Quick Tips for Computer Buying on eBay

Computer buying on eBay
Shop around at retail stores to educate yourself on current computer technology before buying on eBay. Getty Images

eBay is one of the largest sellers of computers on the internet. It is possible to purchase new and used computers in great condition on eBay. If you are a techy person, you can even buy everything you need on eBay to build a computer. Just like anything else on eBay, read the seller’s description, return policy, and make sure you understand shipping terms.

Make Sure Your Search is Specific

To find exactly what you need, make sure your search criteria is specific.

Are you looking for a desktop or a laptop? Do you want a PC or a Mac? Do you need an all-inclusive package with lots of upgrades and accessories for gaming or video production, or just a basic computer for checking email and surfing the internet? eBay has everything you could possibly need. Think about your needs before starting the search. Buying a computer is like buying a car. Forethought and planning are needed to think through all the options, features, models, and price points. If you don’t know exactly what you are looking for, PC World has a great article called, “The Top 10 Things to Consider When Buying a New Laptop” that guides computer buyers through the thought process.

Use eBay’s Search Features Wisely

eBay makes it easy to find exactly what you want and filter out things you don’t. Let’s walk through a sample search on eBay for a MacBook Air to demonstrate how to use the search and filter features.

  1. Enter 3-5 keywords about the computer you wish to purchase. Making the search too specific at the beginning may eliminate valid options. Unfortunately, one place eBay is lacking is uniformity of titles. Sellers can use any words they want in titles, so it is best to start with a broad search and narrow it down with filters. We will enter “MacBook Air” to start the search.
  1. Once the search populates, you can then look on the left side menu and start narrowing the search with criteria such as year made, type of processor, color, screen size, operating system, memory, condition, price, and buying format.

Continue to work through the filters until you have narrowed the search and found exactly what you need.             

Use Caution When Buying Used Computers

When buying a used computer, buy only from sellers that carefully describe the item’s condition and who include photos of the actual unit for sale. If stock photos are used, be sure to look at the listing and make sure photos of the exact computer are also shown. Many computer resellers on eBay sell off-leas corporate machines that may come with blemishes or damage that varies from machine to machine. If features like battery life, screen brightness, loose hinges, or keyboard stiffness are important to you, read the item description carefully to see if these concerns are addressed and if they aren’t, contact the seller to ask about the condition of the item in question. Don’t buy, bid, or make offer on items if you can’t get a clear answer from the seller.

Check Feedback and Look for Warning Signs 

In addition to all of the computer-specific checks, review the seller’s feedback.

Are previous buyers happy? Are there any negative feedbacks regarding the product, shipping, or service? Do your due diligence to make sure the seller is worthy of buying from. eBay’s Money Back Guarantee will help you if get stuck with a bad transaction or uncooperative seller.

                          

Pay Attention to Shipping Costs

Although not as large in previous years, computers are fragile enough to require lots of extra packaging material for shipment. For this reason, computer shipping costs can often run quite high, anywhere from $20-40 for a laptop or notebook system to over $100 for a fully configured desktop system. Be sure to account for shipping costs in your budget as you comb through auction listings. Also make sure you understand shipping methods. The seller can choose from USPS, Fed Ex, or UPS.

Make sure you understand which carrier will be delivering the computer so you can plan accordingly to receive it.

        

The Bottom Line

The most important thing about buying a computer is to make sure you understand all the features and options so you choose the best computer for your individual needs. A college student who likes gaming and takes online classes needs something completely different than a retired person who just wants to check email, read the news, and look up recipes. It’s a good idea to go test drive some different computers at Best Buy, the Apple Store, or office supply stores to discover the current options and understand the most recent technology.

Updated on August 6, 2016 by Suzanne A. Wells.