No one wants to get burned when buying a used computer. Deciding on a used system is a lot like picking out a new model: you’ve got to think about what you’ll be using it for, what computer parts you’ll have to buy to make the system work for you, and how long you’ll expect it to last. Think about how these things stack up against the price of a new computer.
What Will You Need This Computer For?
Before you buy any computer, no matter if it’s used or new, ask yourself what you plan on doing with it. If your regular computer use involves tons of apps and web services, a lightweight system will probably work for you. If you need more desktop horsepower for gaming, design, or video editing, make sure any used system you consider is up to the challenge. Here are a few other key issues to keep in mind:
Portability: Are you looking for a laptop that you can take with you wherever you go? Size and weight will be a concern, then. Look for a machine that is small enough that you can transport it comfortably. However, remember that portability often presents a tradeoff in features and power.
Power: When buying any laptop, especially a used one, find out how much it will cost to replace the battery or AC adapter. Depending on how the system was previously used, its battery might no longer hold a decent charge or it might be through its recharge cycles altogether. This is definitely a concern if you plan to use the computer in multiple locations.
Make Sure You Wouldn’t Be Better Off Buying New
Taking a “gently used” system off the hands of a well-meaning friend or seemingly decent Craigslist contact may make for a great deal, but make sure you do your homework before you hand over the cash.
Included Software and Peripherals: An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) will include an operating system (OS) and at least a 1 year warranty. If you’re buying refurbished system or from an authorized reseller, they will likely include the OEM license for the OS, and offer a service plan or warranty. Be aware of what is offered with yours, or how much it would cost you to get what you need. The same can be applied to peripherals.
Competitive Pricing: Buying used certainly does not always equal a bargain, even if the seller is tossing in pre-installed software or an external hard drive. Evaluate at the price of the used system, and compare it to the price of a comparable, new model. Would you spend the same amount buying new or refurbished, perhaps with that warranty?
Price of Upgrades: People often buy used systems and underestimate how much they’ll end up spending on upgrades. A $300 used laptop is a great deal…until you buy a $100 external hard drive, a $90 software license, and any other programs you need. Heaven forbid you have to upgrade the hardware anytime soon. The cost of a new solid-state drive alone, on top of the purchase price, could make buying a new computer a more attractive option.
Take It For A Test Drive
If you’re buying from a private seller, see if you can test out the system for a while. It could be pretty difficult to negotiate, but being able to use the system first, even for just a few hours, can provide you with valuable information and save you from buyer’s remorse. If the seller isn’t willing to offer you a free trial, at least take a moment to turn it on and give it a good inspection. Here are a few things to check on:
Look over the frame and body for cracks and surface damage.
Check the screen for dead pixels, haze, or discoloration.
Check for any broken or malfunctioning inputs and ports. Bring your preferred peripherals with you.
Assess the included software. If anything licensed is included, make sure you will have access to the necessary keys or media.
There are many bargains to be had by working with a private seller, just make sure you’re not throwing your hard-earned money out the window. Be cautious when shopping, do your homework, and be absolutely sure you wouldn’t actually get a better deal if you bought a new or refurbished system.
Source: PC Repair Tips 2