Technology Explained

6 Reasons to Start Buying Used Computers Instead of New Ones

Bertel King 18-04-2018

Looking to replace your current computer? On one hand, this is an exciting time. It’s your chance to have a new experience and accomplish tasks you couldn’t before. On the other hand, your bank account is about to take a hit. It’s the best of times and the worst of times, so to speak.


But you don’t have to rush out and order the latest machine. You can buy a used, pre-owned, or refurbished PC Refurbished vs. Used vs. Certified Pre-Owned: Which Is Better? If you want to save money on electronics, don't buy new! Here are the difference between pre-owned, refurbished, and used. Read More . And there are more reasons to consider this approach than you think.

1. You Probably Don’t Need So Much Power

Computer on desk with notebook
Image Credit: haltonwood333/Morguefile

Why are you buying a computer? If you just need a way to write class notes and papers, it doesn’t matter if you have the latest CPU and piles of RAM. The same is true if you want something for browsing the web and online banking.

Open up the Task Manager (Windows), Activity Monitor (Mac) or System Monitor (Linux). The vast majority of your PC’s resources will be idle while doing these basic tasks. RAM may be your biggest issue, but even that stops being useful after a certain amount How Much RAM Do You Really Need? How much computer memory do you need? Here's how to check your installed RAM and how much RAM your computer needs. Read More .

Sure, if you’re editing videos professionally, you may know exactly which of the latest hardware components you need to improve your workflow. But don’t make the assumption that just because you want to play games, you need to buy a new machine.


2. You Could Save a Lot of Money

Buying used or refurbished computers saves you hundreds of dollars. At the low end, you can walk into a thrift store and walk out with a functional PC for around a hundred bucks.

That machine may be too old for the latest version of Windows, but with Linux, it may still have many years of life left 14 Lightweight Linux Distributions to Give Your Old PC New Life Need a lightweight operating system? These special Linux distros can run on older PCs, some with as little as 100MB of RAM. Read More . Even an older version of Windows, like Windows 7, is fine as long as it still receives security updates.

You don’t have to go for hardware quite so outdated, though. Many websites offer computers that are only a few years old. Consider buying the previous generation of laptops from the likes of Dell, HP, and Apple.

Oftentimes, the advancements in current models are cosmetic, such as a higher screen resolution or more battery life. Are they nice to have? Sure. But again, depending on your needs, there’s little reason to pay that new sticker tax.


3. You May Start Using Your PCs Longer

You may think that buying a PC when it’s new gives you the maximum life out of a product. And yes, this is technically true. But getting accustomed to using older hardware can condition you to get more years out of your hardware.

How so? You’ll change your behavior. Over time, you’ll learn what software is most efficient. You know when to close programs you’re no longer using. And you’ll perhaps transfer more of your data onto an external drive with more space, putting less strain on the one in your PC.

If you’ve taken an older, slower PC back to life once, you know how to speed your computer up again You're Slowing Down Your PC: 5 Common Mistakes and What to Do Instead Find that your computer is running slow? You might be the cause! Here are various ways you've made your PC slow down. Read More as it starts slowing down.

But there are no guarantees. You simply don’t know which components may be on their last leg, and there is no warranty to fall back on. But this point isn’t about the longevity of your hardware. It’s about your change in mindset and expertise.


4. You Help to Reduce Environmental Waste

Pile of PC components
Image Credit: Igor Ovsyannykov/Unsplash

Consumer electronics are a massive source of environmental waste. The plastics used are made of fossil fuels, and many of the components require rare earth materials. These devices take hundreds of years to decompose, and they leach all kinds of toxic substances in the process.

Buying pre-owned machines reduces the number of new machines that get made. Not only that, you extend the amount of time it takes for a computer to end up in a landfill. So if you’re conscious of your environmental footprint, you may want to start shopping used. Just keep an eye on how much power an older hard drive consumes How Much Power Does Your PC Need? Computers need power. They turn it into heat, noise, and light -- like magic. But how much power does your PC need, exactly? Let's find out where all that power goes... Read More .

