Gaming laptops offer the ultimate portable gaming experience. You get high-resolution console beating graphics, stunning sound, and peripherals to suit every desire.
They seem like the perfect, take anywhere, gaming platform.
But gaming laptops come with one rathy hefty problem:
They can be really expensive!
But there is a solution to this particular wallet draining problem:
Buy a used laptop!
But… Should I buy a used gaming laptop? Yes, you should buy a used gaming laptop. By buying a used gaming laptop you’ll get a far more powerful laptop for your money. You can save over 25% by buying a used gaming laptop compared to the same or similar new gaming laptop. You can also get a better gaming laptop for a fixed budget by buying used.
In this article I’ll look at:
- I’ll look at why you should buy a used gaming laptop in more depth
- You’ll be shown the difference between a refurbished and used Gaming Laptop
- You’ll get my personal checklist for buying a used gaming laptop safely
- And finally, you’ll get a conclusion and a look at what you can do next
Now you’re ready to dive into the first section. Let’s get started!
Why you should consider buying a used gaming laptop
Buying a used Gaming Laptop… Saves you money
The biggest draw, for me anyway, of buying a used laptop is the amount of money that can be saved by opting to buy used.
To illustrate this point more clearly, I wanted to find a good example of a used gaming laptop selling for a bargain price on eBay.
I jumped on the auction site and within minutes found an ASUS ROG Zephyrus 15.6. Equipped with Ryzen 7 3750H, 16GB of fast RAM, a massive 512GB SSD, and an Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti this is a serious gaming Laptop.
I found it selling for $815. Not bad. But how does this compare to the same laptop new?
Well, I hopped on Amazon, you may have noticed I do a lot of hopping and jumping around, and found the same laptop, new on amazon, for $1080.
That means by buying used you’ve saved $265. As a percentage that equals a saving of 25%.
Or in other words, that’s $265 you can spend on games.
Buying a used gaming laptop… Helps save the environment
Our rampant consumerism is slowly crushing the life out of the planet.
If we don’t curb our incessant “need” for new stuff our planet’s life-giving ecosystem will collapse into oblivion, taking us along for the ultimate ride to the end times.
You can play a part in helping to preserve the fragile balance of life here on Earth by opting to buy used electronic devices, such as gaming laptops, instead of new.
Because most of these gaming goodies that we love can’t economically, (yeah, it all comes down to money) be recycled. So they are just destroyed.
So, every time you choose to buy a used gaming laptop you save yet another hunk of plastic from a grizzly death inside an incinerator.
You can help stop the torrent of plastic particles from being pumped into our atmosphere. You stop plastic particles from collecting in our oceans, in our foods, in our lungs.
By buying a used laptop, you can help make a difference that’ll preserve the thin sheen of green that covers our planet for yourself and future generations.
Not a bad reason to buy a used laptop, right?
Buying a used gaming laptop… Lets you buy a better gaming laptop for a given budget
Say for example you have a budget of $1000 to buy a gaming laptop.
Well, you could pay less and buy that Asus ROG above for $800, and pocket the leftover $200.
You could avoid that Asus and buy a better laptop that fully makes use of all the cash in your budget.
I looked on eBay and found an Asus Rog Zephyrus Ga502IV for $1000. So still within your hypothetical $1000 laptop budget.
But for that extra $200 you get so much more for your money. For starters, you get a more powerful more modern CPU in the guise of the Ryzen 7 4800HS. But that’s not the best part.
For the extra cash, we also get Nvidia’s Ray Tracing enabled Rtx 2060 MAX-Q.
And you get a 120hz screen for supper slick frame rates.
In fact, you’re getting an all round better newer laptop.
Buying used really does make your money work harder for you.
Buying a Used gaming laptop can… Let you do a lot more than just gaming.
The beauty of buying a used gaming laptop isn’t just about saving money.
A gaming laptop offers even more value in the other areas of your life because it can be used for many different tasks.
A good gaming laptop can be used for doing work of any kind such as content creation, video editing, 3d model making, programming, and any other type of graphically heavy work.
And a laptop offers more outside of productivity.
It can be a games console sat in your entertainment center with the TV hooked up via HDMI out. You can complete the console feel with a set of Xbox controllers and Steam big picture mode.
