Should I Buy a Used Graphics Card?


I’ve bought used graphics cards for the last 10 years, and I have never had one fail on me. 

My last GPU was a used ‘Nvidia GTX 970’ and that card was superb. It lasted over 3 years and I bought it from a UK shop called ‘CEX’. I paid £75 for it.

After my ‘GTX 970’, I stepped up my game and purchased a ‘GTX 1080ti’. And that’s what I still use today. The ‘1080ti’ cost me a little more to buy, around £300 pounds, but that’s nothing compared to the price of this card when it came out new: £800. 

(Sorry everything is in pounds I wanted to be as authentic as possible using my own experience here in the UK. Prices can easily be converted to US dollars.)

But surely there are loads of things that can go wrong with a used graphics card, I hear you say. The fans might stop working or it might just burn out. That’s all true… but…

As somebody with experience in buying used graphics cards, for many years I might add, I wanted to answer the question as accurately as possible for you, and to shutdown some myths that you might have heard about buying used goods. 

Should I buy a used graphics card? Yes, you should buy a used graphics card. Used graphics cards offer far more computing power per dollar spent than new graphics cards. Plus, you’re saving perfectly good graphics cards from ending up in landfill sites. In this article we’ll look at:

  • I’ll answer the question in more depth
  • List of where you can buy used graphics cards 
  • Look at the difference between used and refurbished graphics cards
  • Problems you may encounter when buying used graphics cards
  • Tips for buying a used graphics card
  • A quick look at why you might not want to buy a used graphics card
  • A conclusion and a look at what you can do next

Ok, now you know what I’ll cover in this article, let’s crack on and take a closer look at each section…

Why should you consider buying a used GPU? 

Save money 

You can save very large sums of money by buying used graphics cards.

For example, if I bought a ‘RTX 2080 ti’, it would cost me around £1200. Yet, if I bought a used ‘GTX 1080 ti’, I get 80% of the graphical power of the ‘RTX’ card, but I only spend £300, or 25% of the cash I’d pay for the ‘2080 ti’, for the privilege.

Get more power for your money 

You don’t just have to buy old generation cards, you can buy current used generation cards too, and make a big saving. 

Or you can use your budget to “level up” the card you intended on buying. 

For example, a ‘RTX 2060’ is worth about £300 new, but £240 used. An ‘RTX 2060 super’ is worth £350 new, but £300 used. 

If you had a budget of £300 to spend on a graphics card, instead of opting for a new but slower ‘RTX 2060’, you could level up your graphics card for the same budget by buying a used ‘RTX 2060 super’. 

Helps save the environment 

One of the biggest draws for me, and maybe it is for you too, is that by buying second hand you are saving yet another piece of electronics from wasting away in a landfill. 

By buying a new graphics card, you’re making a descent into the “fast fashion” culture, which is when you dump things as soon as the “next big thing” pokes its head out and around the corner! 

So, buy a used graphics card and do your little bit for the environment.

You can buy current generation graphics cards, after mid generation refreshes 

Another great way to buy used graphics cards is to buy the older version of a graphics card after a mid generation refresh. 

For example, the ‘RTX 2060’, got the “Super” mid generation refresh. 

This refresh knocked £100 off the used ‘RTX 2060s’ overnight. 

Where can I buy used GPUs? 

This is my list of the best places to buy used and refurbished graphics cards. If you can think of anywhere else that I could add to this list, let me know in the comments. 

Websites 

Shops 

  • UK 
    • CeX – Offers a good 2 year warranty, but you do pay a little extra for this. 
    • Game – Sometimes sells used computer components, but not often. Usually sells them cheap.

Difference between refurbished and just plain used graphics cards 

What is the difference between a refurbished and a used graphics card? 

Generally, used graphics cards are cards sold by individuals that have used them for gaming, and are now looking to upgrade. You’ll find a lot of these types of used GPUs on websites like eBay. They usually don’t come with any kind of warranty, other than the protection that the website offers.

Refurbished GPUs, on the other hand, are still used GPUs. However, refurbish GPUs are usually checked by qualified technicians before they are sold. They are checked to ensure they are working, that fans are turning, that they boot up, and can actually play games.

Usually refurbished graphics cards are sold by companies that have bought used graphics cards, often in bulk. Or they can be shop returns.

I would say it is less risky to buy refurbished graphics cards. However, you will pay a premium for this “professional” refurbishment.

Problems you may encounter with a used graphics card and how to solve them

  • A sagging PCB board
    • Very rare in modern graphics cards
    • Avoid buying
  • The fans may be clogged with dust 
    • Easy fix, just clean them out
  • The PCB might be damaged 
    • If the PCB is damaged, the card won’t work. So, again be sure to check that the card is working, see it running a few games before putting cash down for it
    • If it’s not working, it’s very hard to fix
  • The card is overheating 
    • If the card is overheating, it could be dust clogging the fans, check this first
    • If there is no dust the fans could have stopped working completely 
    • If the fans are working, the thermal compound between the GPU and heat-sink may have deteriorated
    • This can be fixed, however, it can be technically demanding 

!!Attention!!

It’s worth me pointing out that in all the time I’ve spent buying used graphics cards, I have never encountered any of the problems above. 

Tips/Checklist for buying a used or refurbished graphics card

Tip 1: Aim to buy a one generation old graphics card 

When buying a used graphics card, try not to buy a card that is more than one generation old. An older GPU will be at risk of not being able to play new or upcoming games due to the limitations in its computing power and RAM.

The best savings can be made 1 generation old. Any older and you run the risk of the card being underpowered.

