My wallet just shuddered in fear after looking at the price of new gaming PCs.
These days, if you want to buy a high-end gaming rig from companies such as Scan and Overclockers you’re looking at paying well in excess of $2000.
For many of us, $2000 is completely out of reach, especially given the current financial climate that’s washed over us like a tsunami in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
There must be another way to get into PC gaming without decimating the bank balance.
And there is:
You can buy a used gaming PC.
But I know what you are thinking. Buying anything used is fraught with danger. You are just asking to be screwed over by some dodgy dealer. Parts will be missing or broken. The thing will probably collapse in on itself the moment you turn it on. And then the dealer will disappear without a trace, taking your money along with them.
But, as somebody who has brought many different parts and built many gaming PCs from used parts, I currently use a used GTX 1080ti and Ryzen 5 1600, I can tell you that buying used is not the minefield you fear it to be.
I’m here to tell you that you should buy a used gaming PC. Here’s why:
Yes, you should buy a used gaming PC. By buying a used gaming PC you’ll get a far more powerful PC for your money. You can save over 54% by buying a used gaming PC compared to the same or similar new gaming PC. You can also get a better gaming PC for a fixed budget by buying used. Also, by buying used, you are saving many good components from ending up in the trash.
In this article I’ll look at:
- I’ll look at why you should buy a used gaming PC in more depth
- You’ll be shown the difference between a refurbished and used Gaming PC
- You’ll get my personal checklist that I use when buying a used gaming PC
- 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 PC
Buying a used Gaming PC… Saves you money
The biggest reason to buy a used gaming PC over a new one is the amount of money that can be saved.
You can easily save up to 54% of the cost compared to a new pc of comparable, or close to comparable power.
But instead of me just telling you, I went and found a used PC selling on eBay and did a comparison. Let’s take a look.
After scouring the listings on eBay I came across a Custom Gaming PC sporting a Ryzen 7 3700x and Sapphire Nitro+ RX5700XT selling for $979.
It had some cracking kit built into it including:
- A Thermaltake s300TG case
- MSI MPG x570 gaming plus Motherboard
- Ryzen 7 3700x CPU
- Sapphire Nitro+ RX 5700XT GPU
- G.Skill TridentZ neo 3600 16GB of RAM
- A Cooler Master 1250W(!) PSU
- A Crucial MX500 M.2 1Tb SSD
- A Western Digital 4tb 7200rpm HHD.
- Plus it came supplied with Windows 10 home 64bit
Some seriously sweet game kit.
But how does this compare to a new PC?
I hopped on Cyberpowerpc.com to build a comparable new rig. It included the same Ryzen 7 3700x CPU, the AMD RX 5700xt, 16GB of RAM, the PSU, everything.
The total cost of this new PC, drum roll please…
That means you can buy exactly the same gaming PC used for 1152 dollars less!
That’s a saving of 54%!
And I only looked on eBay for 30 minutes.
There are literally thousands of PCs like this on eBay at any given time. Each offering gargantuan savings.
Ok, the Cyberpower PC gives you a 3-year warranty. But even if that was worth $150, you’d still be saving over $1000.
The choice, as far as I’m concerned, is clear:
Buy used. Save a huge pile of cash. Simple.
Buying a used gaming PC… Helps save the environment
You are probably well aware by now that we, the human race, are slowly but surely running our poor little planet into the ground.
Everyday, millions of factories, some of which make the very components that slot into your pc, are pumping out millions of tons of carbon that is driving global warming and extreme weather.
If we continue on our current consumerist trajectory, within 100 years, most of Africa and the nations straddling the equator will become uninhabitable.
Vast seas of people will migrate north, some south, overwhelming the worlds’ infrastructure, food, and water supplies.
We each need to take responsibility for our planet before this calamity erodes us from the face of the earth. Before climate change burns our green and pleasant land into a barren, Venus-like, desert.
You can help to avoid this possible future, by buying used parts instead of new.
Every used part you buy does a number of things:
- It stops yet another used component from being incinerated, and thus, stopping plastic particles from being pumped into our atmosphere
- It helps lower the demand for new components so less carbon is used to build them
- It sends a clear message to manufacturers that their components should be built on sustainable low carbon processes.
- It tells designers that recyclable components are not an option, they’re a necessity.
Buying a used gaming rig will have a profound effect on the world, not just your wallet.
Keep that in mind next time you search eBay for a bargain.
Buying a used gaming PC… Lets you buy a better gaming PC for a given budget
Let’s say, you have a budget of $2000.
Well, as you’ve seen above, you can get a pretty epic PC for over 50% less money by buying used.
So, in theory, you could double the value you can buy by buying used.
For example, you could spend your $2000 budget on a used PC and get something epic, something utterly monstrous. Something that new would have cost nearly $4000!