A used laptop can be an entertainment center to absorb Netflix, Youtube, Disney Plus, Apple TV.
A laptop opens up the power of a PC in a small form factor. Making your TV smarter than smart.
So if you’re looking for a gaming laptop, remember it can also be your companion through college. It can help you deliver the presentation that lands you that new job. It can be there for you when you cuddle up with your partner to watch Netflix in a cozy holiday lodge.
A used gaming laptop is more than just for gaming.
It can be the centre of your entertainment world, and your partner in productivity.
Difference between a refurbished and a plain used gaming laptop.
Used gaming laptops are sold by individuals.
From my own experience, I sell my old laptops or components when I plan on upgrading or if I’ve already upgraded and I want to free up the cash locked in the used Laptop.
You’ll find lots of individual sellers, like me, selling their old gaming laptops on websites like eBay.
But it’s worth bearing in mind that these parts are sold as seen.
When buying a gaming laptop from an individual, the laptop will not come with any kind of warranty. Unless the laptop has a transferable manufacturer’s warranty.
The only protection you get is what Paypal or other payment systems offer.
There are few differences that set apart refurbished gaming laptops from used gaming laptops.
Refurbished gaming laptops are usually sold by businesses not individuals.
To be considered refurbished, a gaming laptop will have to pass through a systemized and thorough inspection conducted by a trained technician.
This inspection process is split up into different sections that a laptop must pass through.
First, the laptop is inspected for physical damage. Dents, cracks, scratches, everything is looked for and cataloged. Any physician damage will decrease the selling price so it’s important that the technician finds it. Also, the hinges of the laptop lid are checked.
If the laptop passes this physical check it moves to the next stage.
In phase 2, the laptop is powered on. The screen is checked for dead pixels and other screen-related problems. The keyboard, trackpad, and buttons are checked. The ports are all tested.
In phase 3, the laptop is stress-tested with a program such as PC Mark and 3D Mark. If the laptop passes this stress test. It moves onto the final stage.
If the laptop is working as it should, it’s cleaned, passed as refurbished, and promptly put up for sale.
Refurbished gaming laptops often come with a 1-2 year limited warranty.
Because of the testing process and the inclusion of a warranty, buying a refurbished gaming laptop is less risky.
However, you will pay a premium for the refurbishment process and the 3rd party warranty.
Tips for buying a used or refurbished gaming laptop
The following collection of tips is basically the checklist I work through when buying a used laptop.
I’ve deliberately not put these tips in order of importance.
The reason why:
I wanted you to put equal importance on each tip. That way you won’t think tip 1 is more important than tip 12.
Check the laptop’s Specification before buying
If you find a used gaming laptop that you like, it’s always good to check the manufacturer’s page for that specific model.
This will help you determine what components the laptop actually has, plus it will show you if the laptop can be easily upgraded.
To find the manufacturers page for a given laptop, simply copy and paste the Laptop’s model name/number into Google. Generally, the first result will be the manufacturer’s page for that model.
Does the laptop actually work?
Before you commit to buying a laptop, press the power button, let it boot, and play some games.
Check that it actually works before you buy.
If you personally can’t try the laptop ask the seller to send pics or videos of the laptop working, preferably playing games.
If the seller won’t do this for you, don’t buy the laptop.
Can you upgrade the RAM?
Many gaming laptops can be opened to upgrade the RAM. Whether that be the amount of RAM or the speed of the RAM.
The best way to determine if you can upgrade the laptop’s RAM is to copy and paste the model name of the laptop into google. The top result should be the manufacturer’s page for that laptop. It should tell you everything you need to know.
Can you swap out the hard drive?
Most gaming laptops will already come with an SSD.
But if the gaming laptop you’re looking at comes equipped with an old mechanical Hard drive, you will want to upgrade to an SSD.
Check the manufacturer’s website for the model laptop you are looking at. It will tell you what components can be upgraded.
Can you swap out the DVD drive for a hard drive?
Some older gaming laptops will come with a DVD drive. But these are pretty much useless these days as no PC games are sold on disk.
You can remove the DVD drive and insert a caddy that will hold an SSD.
Look on the manufacturer’s page for the laptop’s model to see if you can swap out the DVD drive.