Tip 2: Compare to newer cards

The price of new and used graphics cards are always fluctuating. You’ll sometimes find a new graphics card from the newest generation has fallen through the cracks and is priced lower than a used graphics card from a generation ago. So, always compare the graphics card you’re thinking of buying to the current generation.

For example, a ‘GTX 1080ti’ has about the same power as an ‘RTX 2080 super’, minus the ray tracing. At the time I bought the ‘1080ti’ for £300, a ‘2080 super’ was selling for £800. It made sense to buy second hand. 

Another example, a ‘GTX 1080’ is about 3% more powerful than a ‘AMD RX 5700’. However, a new ‘RX 5700’ costs between £350, whereas a used ‘GTX 1080’ is about £225. By buying a used ‘GTX 1080’, you’re getting far more graphical power per pound, or dollar, spent. 

But this isn’t always the case. So be sure to check.

Tip 3: Shop around 

You might get the same graphics card for the same price refurbished. So, don’t just buy a card as soon as you see it, take a look around different shops and websites. 

Tip 4: Look for evidence that it works 

Always seek evidence to show that the graphics card actually works. If you’re buying it off an individual, such as on eBay, get them to show you pictures of the graphics card working, with the fans spinning, and make sure a picture is showing on a monitor as a game is playing. If the seller won’t do this for you, walk away.

Tip 5: Discover the history 

Try to discover the history of the graphics card before you buy it. 

It’s better to buy a graphics card that is 2 years old, but has never been overclocked than to buy a graphics card that is only 6 months old, but has spent its entire 6-month life heavily overclocked.

And be sure the graphics card you’re thinking of buying hasn’t been used for cryptocurrency mining. 

Tip 6: If you can get buyer protection, such as on eBay, take it

eBay offers buyer protection. This means that if you buy a dead graphics card you can inform eBay, send pictures of it to show that it doesn’t work, and you get your money returned to you. 

If the website you are thinking about buying the graphics card from doesn’t offer this facility,  such as Craigslist, be sure to see the graphics card working on a monitor playing games before you buy it.

Tip 7: Warranties are great so long as you don’t pay too much extra  

If you can get a warranty on a second-hand graphics card, take it. 

But, be sure you aren’t paying a premium for a warranty. I buy my used cards from CEX in the UK and you do pay a premium for their 2 year warranty. But if the card stops working, and I have my receipt, I can take the card back and they’ll give me my money back as in store credit so I can buy another card. 

But, I would recommend that as soon as that warranty runs out you should sell the used GPU and buy another one with a new warranty.

Tip 8: Keep an old/cheap GPU handy as a backup 

It’s always a good idea to keep an old GPU handy just in case your new GPU stops working. This is particularly important with used graphics cards. 

Tip 9: Sell your old GPU to help pay for your new used graphics card 

Don’t let your GPU gather dust under your bed. Give it a new life, and sell it to somebody else who can make use. Then put the money you earned from selling it into buying your next graphics card. 

Tip 10: Wait for the new generation of cards to come out before buying new 

You should wait for a new generation of graphics cards to go on sale before buying a used card. Right after new graphics cards go on sale for the first time, old graphics cards drop in price a lot.

Tip 11: Wait for a mid generation refresh

You can pick up a great graphics card, at a great price, after a refresh. For example, the ‘RTX 2080’ was refreshed by the slightly more powerful ‘RTX 2080 Super’. 

People started selling off their “old” ‘RTX 2080’ to help fund their purchase of the new “Super” version. 

This mass selling-off floods the market with the older, but still amazing, ‘RTX 2080s’. And in accordance with supply and demand, when there is oversupply and demand is low, the price plummets, and it’s the perfect time to buy.  

Why shouldn’t you buy a second-hand graphics card 

I couldn’t honestly send you on your way without giving you a good counter-argument for why buying second-hand could be wrong for you. 

After all, whichever way you buy a graphics card, it’s a lot of money to spend. Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t buy a used GPU:

  • Used cards don’t come with a manufacturer’s warranty
  • You may not be able to send it back as easily if you buy from an individual seller, such as on eBay 
  • New cards will be more powerful for the same tier of graphics card
    • Example: An ‘RTX 2060’ will be more powerful than a generation old ‘GTX 1060’
  • A lot of the time you won’t know the graphics cards usage history
  • A generation old used card may not use current technology 
    • For example, the ‘GTX 1080 ti’ can’t use ray tracing. 

Conclusion

I honestly believe that buying a used or refurbished graphics card is a great way to get more graphical computing power in your rig by spending less money. 

Plus, you’re helping to fight against the toxic disposable culture that is growing around technology, clothes, and other consumer products. 

But the big draw for me is the money you can save. So, check out some of the websites I mentioned above, your next graphics card could be listed on them right now. 

What next? 

Can I buy other used refurbished parts? Yes. GPUs, CPUs, motherboards, Blu-ray drives, you name it I’ve bought it used, and built a system out of it. I’ve never had any failure or problems. 

What about used fans/cases? Yes, you can buy used cases and fans. You can also buy used cooling solutions. 

What about the PSU? I have bought used PSUs in the past and they have worked absolutely fine. However, PSUs degrade over time. Their power output drops by about 5% every year, so, an old PSU will supply less power than a new PSU. That being said, if you buy a very powerful old PSU, it should easily have enough power to power even the most power-hungry modern components.  

Beth Morris

Beth's love of gaming started when she first played Frogger on her Tiny PC. Since then she's developed a love for FPSs, a need for speed playing Forza, and a hunger to find dragon's eggs in Spyro! When she's not gaming she's either cooking, reading, or spinning around in her car!

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