Is It Worth Buying Used PC Parts? (Definitive Guide)

written by jacob tuwiner Jacob Tuwiner

There’s no shortage of used parts entering the market, and they’re a great way to save money when building a dirt cheap gaming PC.

Seriously, I’m broke and still manage to build monster PCs that run well.

Take it from a budget builder, used PC parts are definitely worth it, as long as you know what you’re doing.

That being said, let’s dive in:

What PC Parts Are Safe to Buy Used?

used pc parts

Generally, all PC parts should be okay to buy used except for the hard drive and power supply. Hard drives store sensitive information so it’s best to buy them new (they’re cheap anyway) and a faulty power supply can short the entire PC, so it’s best to buy them new.

Obviously, as with buying anything used, there will be inevitable wear and tear on whatever product you buy. This can range from physical cosmetic damage, to incapacitating internal damage, or hidden damage that might catch you down the line.

Processor (CPU)

used cpu

Processors are one of the most popular components for resale. Since new CPUs are released yearly, there’s a constant flow of old processors coming in all the time.

Buying processors locally is a little dicey because you can’t always know if it works unless they show you beforehand, but on sites like eBay you can return faulty products for a refund.

When businesses upgrade their hardware, they sell their old stuff in bulk, meaning you can find powerful hardware for incredibly low prices.

An overclockable, 8 core, hyperthreaded Intel CPU that supports DDR4 RAM for under $200? Sold!

Before you decide to purchase a used AMD CPU, inspect it for bent or broken pins, as sometimes these deformities can cause shorts and damage to other internal components.

CPU Coolers

used cpu cooler

If you’re buying a used processor, it often won’t come with a cooler and hey, why not keep the used streak going.

Used coolers are going to have dust and other wear that’ll lower their performance from stock, so be sure to deep clean fans and heatsinks before use.

They may also have scratches on the base plate that might reduce contact with the CPU, and thus reduce cooling and I don’t recommend buying these.

Buying all-in-one water coolers used is kind of a mixed bag and most people will, justifiably, advise against it. However, I’ll tell you right now that I’ve never had any problems with my used water coolers in the years they’ve been running.

I got a 280mm Corsair H105 for $40 back in 2017 and it’s still running leak free in February of 2020. Same goes for the refurbished Asetek 120mm that was mounted to my old GTX 980.

Always ask to test a water cooler before buying to avoid any problems with leaks or the pump — otherwise, your other PC parts will be doomed.

Motherboards

motherboard

Motherboards are usually fine used, and you can score some insane deals. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell what problems will arise with them down the road.

On the plus side, you can find stupendous deals from people who are upgrading to newer hardware, but you can also run into wear issues if they were an avid user. I personally had a used motherboard fry 4 RAM sticks and a $140 i5 CPU due to a faulty power delivery that caught fire.

It’s difficult to judge which used motherboards have problems — the best you can do is have them prove its working condition before you buy.

Also, just like with AMD CPUs, if purchasing an Intel motherboard always check the socket for bent pins. You don’t want your new old motherboard to fry the rest of your new (old) parts.

Memory (RAM)

ram

I personally think RAM is the safest electronic part you can buy used, but you can still run into issues regardless.

Make sure the stickers on the RAM match the advertisment.

And if the RAM has a heatsink, check the color of the sticker itself. Some scammers buy Kingston HyperX Fury heatsinks and throw them on cheap RAM to make a quick profit.

You can be the most careful person in the world and still run into problems later down the line, so I would consider purchasing a warranty if you’re buying from certain certified eBay resellers in case your sticks die after a while.

Graphics Card (GPU)

gpu

The most popular component to resell is hands down the graphics card. You will find these things everywhere, with a wide range of prices.

GPUs are one of the rare parts where you’ll find better deals on eBay in some cases.

When it comes to super old cards or relatively old mid-range cards, prices online are often slightly better or the same as local prices.

There are, of course, always exceptions. I managed to score a GTX 1070 Hybrid for $160 locally when it went for over $200 on eBay.

When you get into higher tier GPUs like GTX 1080s and 1080 Ti’s, prices are almost always better online.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fairly priced GTX 1080 locally.

Case

case

Hands down, cases are the safest piece of the computer to buy used.

The only part of a case that could really be a problem is the power button and front panel connectors — you’ve gotta turn your computer on after all.

Otherwise, all you have to worry about is possible cosmetic damage like scratches and dents.

If you’re okay with cosmetic damage though, you can find incredible deals on fully featured cases all around.

Storage

storage

Out of all the parts I do recommend buying, storage is just barely on that list due to how fast storage solutions can deteriorate.

Hard drives, mechanical ones at least, should only be bought on an extreme budget because each drive has a set life span that you’ll be missing out on when buying used.

Plus, you never really know how long or how often the drive has been used.

You could be buying a retired NAS drive that’s been running non stop for the past 5 years.

Solid State storage solutions are a bit of a different story.

SSDs also have a lifespan in the number of times data can be written and rewritten before they start having errors and corruption.

