Buying used tech is a great way to save some money, but it can also be a very risky venture and this guide is here to help you out. Getting a used computer, a smartphone or a camera is not the same, as all of these devices have different things that you should look out for when buying.
Some of those imperfections can be used to lower the price, but the problem is when the seller does not inform you about some issues that a given device has.
Buying a Used PC or Components
Before we get into the components themselves, there are some tips I would like to share with you:
- Find a trustworthy seller – This could be a friend, or a website that has an implemented rating system, where you can see who to trust.
- Look for items with unexpired warranties. This can protect you if you buy something and have a problem.
- Don’t buy from the first person you come across. Look around, there are many websites out there, maybe you can get a better price.
- Always bargain. Every seller will go down in price just a little bit at least, it might not be much, but if you kick down 5-10 dollars per component it could add up into a nice chunk of change.
- Never go back two generations with a given component. What do I mean by this?
The motherboard is a key component of your build, it determines the type of processor you will be able to use, the type and amount of RAM, and much more. Here I would like to advise you to get the motherboard with the most up-to-date features like the SATA 3 interface so you can later get an SSD and use it to its full potential, USB 3.0 would be nice, but is not exactly necessary, and, of course, the CPU socket is something that determinates the CPU you will be able to install, so watch out for that as well.
Well here are some examples, the current Intel processors are the haswell-based CPUs and you can recognize them by the number 4 in their names – i5 4690k. When buying a used one, you would want to go one generation back, and get most of the performance of the newer model but at a much lower price. In our case that would be the i5 3570K. On the AMD side, well, just get the latest model, I mean, they already are three years old anyway and are very affordable.
As for RAM, currently the latest and the greatest technology is DDR4, but it is only for enthusiasts and is very expensive. The mainstream memory that the majority of people use is DDR3 and with RAM, unlike other components, the rule of going back a generation does not apply, meaning that you should always get the current version of the technology, which, in this case, would be DDR3.
When talking about graphics cards, buying a used one is a great way to save a lot of money. Going back a generation will usually cost you around 5-10% in performance drop, but around 50% or more in price drop, so this is very important. A great example for this is the AMD R9 280x and the AMD 7970, these cards are almost identical in speed, but a used 7970 is around 140$, while the R9 280X is well over 200$, making this a great deal. The same rule applies to Nvidia graphics cards, though they are more expensive.
There are some components that I do not recommend buying when they have already been used and one of them is the power supply. New power supplies are not that expensive, and it is simply not worth the risk of losing your entire PC to a power surge just to save a bit of money, so just don’t buy used PSUs.
Hard drives are also a very risky buy when buying second hand. You just don’t know with hard drives, they are one of the components that fail the most, because they have moving parts inside of them and try to just imagine losing all your precious data before a big important meeting or an exam, it is simply not worth the risk. Buy them new because they are definitely cheap.
So there you have it, now you are well prepared and can go shopping, just remember these tips and you can’t go wrong.