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. And there are more reasons to consider this approach than you think.
1. You Probably Don’t Need So Much Power
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.
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. 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You don’t have to go for hardware quite so outdated, though.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 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
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.
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 if you’re looking to sell them again later.
6. You Invest Your Money Differently
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?
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 that give you the freedom to search for the brands, models, and specs you want.