Is the battery still providing a decent charge?
Gaming laptops aren’t exactly known for their massive battery lives.
Most gaming laptops when played on battery power die, even on a full charge, in 2 hours or less.
But it’s still useful to have a working battery that holds a good charge as the battery will last much longer for non-gaming tasks.
Finding out if the laptop’s battery holds a good charge is actually really easy.
You’ll want Windows 10 to generate a battery report. Take a look at this great article from PC gamer UK on how to generate a battery report. Send this link over to the person you are buying the laptop from so they can generate the report and send it to you.
Can you still buy batteries for the machine?
Check that you can still buy batteries for the particular model you’re thinking about buying.
Some battery types in older machines will not be sold any more.
Is the screen working as it should?
The screen of a laptop is built directly into the body of the laptop and can’t easily be replaced or fixed.
You must be sure that everything is working correctly. Keep an eye out for these issues:
- Dead pixels
- Pixels stuck as white or black
- Old image outlines stuck on screen regardless of what is currently on screen
- Bruising is caused by LED light failure behind the LCD panel
- Scratches should be easy to see as they will look like rainbow lines on the screen
- Dead groups of pixels
- May indicate the screen has been hit by something.
- Large groups of vertical or horizontal “Rainbow” Lines on the screen
- Indicates that huge amounts of pixels have been destroyed or there is a problem with the connection between the screen and the GPU
Does the machine overheat?
An overheating laptop can mean a few things. Non of them good:
- The Laptop is clogged full of dust.
- This dust would need to be cleaned out, either by you or a professional PC specialist
- The GPU/CPU cooler isn’t functioning correctly
- The cooler has come away from the CPU/GPU
- The thermal paste has broken down and is not conducting heat well
You can easily tell if a machine is overheating by stress-testing the gaming laptop before buying it. Ask the seller to download 3d Mark and PC mark and run the stress test in both.
Stress testing will find overheating problems.
If the Laptop overheats to the point where it shuts down, I’d avoid it.
Additionally, you might what to consider extra cooling solutions for your laptop. Check out my “How to keep Gaming Laptops Cool” article for hints and tips on how to keep a gaming laptop cool and icy.
Give the machine a thorough clean before using
Before you use the laptop, get some antibacterial wipes and give it a thorough clean.
See the video below on how to clean a laptop properly.
You can also clean dust from inside your laptop. But it will be hands-on as you’ll need to remove the outer case of the laptop.
Check out the Youtube video below to see what I mean:
What is the laptop’s history?
Has the laptop sat in an office for the past year?
Was it plonked on a gaming desk never to be moved?
Or was it thrown in a makeshift laptop bag and dragged to college day after day?
Regardless, you want to ask the seller about the laptop’s history.
As you can imagine, a laptop stuck on a desk for two years is going to offer much more security than a laptop that’s been bouncing around in somebody’s college bag.
What is the gaming laptop made from?
Metal bodied laptops will stand the test of time better than plastic laptops.
Plastic laptops flex, crack, and break. Metal, on the other hand, tends to withstand bumps and knocks better.
What type of keyboard does it have?
Do you want a mechanical keyboard or a membrane keyboard?
Do you want a light up keyboard?
Before you buy, have an idea of the type of keyboard you’d like.
Keep in mind, technical keyboards are rare when it comes to laptops.
Is it user serviceable?
Can the laptop be easily opened?
Laptops that can be opened easily are great for cleaning and upgrading.
Ex business laptops are great for this. Though usually, the easier the laptop is to open, the thicker and less portable it will be.
Does it come with a GPU?
Ebay’s full of great used laptops. But a lot of them don’t come with dedicated GPUs.
Be sure to check that the gaming laptop that you are looking at comes with a dedicated GPU.
I’d say you want to aim for a minimum of Nvidia GTX 1050 ti mobile. But that’s only if you intend to play games like Fortnight or League of legends at 1080p 60fps at low settings.
If you want better graphics, you’ll need a better GPU such as the RTX 2060 Mobile or RTX 2070 mobile.
Keep your expectations in check.
Keep in mind that laptop GPUs are not as powerful as their desktop GPU equivalents.