Buying a Used gaming PC can… Let you do a lot more than just gaming.
The beauty of buying a used gaming PC over a console isn’t just fancier graphics and faster frame rates.
A gaming PC offers even more value because it can be used for many different productivity tasks.
A good gaming PC can be used for doing work of any kind such as heavy content creation, 4k video editing, 3d model making, 3d design, CAD work, and anything else.
Difference between a refurbished and a plain used gaming PC.
Used gaming PCs are sold by individuals.
Usually, gamers sell their old gaming PCs because they have either decided to buy a new pre-built system or build a new system themselves.
It’s worth bearing in mind that when buying a used gaming PC, you are buying it as seen.
That’s why you should follow the tips in the next section to do your due diligence.
However, you can take some security from the fact that these PCs would have been in perfect working condition.
When buying a gaming PC from an individual, the PC will not come with any kind of warranty. Unless the PC has a transferable manufacturer’s warranty. Unfortunately, most warranties are not transferable.
The only protection you get when buying used is what Paypal or other payment systems offer.
There are few differences that set apart refurbished gaming PCs from used gaming PCs.
Refurbished gaming PCs are usually sold by businesses not individuals.
To be considered refurbished, a gaming PC will pass through a systemized and thorough inspection conducted by a trained technician.
This inspection process is split up into different phases and the gaming PC must pass through each phase.
If the PC passes through each phase of the test successfully, it’s cleaned, passed as refurbished, and promptly put up for sale.
Refurbished gaming PCs often come with a 1 year limited warranty.
Because of the testing process and the inclusion of a warranty, buying a refurbished gaming PC 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 PC
The following section is split up into individual components that you should check.
Also, there are other tips that you should also action before buying, and in some cases after buying.
Some of the sections on individual components will link out to articles that I have written detailing in more depth on how to buy that particular component used.
But the golden rule is this:
If the PC is on, plays games, and passed a stress test, it should be fine.
However, the more checks you do, and they don’t take long, the more confident you can be in what you are buying.
Check the PSU
The PSU inside a used gaming PC is what powers all of the components. Generally speaking, if the PC turns on the PSU should be ok.
However, it’s still worth running a stress test on the PC to ensure the PSU can still supply power when all the components are under load, or in other words, playing games.
As for the amount of power you need, most gaming PCs come with a 650W PSU. That seems the standard PSU power these days.
This is fine for 90% of PC gamers. But if you are thinking about upgrading to a more powerful graphics card/CPU in the future, you may need a more powerful PSU.
I’d say 750W is more than enough to handle even the highest-end graphics card/CPU combo.
For more tips on checking the PSU in a used gaming rig, check out my article, “should I buy a used PSU”
Is the gaming PC’s specification right for you?
When buying a used gaming PC ask the seller for a complete list of all the components in the PC. With this information you can do a few important things:
- You can check on the manufacturer’s website for each component so you learn more about them and if they suit your needs
- You can search forums for each component to see what people are saying about it
- You can compare components on websites like UserBenchmark.com
- You can check the 2-3 star reviews on Amazon to see what problems people are having
- You can compare the components in the System you want to buy to the requirements of the games you want to play. For example, you can head over to the System Requirements Lab (fantastic website by the way), search for the game you want to play, and compare your list of components to the minimum and recommended system requirements of the games you want to play.
Turn the gaming PC on and stress test it
Check that the gaming PC you are interested in actually works before you buy.
Play some games on the pc then stress test it using 3D Mark and PC Mark. Both are free to use for stress testing.
Compare the test results to other PCs with similar components to ensure the PC is running as it should.
These programs will push the gaming PC’s components to the limit. And it will find any problems with the components. Under normal gaming loads, the PC will never be stressed as much as what PC and 3D Mark can stress them.
If you can’t run these tests before buying, ask if you can have the PC for a day to run the test yourself.
If you can’t get to the PC easily, say you’re buying off eBay, then ask the seller to run the stress test for you and show you the results.
If the seller won’t do this for you, don’t buy the PC.
Check the CPU
You want to aim to buy a PC with a CPU with at least 4 cores. That means Intel i5 6000 series or better, or Intel i3 8100 or better.
Also, only buy i5 processors that are 6000 series or better as they support DDR4 RAM modules. But newer is obviously better.
Any i7 6000 series and newer is also fine.
As for AMD processors, almost all Ryzen processors are ok as even the slowest processor has 4 cores. But these are my minimus based on generation:
- Generation 1: Ryzen 5 1600
- Generation 2: Ryzen 5 2600
- Generation 3: Ryzen 3 3300x (Fab gaming CPU if you can find one) or the Ryzen 5 3400g
- Generation 4: Any Ryzen 5 or 3 5000 series CPU would be fantastic.
