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Selling an Older Computer

Is It Worth The Effort And Where To Sell It


Alienware M11x (From 2011)

Alienware M11x (From 2011)

HP FireBird (From 2009)

HP FireBird (From 2009)

©HP Inc.
Apple 1st Gen iPad (From 2010)

Apple 1st Gen iPad (From 2010)


Relative to many other consumer goods, computers tend to have a short lifespan. This isn't because the products aren't functional but because of the ever increasing performance and generally downward trend in pricing. This means that consumers may have a computer, peripherals and other devices that may just be a few years old but that they don't need anymore. It seems kind of pointless to keep them around if they aren't used. It would be nice to at least be able to make some money off of the items in question rather than just recycling. But how easy is it to sell such an item and will it net any real value? That is what this article is going to examine.

Research And Gather Information

Before you go and sell something, it is always a good idea to find out how much something is worth. All products tend to lose value after they are purchased. Certainly people are familiar with this in terms of automobiles. Drive a vehicle off a dealers lot and instantly it loses value. As the car is used more, it also looses value. Similarly, newer vehicles eventually come out that offer newer features, maybe better performance such that there is less desire for the older vehicle. Computers are much the same except with a much greater rate of loss. A $1000 brand new computer from a year ago may be worth only a couple hundred. Something from four years ago that is functional may actually have no value in the market.

So before you spend time and effort on putting something up for sale, how do you figure out its value. First you need to look at the condition of the item in question. Does the computer even work. If it won't power up, fails to boot into an operating system or has problems with crashing, then the item is probably best suited for recycling as it is only suitable for spare parts than as a full computer. Does the machine have physical damage to it but it is still very functional? This will decrease value but it might still be worth selling. Does it have all the manuals and software discs that came with it? Buyer's have more confidence if it has the paperwork and all the extras. All this information can help in the next steps depending on how you want to sell your device.

Auction Sites

The first avenue that many people look to sell is through an auction site such as eBay. Here, sellers can set up listings and set a bare minimum price that they are willing to accept for the item with the potential to make much more money than they expect. There is also the option of setting a fixed price to just try and sell the item. This seems like a very viable option but computers are generally very difficult to sell at much value here. For one, buyers have to take the sellers word on condition and functionality.

eBay is an invaluable source though when looking for the value of an item. First, you can put in the keywords to search to look for existing items up for auction that may be similar to the item you are selling. To get an even better idea though, you can use the advance settings and get the Sold Items to see what items matching that keyword search have sold and at what prices. This gives some of the most accurate value results. From this, you can then determine if you might get enough to take the time to list it on eBay.

For additional information on selling items on eBay, I would highly recommend looking over the Learn To Sell section of the About.com eBay site. This advice can help you to write appropriate descriptions, take photos and make your item easy to find so it has a better chance to sell. There is also a specific article on Tips on Buying and Selling Gadgets that is specific to computers and electronics.

Electronics Buyers/Trade In Programs

There are a number of electronics buying sites on the market that buy older devices from individuals. Typically, the devices are either refurbished for sale/donation, stripped for parts or recycled. Devices sold to these companies will generally not fetch as much money as either selling direct through an auction site or individual. What they offer is more convenience then doing a direct sell. Typically these companies will either offer you direct cash or credit for their products or an affiliate retailer. Some examples of this are Gazelle and Next Worth. Many manufacturers such as Apple also offer plans to buy older products to be used as credit towards new items.

Now the process is a bit different then a straight up sale. First, you log into the site and follow a series of questions about the product you are thinking of turning in. These will include things such as specifications on the device (processor speed, RAM, storage space), functional or non-functional parts, cosmetic condition and finally what accessories may come with the system. All of this information is compared against their database which is updated frequently based on market trends to end up with an estimate.

The next step in the process requires that you pack up the device and send it into the company. Often times this is done at no cost to the seller and sometimes even packaging may be delivered directly to you for the device in question. Once the company receives the device, they will evaluate it and then send you a revised estimate. Often times I have found that the estimates go down or they may not want to pay for it at all. At this point, you generally have the option to either accept the offer, elect to have the item returned of simply have the device recycled.

For a more complete listing of places that you can sell computer devices and electronics to, check out the Where to Sell article from About.com's Guide to iPods.


Finally there is the method of direct sales. This is either done by finding a friend or relative who might have interest in the system or using a classified service to list it for strangers. There are electronic services such as craigslist where one can post entries offering your computers stuff for sale. Typically it is best to use the two methods above to search for pricing before listing a product on any classified service. After all, you don't want to have to spend money on placing a listing to end up having it not sell and then continuously relisting an item at lower prices.

A First Hand Experience

Back in 2008, I purchased an Apple MacBook Pro 15 laptop that was valued around $1800. It got some memory upgrades and was used quite heavily for four years. In 2012, it was time to retire the laptop as it was not as fast or as portable as newer models. It still worked just fine but it wasn't holding the charge well on the battery. I spent a little money on a new battery and an SSD drive to try and get it back up in terms of performance and running. After doing this, I decided it just wasn't getting used enough such that I might be able to recoup some money and maybe give someone a decent working system. After all, I still have a first generation Intel based Apple Mac Mini from 2006 running on my HDTV as a media center.

After gathering up all the information, I then decided to price out how much I might be able to get for the system. The first avenue I took was to check the pricing on Gazelle as I had used them in the past to turn in some older iPods. After going through the questionnaire, the net result of what they would offer to take the system was just $50. This was less in price than the new battery I installed into the system. Then again, if I had not included a working battery, it would have only been worth just $20.

With no luck in the recycling for money segment, I decided to turn to selling it myself and looking to see what it might have fetched through eBay. After looking though listings that did sell, I discovered that I would be lucky to get $100 for the functional laptop. Once again, this was less than the costs of the upgrades that I did to make it functional and working. After seeing this, I decided I would just check to see if any friends or colleagues might want a spare system around and ask for the same price as recycling. No one accepted the offer.

In the end, I ended up spending money on a laptop which I felt had some value out there but ended up with something that apparently has less value than the money I put into it. Now, that laptop is being used by my son periodically for browsing some educational websites that require flash and do not work with his iPad.

More recently, I replaced a first generation iPad with a new iPad Mini with Retina Display. The old tablet could fetch as much as $150 through eBay but I didn't want to have to deal with the listing of the device, shipping it and hoping for payment. I checked with both Apple and Gazelle for pricing through their services. Apple only offered $45 while Gazelle offered $70. I elected to use Gazelle that shipped me the box and a week later, they had evaluated it and gave me their full offering price.

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