For example, a Laptop with an RTX 2060 mobile is not going to be as powerful as a desktop RTX 2060.
Is the screen resolution right for you?
Many Laptop manufacturers flaunt the fact that their laptop has a 4k screen that powers along at 144Hz or higher. The problem is, most GPUs in laptops won’t be able to hit anywhere near a 4K resolution at a high frame rate.
So don’t spend extra cash getting a laptop screen with a super high resolution and refresh rate.
Instead aim to get a laptop with a screen resolution of 1080p that runs at 60-120hz. It’ll offer the best balance between resolution and smoothness of game play.
Look at what other people are saying
Look on forums such as Reddit for conversations about the laptop.
What are actual buyers of the laptop saying? Are conversations positive? Do you notice regular problems popping up?
Also look at reviews for the laptop from real users on Amazon. Look at the 2-3 star reviews. What problems have people encountered?
Are all accessories included?
Is the power lead/block included? Is it in good condition?
What other accessories does the laptop come with? Check the manufacturer’s web page for the laptop to ensure everything that should come with the laptop is included.
Don’t buy a laptop with missing parts
If parts such as a hard drive or RAM are missing, they have probably been removed for a reason.
It could indicate that something else could be wrong with the laptop.
Mechanical hard drives can fail… suddenly.
If the laptop has been knocked around or mistreated, this can massively decrease the expected lifespan of any mechanical hard drive in the laptop.
I’m not saying don’t buy a laptop with a mechanical hard drive. Just plan on buying a new hard drive such as an SSD to replace it as soon as possible.
Buy a laptop with an SSD if possible.
SSDs still come with risks but those risks are far lower than a normal HDD. Plus they withstand physical punishment better.
Try to buy a laptop with an SSD already included.
If one is not included, you should budget accordingly to buy one.
Ensure all the laptop case screws are included
If a lot of screws are missing it can indicate that the laptop was neglected or opened by somebody who, even though they had the best of intentions, didn’t really know what they were doing.
Do you really want somebody who doesn’t know what they are doing poking around inside the laptop you are about to buy? I didn’t think so.
Does it have Wifi/Bluetooth?
Most laptops will include Wifi.
But, it’s the type of Wifi that matters.
Try to get a laptop with Wifi 5 (802.11ac) or even Wifi 6 (802.11ax). Either of which is much faster and more reliable than older Wifi standards making them perfect for online gaming.
Also, do you need Bluetooth? Bluetooth is great for using peripherals such as mice, keyboards, and game controllers. But it’s also really useful for quickly transferring images and other media from mobile phones or tablets to your laptop.
Check the seller before buying
Don’t buy from sellers with low ratings, regardless of how good the deal looks.
Does it have the ports that you need?
Check that the gaming laptop you are interested in has all the ports you need.
For example, if you plan on hooking the machine up to the internet with a wire, check that it has an ethernet port.
If you plan on using the laptop for VR, check that it has USB 3.1 or USB C ports.
And if you want to use the laptop with an external monitor check that it has an HDMI port or Display port.
Check the hinges between the laptop body and the screen
Are the hinges between the laptop body and the screen in good condition?
The hinges are a moving part and moving parts wear out and fail.
If you see any signs of wear, such as cracks, do not buy.
Check the keyboard
Are all the keyboard keys working? Are there any missing caps?
Also be careful to check, if you can, for mushy or sticky keys.
Mushy keys could indicate that the mechanism under the key is close to failure.
Sticky keys could indicate a failure or that liquids have been spilled on the keyboard recently.
If there is no travel in the key or they do not make a click sound, it’s usually because the key mechanism has failed.
Check the touch pad
Does it work? Also does the touchpad have any wear on it or dead zones?
Test it by using every part of the touchpad including the edges and corners.
If the mouse pointer suddenly stops or stutters. Test the same area on the touchpad again. If you repeat the stutter or sudden stop, there is a problem with the touchpad.
Check the touchpad buttons.
Do they all work as they should?
If they are mushy it could indicate liquid has spilled on them or has gotten under them.
If they do not travel as far or they do not make a click sound, the mechanism for the buttons could be damaged.
Check for signs of wear or damage
Check for any deep scratches, marks, or cracks on the body of the laptop. Any heavy damage could indicate that the laptop has been abused or mistreated by its owner.
