rate gets too high and they aren't worth fixing since the warranty is up. As you've discovered, laptop life isn't just based on handling conditions; wear and tear over time take their toll on them just as much as handling mistakes. Might want to just buy cheaper laptops and turn them over every 3 years rather than clinging to one and praying that it lasts.
You are also correct.
Thankfully laptops are cheaper than when I bought mine, however, I was hoping to get a laptop who's chassis didn't begin to "disintegrate" in the 2.0-4.5 year range.
Thanks for all the replies so far, it has given me something to think about! If anyone else wants to hand out their $.02, please do!