All Ryzen processors support DDR4 RAM
Keep in mind that the type of game you want to play will determine how powerful your CPU needs to be. But for basic gaming rigs playing at 60fps, the above CPUs are all great choices.
As for checking the CPU, turn the PC on, run the PC Mark stress test.
If the PC crashes, there is something wrong so don’t buy the PC.
If the PC passes PC Mark, the CPU is fine.
Check out my “should I buy a used CPU” article for more tips on what to look for in a CPU in a used gaming PC.
Check the CPU cooler
Check that the CPU cooler is attached correctly: that there is no vertical movement when you lightly tug on the cooler.
Don’t worry about horizontal movement, a little is ok as the cooler will slide around a little on the thermal paste.
If you can, check that the CPU cooler fan(s) are spinning freely.
It might be worth you looking at my article “should I buy a used CPU cooler” as it has loads of tips.
Check the GPU
When it comes to gaming, the graphics card is hands down the most important component inside the machine. Nothing will affect the smoothness of gameplay or the resolution like the graphics card does.
So it is important to buy a machine with as good a graphics card.
As a rule of thumb, your graphics card should account for 40-50% of the cost of your system.
It’s hard to say what GPU is good for you because it will greatly depend on what type of games you want to play and at what resolution and framerate.
If I were buying used right now, and I was gaming at 1080p 60fps, I would aim for nothing less than either an Nvidia RTX 2060 or an RX 5600 XT from AMD.
However, if you want to play at higher resolutions or frame rates, then you’ll need a more substantial graphics card.
As a rule of thumb, when it comes to graphics cards higher numbers equal better so long as the graphics card was built in the last 2-3 years.
Also, any suffixes on the end such as “Super” or “XT” usually means the graphics card is better than a non-suffixed one.
Knowing what graphic card to buy is quite an in-depth topic and beyond the scope of this article.
So I’ve created a “Should I Buy a used GPU” article to help you buy a used graphics card. Even one inside a used gaming PC.
It might also be worth checking out the Logical Increments GPU comparison chart.
Check the motherboard
The motherboard inside a gaming PC is the most important component as it is the number one limiting factor for what components you can use.
For example, the motherboard will limit:
- What type of CPU you can use
- How much RAM
- What type of RAM
- The speed of the RAM
- How many PCI cards you can mount
Generally speaking, if you buy a gaming pc with one of the CPUs I mentioned above, the motherboard will be absolutely fine.
Keep in mind the motherboard’s size. They come in, from largest to smallest, E-ATX, ATX, MATX, AND ITX.
The smaller the motherboard, the fewer connectors it will have. So ITX will have fewer PCIe slots, SATA ports, USB ports, fan headers, M.2 slots, and RAM slots compared to ATX.
So a larger motherboard offers more flexibility and room to upgrade.
Also, keep in mind that having a number of spare PCIe slots can be really helpful if you need to add any extras into the PC that the motherboard doesn’t support such as USB C ports, M.2 ports, capture cards, and sound cards.
However, as the motherboard is the foundation of the PC, and probably the most complex component, I’ve written a separate article on buying a used motherboard. Check out, “should I buy a used motherboard” here to discover loads of tips on buying one.
Check the hard drives
You want to buy a gaming PC with at least 1 NVMe M.2 SSD. They are the stick like hard drives that plug into the motherboard.
I usually don’t recommend buying used hard drives as you do not make big enough savings.
However if the PC comes pre equipped with an M.2 drive then that is ok.
Be sure to ask the seller to run a SMART test on all the hard drives so you can see that they are still healthy.
If they do not know how to run a SMART test, direct them to this article by PC gamer which will show them how to run the check.
Also, I recommend buying a PC with at least a 250GB M.2 drive. But again buy what you think you need for the games you want to play.
If all you’re going to do is play one game or small indie games, a smaller M.2 would be ok, just.
Give the machine a thorough clean before using
If you’d decided to go ahead and buy the machine, when it arrives, give it clean inside to remove any dust.
Are all accessories included?
Is the power lead included?
Is the seller throwing in a HDMI cable?
Also, are they selling the PC with peripherals such as a monitor, keyboard, and mouse?
If so, you could be getting a bargain if you need all these extras.
But if you don’t need all these extras, they could be unnecessarily increasing the price of the PC.
Ensure all the PC case screws are included
PCs come with a lot of extra screws to hold panels, graphics cards, and hard drives in place.
It’s always good to check if the gaming PC comes with all the necessary hardware to hold panels and GPUs in place.
The odd missing screw is not going to be a problem as you buy screws cheaply off Amazon. But missing screws can indicate negligence on behalf of the previous owner.
Does it have WiFi/Bluetooth built-in?
Some motherboards in desktop gaming rigs will come with WiFi and Bluetooth built-in.