However, light scratches or marks on the case are to be expected for a used item.
Check the laptop’s specification on the manufacturer’s site
eBay and Amazon sellers are notorious for embellishing the specs of PCs and laptops.
In fact, I remember when eBay sellers would regularly advertise PCs that had a dual-core 3.5ghz CPU as being a 7Ghz CPU!
Also, a lot of details are left out by sellers on eBay. For example, seller descriptions often sound a bit like this:
“Asus MAG gaming laptop. Amazing laptop. Perfect condition. Cash on collection. No time wasters.”
Not exactly a Shakespearean description.
So be sure to check the manufacturers website for details.
Does it come with a recovery disk
If you buy a used laptop, and it only comes with a traditional hard drive, you’ll want to upgrade to an SSD as soon as possible.
However, to do this you’ll need the Windows 10 recovery disk that came with the laptop so you can reinstall Windows on a new SSD.
At a minimum you’ll want the original Windows 10 activation key.
Buy a laptop that has at least 8GB of RAM
I’d say 8GB of RAM is the absolute minimum amount of RAM you should buy when getting a gaming laptop.
But try and get more.
16GB is better. Anything higher than 16GB and you are good for the next 5 years.
If it comes with less than 8GB of RAM, check that you can upgrade to more.
A 4 core CPU or more is a must
You should aim to buy a CPU with a minimum of 4 cores. Older Laptops with Intel i5 CPUs usually only have 2 cores.
So aim to buy a laptop with an intel i7 or better.
Also, only buy an AMD based laptop if it uses a Ryzen based CPU.
AMD’s older CPUs should be avoided as they were, to be frank, awful.
Compare to new gaming laptop prices
The price of gaming laptops, like the rest of consumer technology, is forever fluctuating.
New and used laptops are never the same price from week to week. Especially around Christmas time, Black Friday, and when Amazon runs an Amazon Prime day.
So it’s always worth comparing the price of a used gaming laptop to the price of the same laptop when sold for new.
You’d be shocked at how often you’ll find sudden price drops dip a new laptop’s price below that of the same laptop used.
So be sure to check the prices before committing to buying.
Paypal offers buyer protection: use it
Do not pay in cash. You get buyer protection by using Paypal.
If the gaming laptop is dead on arrival, you can contact PayPal, and get your money back.
Check warranties before buying refurbished
Buying refurbished will mean you get a limited warranty. This is great, but be sure you are not paying too much.
Some sellers add a massive price premium for the “security’ of the warranty.
But the warranty, if you look at the small print, won’t cover you for hardly anything.
So check the warranty.
Check that you can still download the drivers and software the laptop needs
Windows 10 makes it far easier to install drivers for your components.
But some drivers, especially for mobile variants of hardware, may not come with the Windows 10 install. So be sure you can still download them.
Also, many gaming laptops come packed with software to do fancy things such as overclocking the GPU and CPU or controlling RGB lights.
Be sure this software is still available to download.
Does the laptop come in its original box?
Buying a used gaming laptop that comes with its original box is always a good idea.
A laptop sold with its original box usually indicates that the previous owner looked after their kit knowing they would eventually sell.
Also, the original box helps protect the item in postage.
Whenever possible, buy used gaming laptops that come with their original box.
I honestly believe that buying a used or refurbished gaming laptop is a great way to get into mobile laptop gaming at a far lower price.
By going used, you can get a gaming laptop that offers a fast CPU, lots of RAM, and great graphics capabilities at vastly lower prices.
In fact, as I showed earlier in the article, you can save at least 25%!
Not only are you saving money, but you’re also helping to preserve the environment by saving another laptop from the incinerator’s jaws.
Just be sure to follow my buying tips, and you’ll be soon saving money and the environment.
Can I buy used refurbished parts to build my own gaming desktop PC? Yes. GPUs, CPUs, Motherboards, Blue-ray drives, cases, you name it I’ve bought it used and built a system out of it. I’ve never had any failure or problems.
I’d like to build my own gaming PC from used parts instead of buying a used gaming laptop. How would I do that? Ah, you are in luck, I wrote a “how to create a gaming PC from used parts” a few months back. You can take a look at it here.