Copyright 2011 by Morris Rosenthal
All Rights Reserved
Cheap used laptop prices- Buying a second hand Dell, Toshiba, IBM, Sony, HP or Apple Notebook
Copyright 2011 by Morris Rosenthal -All Rights Reserved
If I could only give one word of advice about buying a cheap used laptop, it would be "Don't." Fortunately, talk is cheap so I'll go on at length about when it does or doesn't make sense to buy second hand and how much to pay for different capacity models, but the keep this in mind. With a little patience, you can always find a cheap laptop deal with manufacturer and store rebates, and usually priced around $500. For that, you'll get a brand new laptop with Windows 7 installed, a big hard drive, a combination DVD player - DVD Recorder, built in USB 2.0, wireless, the works. The screen will be bigger and the unit will be lighter than any notebook you're likely to find used, plus the battery will be new, so you'll actually be able to work untethered for more than 20 minutes (for the first few months).
I'll start with a basic pricing table, nothing like the Blue Book values for laptops you may have seen. The explanations come below the table.
Not everybody has a rich uncle or a sibling to give them a second hand laptop for free, so there's a market for used notebooks, everywhere from ebay to newspaper adds, company-to-employee sales to PC shops, and of course, Internet sites. The major used laptop sellers on the Internet are usually selling reconditioned or remanufactured units, where reconditioned basically means they turned it on and it worked and remanufactured means something was broken so they replaced it. Factory second means it failed the final test at the factory, so instead of shipping it, the reworked it on the spot and didn't sell it as new. All that makes it sound like there will be bargains galore available, but here's the bad news.
There are actually more brand name laptops than desktops these days, with the most popular models being the Dell Latitude, Toshiba Satellite, Sony Vaio, HP Pavilion, IBM Thinkpad and Apple iBook. Most of these models have been around forever, which means you can't just buy a Thinkpad and assume that you're getting a recent IBM laptop. The Thinkpad, Sony Vaio and the Apple Powerbooks probably hold their value a little better than the other brands, because they are rarely sold at deep discounts, even on closeout. However, I don't see any reason to pay for name recognition in a cheap used laptop, and notebooks that are still operating after a couple years are well beyond any initial quality concerns. Don't be surprised if every Satellite you see has a dead battery.
Second hand laptop prices are always discounted from their list price. Their original list price! You couldn't find a laptop priced for less than a grand a few years ago. A company that bought a bunch of cheap laptops a five years back for a $1000 each and is now upgrading them to new laptops will offer them to employees at 50% off. The employees think it's a great bargain and pay $500 for obsolete junk (often with the software removed if the company is conscientious) when they could be buying a brand new laptop for the same price that's several generations better. I'm not exaggerating here, it happens all the time.
The same thing happens with the reconditioned notebooks sold over the Internet or on ebay. The seller says, "List price $1,299" or "I paid $1,349" but they're talking about a retail laptop prices without rebates that are three or five years old. Look carefully at the capabilities of these notebooks. If they were really high-end at the time, the CPU speed might be a little higher than the $299 new laptop with rebates, but it probably won't have as much memory, may not have a DVD player, if it has wireless, it will be an external adapter, the battery will be on its last legs, and the screen will have dead pixels. The model that "listed" at $1,299 will be promoted as a steal at $395, and the $1,349 laptop (with "$1,000 of software I added") will have a minimum bid of $600. They may get it to, but not from you (I hope). You should be buying a tremendous new laptop for that kind of money, with a new warrantee, and all the latest bells and whistles for loading your digital camera film, etc.
Then you finally find some cheap used laptop prices, between $99 and $299, or an ad for laptops in the UK less than 100 pounds. Sounds a lot better on the face of it, but when I did some Internet shopping and lets see what I came up with. The "Special" on one of the Internet's top sites was a 650 MHz HP notebook Pentium III with Windows 98. They were selling it for $229 before shipping and handling. That's ten year old technology! No wireless, an 18 GB hard drive (cheap new notebooks ship with 60 GB hard drives, three times the capacity), and while I like Windows 98, Windows XP is required for all manner of new software. The same store offers a whole range of used laptop models for $199, all with tiny hard drive (6 GB), or 1/10 of what you'd get in a $299 new model), Windows 98, 128 MB of RAM and CPU speeds under 400 MHz!! These are typical prices for used notebooks, and you're paying 60% of the price of a new laptop that will actually do everything you want for one that won't run software you need and can't be upgraded. All over the Internet I see second hand laptops with ancient CPU's an 1 GB RAM selling for between $299 and $499, advertised as bargains, it's just insane. Just by a new one.