Unlike HDDs though, SSDs tend to have a much longer lifespan so sometimes buying used SSDs is viable.

Power Supply (PSU)

power supply

I don’t recommend buying used power supplies under any circumstances unless you’re flipping computers and you don’t care about your customers.

I’ve had too many issues with used PSUs to recommend them, and the rest of the PC community agrees.

One PSU I got in a bundle fried all my hard drives with years worth of data, and another I bought for $50 only worked for one boot, then died.

You can’t attest to the quality of a used power supply. They’re the single most unpredictable part you can buy used.

Refurbished can be okay and I’ve been running a refurb PSU for 3 years with no issues, but you also don’t get the warranty and quality assurance that comes with a brand new power supply.

Best Place to Buy Used PC Parts

There are a couple of different routes you can take to find the best deals on used parts and each has its own benefits and drawbacks. I urge you to combine different strategies to optimize your results.

Bundles

power supply

Some of the best deals you can find for used parts are in bundles, especially from what I call ‘dysfunctional bundles’.

A bundle itself is pretty self explanatory: a bundle of parts.

Sometimes you can get full used PC bundles for cheap and you won’t have to change a thing, maybe just a couple upgrades here and there.

In that case you can even save more money by reselling the parts you don’t use.

There’s also CPU/Motherboard bundles or CPU/Mobo/RAM bundles that get you some of your core components fairly cheap so that you get a good starting point.

A dysfunctional bundle, on the other hand, can net you some big money saving if you’re willing to take some risk.

Dysfunctional bundles are bundles with faulty parts, or sometimes just a computer listed as “not working.”

These bundles are few and far between but if someone doesn’t know what they have (from a prebuilt system or something) you may be able to snag some quality parts on the cheap.

I was able to get a system with an i7-5930k and a GTX Titan X for $250 where the only problem was a faulty motherboard and no other issues.

However, you never know what could be broken or if anything is salvageable so be a little more cautious unless you’ve got some money to blow on a hunch.

Barebones Systems

barebones systems

Barebones systems are similar to bundles but they’re usually from OEM and proprietary systems like old Dell and HP desktops.

When businesses are parting with their old hardware to phase in the new, they start selling stuff in bulk, they may sell individual parts, full, or almost full systems.

These almost full systems are what we call barebones systems. They have the bare minimum required to run power, but sometimes (if you’re lucky) you’ll get a fully running system.

Often you can find barebones with just a processor, motherboard, and PSU in an OEM case. Occasionally they’ll even include RAM, but you’ll usually have to source it yourself.

Buying these can get you a fair price on an old system and all you gotta do is install the memory, a new power supply, and a dedicated video card.

Timing

timing

Probably the single most important, and often hardest, part of building a budget PC from used parts is getting the timing right.

You may not always find great deals, and sometimes you’lly find deals that’re just out of this world. It’s all about knowing the best time to strike.

Here’s a great example from my personal experience:

Back in 2018, I decided to start building my very own gaming PC from used parts.

Unfortunately, my impatient nature pushed me to buy everything as soon as I could so I’d have my new PC up and running as fast as possible.

For context if you’re unaware, 2018 was one of the worst years for GPU and RAM pricing in history.

I ended up spending $140 on 16GB of used DDR4-2133 RAM, and $325 on a used Nvidia GTX 980.

The prices for those can now be found for around $40 and $130 respectively.

Definitely browse constantly over a period of time and just bookmark deals that you find to compare and contrast, and use the rest of the tips below in conjunction to find the best deals you can.

Apps & Websites

apps and websites

To start this section out we’d like to note that we highly suggest purchasing locally whenever possible.

You will without a doubt find significantly better deals locally 99% of the time since you don’t have to deal with shipping fees, tax, and some sellers just want their items gone as soon as possible.

For local buying, you can opt for the usual Craigslist classified ads or Facebook Marketplace as people have for years.

As time drags on people seem to be moving further away from Craigslist but Facebook Marketplace is still chugging strong.

I wouldn’t rule out Craigslist entirely though — I managed to get a fully functional i7-5820k system with a 1000 watt gold rated power supply and 32GB of DDR4 memory for $200 flat off of craigslist, alongside a mechanical RGB Alienware keyboard for $35.

Newer apps you might want to use for local buying are OfferUp and Letgo, two of the most popular used selling apps out right now.

You could also opt for Swop.it which is fairly popular, but the format is a bit odd and it’s a bit more focused on non-cash trades.

Both OfferUp and Letgo are very easy to use, have in-app messaging and search filtering, allow for seller rating, and OfferUp even has an integrated system to have items shipped.

However, a platform is only as good as its user base and in my experience, Letgo has some of the most openly rude users, at least in my area.

On the bright side, both apps give you the option to block other users.

For online buying, eBay is hands down the easiest go-to for buying used anything.

With easy navigation and filtering, you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for whenever you need it and their integrated Watch system can notify you on price and stock changes via email.

eBay also offers local buying for items in your area.

The best part about eBay is buyer security, something you just can’t find with local buying.

