Should I Buy a Used PSU?


The Power Supply Unit, or PSU for short, delivers power to all of the components inside your gaming rig. Without a working PSU, you quite literally just have a PC case with cool components inside that don’t work. 

This includes, no spinning fans, no fancy RGB lighting, no water cooler pumps pumping… Ohh… and your GPU, CPU, SSD, and motherboard are dead too. 

So, I think you get the picture, a PSU is an absolutely vital component in any computer. 

But, what happens when you need a new PSU and you see that all power supply units are generally expensive? Answer: You look at used PSUs! 

Now, I’ve talked a lot recently about the merits of buying used PC components, and I’m in favor of buying most used parts, as you know. But, it’s really important for you to know that you should be extra careful when buying a used PSU!

Why? Because PSUs degarde much quicker than other PC components, and they often output less voltage/wattage as they age. This means that a used PSU can’t always provide enough electricity for powerful components to function.

So, should I buy a used PSU (Power supply unit)? Yes, you should buy a used PSU. So long as the PSU is either refurbished, has been tested by the seller, or has been tested by you. In this article we’ll look at:

  • I’ll answer the question in more depth
  • List of where you can buy used PSUs
  • Look at the difference between used and refurbished PSUs
  • Problems you may encounter when buying a used PSU
  • Tips for buying a used PSU
  • How to test a PSU
  • A quick look at why you might not want to buy a used PSU
  • 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 buy a used PSU? 

You should buy a used PSU because: You’ll save money 

A PSU is a vital component, however, it’s not as far as a gaming rig is concerned the most important part. That crown sits firmly with the graphics card. 

So, surely it would make sense to save a penny or two by buying a used or refurbished PSU, and put the saved cash into buying a better CPU/GPU combo? 

I’d say yes it is.

For example, a ‘650w Corsair PSU’ can be had for as little £35 on eBay, including postage and packaging. (That’s about $35). However, a new ‘650w Corsair PSU’ will set you back £55 (or $55). 

Now that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a saving of 37% over a new PSU! 

Imagine making that level of saving across an entire USED gaming PC. 

Instead of paying $1000 dollars for a PC, you’d only be paying $650 for one! 

Or you can put that $350 you saved, into buying a better GPU/CPU/RAM, or SSD.

Plus, the more powerful the PSU, the bigger the savings. 

You should buy a used PSU because: You can get more power for your money 

Generally speaking, by buying a used PSU, you’ll get more power for your money. 

For example, if you have a budget of $50 dollars, that might buy you 450w of power. But $50, spent on a used PSU, could buy you 600-650w of power. 

So, by buying used, you could potentially get 44% more power for the same amount of cash. 

Not bad! 

You should buy a used PSU because: It helps to save the environment 

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

By buying a used PSU, you’re saving more rare earth minerals from being lost to the jungle that is disposable electronics. And you’re halting the ever growing flow of toxic chemicals from leaking into our seas, killing animals that didn’t choose this lifestyle. 

By buying used, you can have your cake and eat it to:

You can save money, have powerful components, and help preserve our environment for future generations. 

If that’s not a good enough reason to buy used, nothing is.

You should buy a used PSU because: Technology hasn’t changed that much in 15 years 

Could you imagine sticking a 15 year old GPU in your gaming rig? It probably wouldn’t be able to run windows, never mind any modern games. 

Tech moves incredibly fast, yet, PSU technology has pretty much stayed the same now for over 15 years. 

Yes, you’ll get fancy lighting setups on newer PSUs, but for their basic job of powering your components, they really have not changed at all. 

As a basic rule of thumb, if the PSU you are thinking of buying has an efficiency rating such as bronze, silver, gold, or platinum, you’re buying a modern PSU. 

Where can you buy used PSUs? 

This is my list of the best places to buy used and refurbished PSUs. If you can think of anywhere else that’s worth adding to this list, drop me a comment in the comments section below. 

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.

What is the difference between a refurbished PSU and a plain used Power Supply Unit? 

What is the difference between a refurbished and an used PSU? And should you buy one over the other?  