5. You Can Break Free From the Spending Cycle

PC manufactures want you to buy new machines and replace them as soon as new models become available. This drives their profits up, but it also drains your bank account.


Apple is the poster child of this model. The company’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller said a few years back it was “sad” that so many Windows PCs were over five years old:

“Windows PCs were originally conceived of before there was an internet, before there was social media, before there was app stores, and this is an amazing statistic: There are over 600 million PCs in use today that are over five years old. This is really sad. It really is.”

Apple, like many companies, is proud of offerings that force consumers to buy more of its products. By using an older PC, you’re breaking free from this trap while still buying the devices you love.

Just wait a few years. Refurbished Apple computers are cheaper, and they hold their value well Apple Tax: Why Do Macs Hold Their Resale Value? You've probably heard it before: Macs may cost more, but they hold their value. Is this true, and if so why? Read More if you’re looking to sell them again later.

6. You Invest Your Money Differently

Hands holding stack of money
Image Credit: Niels Steeman/Unsplash

Apple, Microsoft, and Google are some of the richest companies in the world. Do they need more of your money? Probably not, especially if you’re not a fan of the kind of influence they wield. And if you’re not a fan of corporate big-box stores, you may not like them getting a cut of your purchase, either.

Buying refurbished can turn your computer purchase into a contribution to a good cause. Some thrift stores that sell PCs use those funds to provide services to members of their local communities. People who value free software may appreciate buying a Linux-powered PC from a small company trying to do a little good in the world.

Will Your Next PC Be Used or Pre-Owned?

There are times when pre-owned hardware isn’t the best option. You may want to consider the cons of second-hand tech and the risks of buying a used PC Is It Safe to Buy a Used PC? 5 Risks and How to Clean It Up Properly Planning on buying a used PC? Here's what you need to know about the risks and how to securely clean a second-hand computer. Read More before making a decision.

But if your mind’s made up, let’s consider your options.

While you can find pre-owned PCs in your local area in thrift shops or other used computer stores, you will have to settle for what’s available. Online, there are sites with used computers for sale 7 Websites to Save Money on Pre-Owned Computer Hardware So you want to build your own computer, upgrade your hard drive, or buy a new-to-you laptop for half the retail cost? Here are the best 7 sites on the web to help you. Read More that give you the freedom to search for the brands, models, and specs you want.

Related topics: Buying Tips, Save Money.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Wesley
    May 1, 2018 at 3:33 am

    Home run! I heartily agree with your reasons. I've been operating that way since my second laptop. ArrowDirect, among others, has great deals.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      May 1, 2018 at 2:07 pm

      That's a joy to hear!

  2. etim
    April 25, 2018 at 12:53 am

    Remaining battery life on portable rigs is a big gamble (I was burned by buying a "refurbished" laptop that had a well worn battery that could only hold a charge for more than a couple of hours--and that was on a good day).
    Unless you don't mind keeping your used/refurbished laptop, pad, etc plugged in all the time, be ready to fork out some extra $$ for a new battery. And battery packs custom made for your model ain't cheap.

  3. MRSD
    April 18, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    In a perfect world, this is a good idea. But the security implications alone make this an insta-no for me.

    • Mike Walsh
      April 19, 2018 at 10:56 am

      Surely, isn't EVERY second-hand or used computer also, by its very definition, "pre-owned"?

    • Col. Panek
      April 19, 2018 at 2:44 pm

      What security implications? I install Linux, get back to work. I recently bought a Chromebook Pixel which sold for $1300 new, was $200 refurbed and wiped. My newest other PCs are 6 and 8 years old.

      • morgantownprosthetist
        April 20, 2018 at 12:25 am


        • HomeTechHacker
          August 16, 2018 at 6:53 pm

          Same here. Linux changes all this. The last computer I built from comoletely new parts was 7 years ago. Probably build a new one soon, but I'll have that one for years too. Other than that, I bought a Chromebook.