But don’t be turned off if they don’t.
You can buy a WiFi PCIe express card with built-in Bluetooth very cheaply. Just remember that even if you can buy them cheaply they are still an extra expense that you have to take into account.
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 the front of the case. Does it have the ports that you will need?
For example, I like to use a PS4 controller with my PC which I plug into a front USB socket.
I also have a USB type C which is great for attaching a VR headset.
Also, check the back of the PC. Does the graphics card have the display ports you need?
For example, if you are thinking about playing games while streaming with a multiple monitor setup you may need many ports.
Check the case for signs of wear or damage
Check the case for damage such as dents, deep scratches, things like that.
The reason for this isn’t to check for cosmetic wear: all used gaming PCs will have some light wear.
What you are checking for is obvious signs of damage. For example, if there was a big dent on the side it could indicate that the PC has been kicked.
Don’t buy a badly damaged PC, regardless of price. Physical abuse can lead to components failing without warning.
Does it come with a recovery disk
When you buy a used PC it is always a good idea to format the hard drives and reinstall Windows 10.
You should do this even if the seller reinstalled Windows for you.
The reason for this is, you have no idea what was on the PC before you bought it. Doing your own install of Windows will offer you more security.
To do this you’ll need the recovery CD that came with the PC. If the PC doesn’t come with a recovery CD. Buy a cheap Windows 10 key off eBay.
Check the RAM
RAM is pretty tough stuff and is very hard to break. So this is more how much RAM you should buy, and how fast it should be.
I’d say 8GB of RAM is the absolute minimum amount of RAM you should buy when getting a gaming PC.
But, if you can, get more.
16GB is better. Anything higher than 16GB and you are good for the next few years.
If it comes with less than 8GB of RAM, check that you can upgrade to more.
As for speed, you really should aim for DDR4 RAM running at 2400mhz or higher.
For more tips to help you spot issues with used RAM in a used Gaming PC check out my “should I buy used RAM” article.
Listen to the PC if you can
Listen to the PC. Are there any odd sounds such as grinding noises?
A PC should sound like a really quiet desk fan when it’s not doing anything. If it sounds any different from this, there may be something wrong with it.
Compare to new gaming PC prices
The price of gaming PCs, like the rest of consumer technology, is forever fluctuating.
New and used PCs 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 PC to the price of a similarly powered gaming PC when new.
Though you don’t often get massive price drops on pre-built rigs that use new parts.
But still, it doesn’t hurt 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 PC 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.
Does it come in the original case box?
Buying a used gaming PC that comes with its original box is always a good idea.
A gaming PC that is sold with its original box or the case box generally indicates that the seller always had the intention of selling their rig when they eventually upgraded. So they would have taken good care of it.
For example, I have a gaming PC that I’ve built myself and an iMac for work and I have kept the boxes for both as I know, eventually, I will sell them both. And I want the eventual future seller to buy in complete confidence that I looked after my machines.
Additionally, buying a gaming PC that comes with its original box means it can be posted securely knowing it’s in the box that was designed to keep it safe.
However, it may be worth you asking the seller to disconnect the GPU and RAM as these can, on rare occasions, work themselves loose in transit.
You can always click them back into place very easily once the PC has arrived.
Buying a used or refurbished PC is the golden gateway for gamers on a budget to get into the world of PC gaming.
You don’t have to pay a lot to get started. An older PC with an older graphics card will give you a taste of what PC gaming can do.
But be warned, building and tinkering with your own gaming PC can be very addictive. Once you’ve tasted the power of the dark si… I mean tasted the power and control of PC gaming, console gaming seems anemic.
Not only that but you can save loads of money by buying a used PC. In fact, you can save at least 54% on a comparably powered new gaming PC by buying used.
And then you can put that saved 54% of your cash into, you know, buying actual games.
Also, buying a used PC saves multiple perfectly good components from rotting away in the trash.
So buying a used gaming PC seems like a pretty sweet deal right? That’s because it is!
Explore listings on eBay, go on an adventure through Amazon’s products, click through the ads on Craigslist.
Somebody could be putting your next gaming PC up for sale right now. And with this article, and the others linked here, you’re ready to buy a gaming PC bargain.
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 PC. 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.
Should I buy a used gaming laptop instead? You can buy some pretty amazing gaming laptops on places like eBay. But they do tend to hold a premium over gaming PC and the components are never as powerful as a gaming PC. If portability is something you really need from a gaming laptop, then yes by all means buy one. Check out my “Should I buy a used gaming laptop” article here to see some tips about buying. Otherwise, if you have space, I’d buy a gaming PC instead.
Title Image Credit
My thanks go out to Jjulienava who took the cracking photo for the title image. The part of my brain attuned to legal issues (Admittedly, it’s a very small part) told me to include the legal sharing rights: Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International