Generally, used PSUs are sold by gamers or individual system builders who are now looking to upgrade to a more powerful PSU. You’ll find a lot of these types of used PSUs on websites like eBay. They usually don’t come with any kind of warranty other than what protection the website offers. But oftentimes, these types of PSUs will have been working perfectly fine. It’s just that many PC builders want the best/newest components when building a new rig, so it’s out with the old and in with the new PSU. 

Refurbished, on the other hand, are still used PSUs. However, refurbished PSUs are usually checked by qualified technicians before they are sold. A used PSU is usually passed through a rigorous testing program before being certified as refurbished. Buying a PSU that’s undergone such a strenuous stress test is great for you as you can buy with confidence knowing that the PSU is in full working order. 

Refurbished PSUs usually come with warranties, which is another “plus point” for buying refurbished over plain old used. 

However, you will usually pay a premium for a refurbished PSU over a normal used PSU. That premium pays for the testing process, plus the warranty. 

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

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

  • Swollen capacitor
    • Very Rare in modern PSUs
    • Would need to solder on a new capacitor
    • Avoid PSU if this occurs  
  • The fans may be clogged with dust 
    • Easy fix, just clean them out
  • Cracked Transformer 
    • Would need a professional fix
    • Avoid PSU if this occurs 
  • Voltage levels low 
    • Old PSUs sometimes dropped in capacity by about 5% for each year of normal use 
    • This can lead to decreased power levels 
    • Avoid buying very old PSUs – nothing more 3 years old

!!Attention!!

I have never encountered any of the above problems. The first used PSU I ever bought was a ‘750w Thermaltake’ off ebay for £22. It lasted me nearly 7 years!

I then moved to a used ‘EVGA 750w Supernova’, which I bought for £36. That still powers my ‘GTX 1080ti’ gaming PC to this day. 

Tips for buying a used or refurbished PSU

Tip 1: Aim to buy a PSU that is no older than 5 years old 

When buying a PSU, I would aim to avoid anything over 5 years old. 

I stated above that a PSU from the last 10-15 years will work in a modern PC. 

However, I would still avoid anything that old.

Why?

Voltage drop. As PSUs age, they tend to lose voltage which corresponds to a drop in total wattage that is being supplied to your PC. 

Usually, PSUs that are heavily used, can drop by upto 5% in total power output for each year of use. 

For example, after 1 year a 1000w PSU could have dropped to a real world output of 950w. After 2 years, 902.5w. After 3 years, 857w. 

This isn’t always the case, and newer PSUs do compensate for this. However older PSUs do not. 

So, try to buy a PSU that is no older than 5 years old. 

Tip 2: Compare used PSUs to new PSUs

The price of new and used PC components fluctuates more than the ocean’s surface in stormy weather. Sometimes you’ll find a new component selling for pennies on Black Friday. And they’ll be priced so low that they undercut used components.

So, always compare the used PSU you are thinking about buying to the price of an equivalent new PSU. 

Tip 3: Shop around 

Be sure to check out multiple used PC component vendors. You’ll often find that, due to market forces, the same components on one site, such as eBay, are more expensive than on another site such as Craigslist. 

This can often mean that it’s cheaper to buy a refurbished PSU, that comes with a warranty, than it is to buy a plain used PSU on another site. 

So, be sure to look around before buying. 

Tip 4: Look for evidence that it works 

Always seek evidence to show you that the PSU actually works. 

This isn’t as much of a problem if you are buying refurbished. 

But, if you’re buying it off an individual, such as on eBay, get them to provide photographic evidence that the PSU is working. Don’t just let them show you the fan spinning on the PSU’s back. 

Push the seller to show photos or videos of the PSU powering a PC. 

It’s the only way you’ll know for sure that the PSU works.

If they refuse, don’t bother buying from them. Simple. 

Tip 5: Discover the history 

Try to discover the history of the PSU before you buy it. 

Some PSUs may have been used in a gaming PC with very powerful overclocked components. This would put a strain on the PSU. 

Ask the seller what kind of computer the PSU was used in. And ask if they overclocked the PC at all. 

Also, find out if the PC was left on for long periods of time. 

Generally speaking, the less the PSU has been used, the better.  

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

eBay offers buyer protection which protects you against fraudulent products, or products that arrive in non-working order. 

