I have purchased a number of computers, both new and used, from Sellers on Ebay. In each purchase, the computer arrived well protected in its shipping container, and was in its advertised condition and specifications. As with any computer, adopting the machine to my needs often takes some configuring. Each computer made this transition fine, and went into service in my home or business where it is currently serving me now, or did serve me for many years.
In this article, I share the steps I use to buy a computer on Ebay. Hopefully, you will find these steps helpful in getting the computer you want, at a price you can afford, and in a reasonable condition, that will serve you for a long time.
Step 1. Risk Verses Reward
Once you have made a decision to buy a computer, the very first step in this process is realizing there is a risk involved in purchasing from a Jobber wither on Ebay, Amazon, or others. The process is not at all like walking through some sort of buying minefield. Rather, you need to be vigilant. All the “Steps” mentioned here are designed to help you make an informed decision. A big part of that decision is based on minimizing risk.
There is a fair amount of detail to consider. For example: These are machines, and parts wear out. The older the computer, the lower the price, and the more likely at some point something will fail. On the other hand, purchasing a near new computer, lessons the likelihood of a hardware failure, but also places the price sometimes close to what you would pay for an identical new computer. Finally, buying a new computer on Ebay does not necessarily mean the product will come with a factory warranty. New computers are usually sold through “authorized” dealers. The odds a new Apple computer, even in an original sealed factory box, being sold by an Apple “authorized” Dealer on Ebay, are pretty slim. One can presume that most “new” computers sold in this venue are Gray-Market. This does not imply they are illegally obtained. Rather, the computers were purchased by the Jobber from and authorized dealer, or from a business/person that purchased the computer from an authorized dealer, and simply didn’t use the item after it was bought.
Educate yourself on the product, its current market price, and the Seller. The bottom line: The price/perceived value has to be right for you to risk the investment.
TIP: In some cases, you can hedge your bet, by taking out a third party warranty (Square Trade warranties are sometimes available for a reasonable price. They offer very good coverage. I’ve used them myself.)
Step 2. Decide On A Computer
The very first thing to consider in buying a computer, is how will you be using it? If your use is limited to web surfing and emailing, then a tablet will work fine. Add to that a little writing, then a Chrome-book might work. Now add to these uses, light photo/movie editing, playing streamed video, etc., you might want a desktop, or laptop with a dual core processor. Going forward, it becomes a matter of degrees, based upon how specialized your needs become. As a result, may want more and faster processors, more video ram, larger monitors, and so on. Portability is an issue. A desk-top locks you to a room. You can take a laptop nearly anywhere. As personal decisions affect how the computer is to be used, you have to factor in “wants” and “needs”.
Obviously, you should be paying a lower price for an older model computer. You should also be concerned about the newest operating system the computer is capable of running, regardless of what it is now running. This gives you the option a more modern operating system. Newer operating systems are safer, and are likely to have newer software available specifically for that operating system. For example, if you have a Mac running OS X 10.7.5, Google and Firefox no longer have browsers being created for it. The Thunderbird mail client is no longer being updated for it. Finally, many, many, many of the applications on the App Store will not work on it. The operating system is just too old. So, you can have a computer with great hardware, and at a great price, but not have current (and safe) software available for it. To see if the computer you want can run currently supported operating systems, check the PC system requirements for Windows 10 through Windows 7(Microsoft), and for Mac, OS X versions 10.12.4 through 10.8.0.
Finally, if you are going to buy a used computer, consider the quality of the computer when it was new, as well as the brand of the computer. Stick with known brands like HP, Dell, or Mac. Depending upon which of the three brands we are talking about, components for these range from good to very good. These computers are used at home as well as in business environments. They are usually durable. Buying an entry-level (cheap??) computer made 4 years ago, is an invitation to disaster. On the other hand, practically every day I use an 11-year-old Mac Pro I purchased three years ago on Ebay.
Step 3. Bid, Buy It Now, or Make Offer
Ebay provides three different ways to buy:
- Bid. This is the auction process. Depending on the item, and who you are bidding against, this is a good way to save BIG dollars. A warning: It is very easy to get emotionally caught up in a bidding war for an item, and over spend. Know when to “bail”, and keep to that plan. The auctions will run for a several days, and at the end can be frenzied and exciting as buyer’s software driven offers update bids to the very end. Good luck!
