How to Buy a Used Laptop

Steve Webb Steve Webb

In today’s world, everyone is expected to have a method of getting online. It seems the first contact information required these days is an email address instead of a mailing address.

How to Buy a Used Laptop

For that reason, many buyers look for a laptop to provide them with quick and portable online access. However, a laptop can be quite pricey, especially if you want the latest technology. However, a more affordable option is to buy a used laptop. There is a huge number of used laptop available, which makes finding a satisfactory model easy. However, with so many choices, a buyer can become overwhelmed.

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Know the Terminology

When a buyer makes the decision to purchase a used laptop, it is important to know some of the terminology included in descriptions. Without an understanding of this terminology, the buyer may not know just what it is that they are purchasing. Below are some terms that are often found in the descriptions for a used laptop.


There is a difference between a refurbished and a used laptop. Refurbished refers to laptops that were damaged or malfunctioning in some way, which were then repaired by computer experts to bring them to full functionality. Generally, a refurbished laptop has undergone a complete overhaul so the system works like new. Used laptops, however, are previously owned. They may not have been completely repaired, but are likely in working order.


Another term that is always included in the description of a used laptop is RAM. Many buyers may have heard this term, but may not know what it means. RAM has nothing to do with the hard drive. Instead, it stands for Random Access Memory. Most people can understand RAM better by thinking of it it as the computer’s short term memory. RAM is accessed as the computer is used to run programs and to perform calculations. For computers with less RAM, the result may be slower programs if too many applications are opened at once. The more RAM a computer has, the better it performs.


Processor refers to the speed at which the computer is able to process information. This affects how quickly the used laptop turns on, how quickly it can open programs, and how quickly it can load pages or videos. Of course, a higher processor speed allows a computer to run faster and more smoothly.


Peripherals are items not necessary to the functionality of the laptop, but which are nevertheless very useful. These include batteries, a mouse, memory cards, screen protectors, AC cords, USB cords, telephone cords, speakers, and much more. Sometimes, peripherals may be thrown in as a part of a package when purchasing a laptop.

Know the Difference Between Superficial Damage and Real Damage

One of the things that buyers fear when purchasing a used laptop is that it might be damaged. However, if the buyer knows what to look for, they can increase the likelihood that they make a wise purchase. There is a big difference between superficial blemishes and real damage to a used laptop.

Look for small scratches or blemishes to the outer shell of the used laptop. Such damage is just superficial. As long as the buyer can overlook such markings, they will not cause problems with the machine’s operation.

Also, look for keys that are slightly worn. This is normal wear and tear that happens over time with a used laptop. Such wear will not cause any problems with the use of the used laptop.

However, some problems are very serious. A haze or discolored area on the screen which usually shows up in the corners is a sign of a bad problem. It could cost hundreds of dollars to replace the screen. Another problem to look for are broken ports and input jacks. This may make it hard for the buyer to use the computer as they need to.

The Details

There are many options and functions that are available with a used laptop, and buyers have their own preferences for what they want out of a computer. Each buyer must determine which used laptop includes the functions that they want. There are many different details to consider, but some of the most important options to consider are listed below.


As mentioned, this refers to the random access memory in a used laptop. The more RAM available, the quicker the laptop will be able to work to grab memory and complete tasks. RAM comes into play when the user needs to open and run numerous applications at once. Basic computer users need not worry as much about available RAM as users who intend to use their laptop intensively.

Hard Drive

The hard drive is the actual memory of the used laptop. This is where photos, videos, documents, and software are stored. Basically, the bigger the hard drive, the more space there is for storage. Those buyers who intend to store a great deal of media should seek as large a hard drive as they can afford.


The processor speed of the used laptop determines how quickly the computer operates. A slower processor means that the computer boots up and shuts down more slowly, and it also means that software opens and operates more slowly. This may not be an issue for basic computer users, though others may find it frustrating. It is important for a user to choose a used laptop with a fast enough processor.


One of the worst mistakes that a buyer can make is to choose a model without enough ports. Allow the computer to connect with peripherals such as a mouse, a printer, a wireless keyboard, etc. Because of this, a buyer should determine how many ports are available and what types are available. Port options can include, but are not limited to, USB 2.0, Ethernet, AC power, telephone, headphone jack, modem, and more.

Screen Size

Screen size for the used laptop can be very important for a number of reasons. Laptops with a smaller screen (e.g. a 13-inch model) are easier to carry around and much more portable. A larger screen (e.g. 17-inch) is large enough to allow enjoyable movie watching.

Where to Buy a Used Laptop

One of the best ways to purchase a used laptop is on eBay. Once you make the decision to buy a used laptop from eBay, you need to know how the site works and how to go about shopping for it. eBay is an online auction marketplace which (usually) operates by buyers bidding for merchandise.

The first way to purchase a used laptop on eBay is by bidding on an item. Laptops are listed at a minimum price and specify an auction deadline. You can then place a bid. If you are outbid, then you lose the auction and you are free to bid on another item. If you do win the auction, then you must pay the seller, and the used laptop will be sent to you.

The second way to buy a used laptop on eBay is called "buy it now." As you are looking for laptop options, you may see some listings that say "buy it now" on them. This allows you to purchase the item right away without placing a bid. This way, you can guarantee that you have made the purchase, but you will most likely pay more than you would if you purchased the used laptop through bidding.


A used laptop is a good way to get the type of computer you want without the expense of buying a new model. There are important steps to choosing a used laptop. For example, the buyer must know the difference between superficial issues and real damage. Also, the buyer should know what features and options to look for. Armed with the right information, buyers can choose a used laptop that provides all the necessary power, speed, and functionality they require.