Tips & Tricks for Shopping Used PC Parts

by turbolence1988MAR 24TH, 2019

Good Buying Practices

The components themselves aren’t the only thing to pay attention to when you’re shopping for used parts. Buying secondhand is a different market entirely than forking over your cash to a national retailer, and we’ve gathered the following buying tips that will apply to any used purchase, not just computer parts.

Too Good to be True?

This is a simple one - someone selling a high end component for pennies on the dollar is likely selling you something worth pennies in exchange for your dollars. A price far below average market value (e.g. $10 for a component that regularly goes for $150) is often a scam, especially on eBay where compromised accounts run rampant with fake listings, phishing for user info. A reputable seller with a storefront full of used Beanie Babies that mysteriously, suddenly listed a half dozen cutting edge CPUs for twenty dollars is an immediate red flag.

In any case worth taking a moment on a screaming deal to check into the seller’s history on the marketplace where it’s listed. Reputable sellers will have almost entirely positive ratings, and any neutral or negative ratings should be easily explained. A new user or one that has only a couple old transactions in their history isn’t necessarily an issue, but you should at least exchange a few messages before buying an expensive component. If anything seems off, tread cautiously.

Untested? Assume Not Working

There’s no way to truly know whether a component is in good or bad shape until it’s in your hands, but sellers should be upfront about whether they’ve tested the item and if it has any known issues. Much like a classified for a car may say “ran when parked,” if the seller isn’t willing to test an item and wants to sell it quick, assume you’re buying a bad part. Bryan from Tech YES City reminds us to watch the “body language” of such sellers - if they’re working unusually hard to get you to buy a part that they won’t test, it’s probably bad.

Any component sold “AS-IS” or otherwise untested with a seller guarantee against dead-on-arrival (DOA) components should be assumed broken. Unless you have extensive experience in electronics repair, it’s best to avoid these entirely.

Buyer Protection for Online Sales

If you’re buying online, the transaction should ideally be facilitated through an online marketplace. If the seller wants to finish an online sale off the website, be wary - sales that don’t flow through eBay or similar venues aren’t covered by the sites’ buyer protection policies.

So what about online sales through communities like Discord servers or subreddits? Though these are little more than classifieds, you can still protect yourself from a scam by using a payment method with buyer protection. Typically this would be a PayPal transaction - when buying goods and services either the buyer or seller pays a small fee to compensate for this protection, but only if the payment is marked as such! The “Friends and Family” payment option has no transaction fees but offers no buyer protection of any kind. If the seller isn’t willing to agree upon the fee for a sale of goods and services, reject the offer.  In any case, save screenshots, emails, and documents showing the agreed upon sale information as you’ll need these to file a buyer protection claim.

Under no circumstances should you mail a check or fill out a money order for an online sale. You may as well consider your money gone if you do.

Local Sales

If you’re shopping local listings or stumble across someone not far away from you in an online community, you may agree to meet up in person to complete the sale.

Remember that for local sales you’re meeting a stranger. You should always agree to meet at a public location at a normal hour, whether that’s a popular coffee shop, a bank branch, or a police station. The area should be well-lit with people nearby. If you can bring a friend or relative along, we recommend that too.

This is the only circumstance where we’re willing to recommend cash for smaller purchases, but larger ones can be facilitated through Venmo, PayPal, or similar money exchanges. Just make sure the seller agrees to this in advance. Additionally, if the venue and circumstances allow, a live test of the components being bought is not a bad idea. Once the sale’s complete the seller’s under no obligation to accept a return or otherwise undo the sale.

Test Everything

Whether you’re buying new or used, always test what you purchase. Throw it into a working computer and run it through not just the games and applications you’re going to use; put it through its paces on an appropriate stress test for at least a few minutes (though ideally an hour or longer). Do it through more than one program for each component as well - a CPU that handles CPU-Z’s stress testing tool may be overexerted on AIDA64. If a component can’t stand up to a stress test, and if the seller didn’t mention any such issues, you have grounds for a return as the component can be considered faulty.

Additionally, if you suspect you have a faulty component and have the means, run it through the same test it in another computer. Incompatibilities or driver issues can cause perfectly good components to throw errors or failures on particular sets of hardware. If the issue can’t be replicated on a second machine, odds are the component is fine and it’s time to diagnose what could be wrong with the original system.