- Buy It Now. The Seller publishes the selling price. This works just like a retail store. I usually use this process for my purchases. Cheap. Easy. Quicker.
- Make an Offer. Like above, only giving you the option to tempt the Seller into selling the item at a lower price. I have tried this several times, and have yet to be successful at it. But…..you never know.
Step 4. Search and Compare
By this point, you should know the Brand, Model, and specifications for the computer you want. I usually search for a computer, matching all my requirements. Use Ebay’s search tool for the Brand and Model, like “MacBook Pro 15 mid 2015 “. Once you land on the result-page, go to the Category column on the left and if needed, further refine your search with memory amount, size of storage memory, price, etc. (See Figure 1). Click the “Buy It Now” button at the top of the page, and then click the “Best Match” sort button. Now, start making comparisons until you find “The One”. Click on each computer that meets your needs to see more information about it, including condition, and who is selling it.
Step 5. Qualify the seller
Once you have decided on a particular computer, gather more information about it and the Seller (see Figure 2).
- New or Used
- If used, is it refurbished or simply being resold. The term “refurbished” could be an embellishment. Is the computer refurbished by the original manufacturer, or by the Seller? Manufacturer refurbished computers usually are tested and repaired by trained technicians, use OEM parts, and come with a limited warranty. All of this should help assure the buyer about the quality of the computer, – a real selling point. Unfortunately, this is usually not the case. Most claims of being “refurbished” lack information about who did the refurbishing. For all you know, the Seller may have simply cleaned the computer. A Seller refurbished computer would not be a deal breaker for me. I simply would not consider it as a “plus” in my buying decision.
- Verify the specifications as sold match those originally available for this model.
- View pictures carefully to verify condition of computer and visible options.
- Be sure you read and understand everything the seller writes about the computer. This is basis for the “computer as advertised”. If new, it should be described as being in it original sealed box. If used, look for: “This item has been tested and is good working order.”
The Seller Should Offer:
- Returns. There should be a minimum of 14 days to return the product. There may be a restocking fee for the return. If this exists, be sure you are comfortable with it before you buy. It is normal for the Buyer to pay for return shipping. If there is no return policy, walk away from this deal.
- Ebay Money Back Guarantee. This means that Ebay will back your claim if the item you receive is not “as advertised”. Again, if this guarantee is not available, walk away from this deal. If Ebay doesn’t back this Seller, why should you?
- Located in the United States (assuming you live in the United States). Shipping between countries is a can of worms. You should not buy anything that is being shipped beyond the borders of the country in which you live.
- Free Shipping. Sellers who do not offer free shipping often show their product at a lower price to make the item seem more competitive. When the shipping is added in, the total price for the item is usually at least equal to other Sellers for the same item, and sometimes, the final price (which should come as no surprise) is higher. Do the math before you buy.
Information About the Seller:
- On the Ebay web page where you see the Seller’s product, warranty, shipping information, etc., look for the Seller Information Box in the right column. In the top part of this box, find the Seller’s Customer’s Positive Feedback percent. At any number below 98%, I would be cautious.
- In this same box you see “Visit the Store”, and the Store’s name. Click either, and you will now be on a page showing what other items the Seller has in his Ebay store. If you see the Seller is selling other computers, computer accessories, etc., the description of the product and its condition has a little more meaning. Also, this guy literally has a computer business, meaning he is in a better place to offer support for your computer, and the return process, if needed, should be much easier. On the other hand, if you see the Seller is selling apparel, bicycles, DVDs, or other unrelated product, I would walk away.
TIP: Amazon, NewEgg, Tiger Direct, WalMart, and more, all host Jobbers. It is not surprising to see a Seller from Ebay in any number of these venues, and sometimes, the same item, from the same Seller, will have a different selling price. If I am shopping for an item that for me is pricey, say a “new” computer, I will take the time to search multiple venues comparing a specific Jobbers’ prices.
So know there is a risk, decide what you want, choose how you will buy it, compare and price items that meet your criteria, and when you narrow down your selection, qualify the Seller. You can indeed lower your risk, and save a lot of money in the process. Good Hunting!!!