If an item arrives in a condition other than advertised, you can return it for a full refund and eBay customer service is quite good at figuring out disputes between buyers and sellers in a timely manner.

Although, this security comes at a cost and you’ll usually pay a bit more on eBay than locally.

Another site you may want to check out that I’ve never personally used is the hardwareswap subreddit (r/hardwareswap).

I can’t attest to the integrity of the forum, but it seems fairly legit and regulated from what info is available in their rules and wiki.

On hardwareswap you can both buy locally or provide a verified PayPal for sellers that offer to ship.

Price and Performance Comparisons

When you’re looking for specific parts you should always compare prices from different sellers and different platforms.

One common tactic that’s proved to work well for me is searching a part on eBay to find the average and lowest prices and then comparing them to locally sold offerings.

Hell, if you find it lower on eBay you could even use it as a bargaining chip to get an even better local price.

Comparing price-to-performance ratios is also important to get the perfect prices and the most performance out of your dollar.

If you’re up to the task, you could create a simple spreadsheet to compare prices and performance numbers from average benchmarks on sites like Userbenchmark, CPUBoss, and GPUCheck.

The way I do it is by dividing the performance number by the price and comparing the product of each equation. Higher is usually better but look for the difference between them to really determine what’s better.

Think of it like this: 100 is higher than 75, but is a difference of 25 worth $100.

If you just want raw percentage comparisons between CPUs or GPUs, for example the difference between an Intel i7-9700k and an AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, I highly suggest Userbenchmark.

Googling the format (cpu/gpu name) vs. (cpu/gpu name) will almost always send you a Userbenchmark link showing a comparison of average user submitted benchmarks between the two products and give a percentage difference in various fields of performance.

Some of the more popular products even include average FPS in a couple of game titles like CS:GO and League of Legends.

Peripherals

peripherals

Peripherals are pretty easy to buy since the seller can usually show you right then and there how the product works with ease. But there are a couple guidelines to follow.

Monitors

Monitors are the only peripheral I can recommend buying 99% of the time as you’ll get such a better deal when buying used gaming monitors compared to new ones.

Monitors don’t lose all that much performance with use, so you can rest assured that your old new monitor will be running at it’s very best. It’s also obviously a lot easier to prove that the monitor is working before purchase.

Speakers

Similar to monitors, speakers are an easy buy used but they do deteriorate quicker than monitors do.

New speakers can be expensive so buying used is such a good route to go.

Once again, it’s easy to show any buyer that the speakers work by, well, playing something on them, and through that you’ll get a pretty good representation of just how they’ll sound before you commit to buying.

Keyboards

Keyboards are a bit of an odd buy for the used market, but there’s plenty of ‘em out there in case you’re on an extreme budget.

You never know where the hands which touched that keyboard have been, and you’ll never know the sheer amounts of food or drink that’ve been spilled on it.

I cannot stress enough that if you’re going to buy a used keyboard, buy a mechanical keyboard.

That way you can remove the keys to deep clean the board of any nasty contaminants possibly left over from the previous owner.

P.S. Please wipe it down with disinfectant wipes.

Headphones

Headphones are another used product that you might find a little nasty to buy, and most people would agree.

Just to be clear I’m talking over ear headphones not earbuds (which you should never buy used).

You can buy used headphones or headsets safely, and get a pretty damn good deal out of it, but you should definitely clean inside the ear muffs and the headphone band. Some gamers aren’t just sweaty in CS:GO.

Microphones

The easiest way to save money on your setup is to get a used microphone and I can safely suggest it all the way.

Microphones tend to keep their value on the use market but, more often than other parts, people will sell them cheap just to get rid of them which means you can get a stellar deal on a higher quality microphone as opposed to a brand new hundred dollar one.

Mics like the Blue Snowball are all over the market and you can get those things regularly for under $50.

Huge tip, for good microphone deals, find some failed rappers online! I got a $120 mic for 30 bucks that way.

Laptops

Used laptops? Aren’t those pretty common? Well, yes they are, and sometimes you can get old gaming laptops dirt cheap that can handle some modern games and most workstation tasks.

Older gaming laptops tend to hold their value pretty damn well but there’s always people willing to let their old items go on the cheap just to clear space.

If you don’t mind some cosmetic damage, many of these laptops are beyond dirt cheap since their old owners desire something new and clean.

If you can scoop up one of these to clean off or replace individual parts on, it may be well worth your while.

If you’re game to take some more risk, you might discover a gold mine in buying broken laptops. This one’s for those who are a little more tech savvy in replacing proprietary parts since laptops differ from system to system, but as long as you can follow online guides without breaking stuff I believe anyone could do it.

Buying an old thousand dollar broken gaming laptop and replacing it’s motherboard for a couple hundred bucks could net you the same performance as a brand new $700-800 laptop. It’s crazy stuff with some investment required, but you can easily run into issues with individual connectors, daughter boards, screens and so on.

Just a quick note, if you decide to fix a broken laptop with a display issue make sure you buy the right replacement screen because they’re not all cross compatible.