However, do be careful on eBay, as some sellers will say the item is sold as seen. Which means if the PSU arrives at your door, and the PSU isn’t working, you’re stuck with it. 

If the website or shop doesn’t offer buyer protection, such as Craigslist, be sure to see the PSU working before you buy. 

And one final word. Always pay via PayPal. PayPal offers a number of different protection mechanisms for buyers, even if you are just paying somebody across the street for something. 

Do not pay cash. Do not pay via bank transfer. 

Tip 7: Buy a refurbished PSU with a warranty, if it’s not to much more

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

But, be sure you aren’t paying a premium for a warranty. I buy used components from CEX in the UK and I get a jucy 2 year warranty.  But you do pay more for this large extended warranty. 

For me, the extra cost is a small price to pay for the ease in which I can return the product if it’s faulty. For example, if I buy a PSU from CEX and it breaks after 18 months, I can take it to the store and get in-store credit for the amount I paid for the PSU originally. 

However, some eBay sellers add a 12 month warranty in exchange for a hefty premium on the cost of the product. In this case it may not be worth paying the extra cost and you’d be better served looking elsewhere. 

Tip 8: Sell your PSU to help pay for any new components 

Don’t let your PSU sit in the dark at the bottom of your closet. 

Sell it to somebody else who could build a great gaming rig from it. 

Then put the money you earned from selling it into buying your next PSU or another component, like a powerful graphics card. 

Tip 9: Buy more power than you think you need 

When it comes to PSUs you should always buy more power than you think you need. Generally speaking, PSUs are most efficient the closer they are to 50% of their total rated power output. 

A PSU rated for 1000w is actually most efficient at 500w.

Plus, you can buy more power as some sort of an insurance for yourself. You never know when you might buy a new, more powerful graphics card for example. So, at least with the added power you know your PSU will handle a better GPU either way. 

Plus, as we discussed earlier, PSUs do lose a little power as the years roll by. Buying a PSU with a little more power mitigates this loss of power.

Tip 10: Check the recommended power for your graphics card

Be sure that whatever PSU you buy, it has enough power to power your graphics card. 

You can find out how much power a GPU needs by heading over to Google. Search and type in “Recommended power” + Your graphics card name, for example, “GTX 1080 ti”. One of the pages that shows up will tell you the minimum power output your PSU needs in watts to successfully power your GPU.

Tip 11: Stick to the good makes, whether you are buying used or new 

Last, but not least, stick to good PSU makes such as Corsair, EVGA, Thermaltake, and ASUS. 

Avoid, shoddy, knockoffs on eBay. 

If you see a new 600w PSU on ebay selling for $25, chances are it uses very low quality components and zero surge protection.   

In other words, your thousand pound PC could be fried in an instant.

Be sure to only buy top quality PSUs. And that goes for any PSU, regardless of whether it’s new or used. 

Why shouldn’t you buy a second-hand PSU? 

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

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

  • A dud PSU can potentially fry all your PC’s components 
    • This is very very rare. Any good maker of PSUs, such from Corsair or EVGA, will have multiple redundancies to protect against this
  • You may not be able to send the PSU back to the seller as easily if you buy from an individual seller, such as on eBay 
  • A used PSU’s warranty probably won’t be able to be transferred between owners 
    • Many PSUs come with 5-10 year warranties and these are non transferable to new owners. However, if the companies do not know you are the first owner, it shouldn’t be a problem 
  • A lot of the time you won’t know the Power Supply Unit’s usage history
    • It could have been left on for 24 hours a day for the past 3 years, and you wouldn’t know unless you asked 

Conclusion

The bottom line is this: 

Buying used means you’re always running some risks. But, modern PSUs have so many inbuilt protection mechanisms, there is very little that can go wrong with them. 

Put it this way, you could go on eBay right now and buy a used decade old ex-office laptop, or office PC, which has likely been left on for most of its life, that still functions extremely well. 

So, should you buy a used PSU? 

My answer is a resounding, YES

What next? 

Can I buy other used/refurbished parts such as CPUs? 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 used graphics cards? Nearly every graphics card I have ever bought has been a used graphics card. A used graphics card offers far higher performance per dollar spent than a new graphics card. Check out my article on what to look out for when buying a used graphics card here

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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