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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Understanding PC Sources, Vendors and Prices | Sources For PC Systems and Components | Other Sources ]

Individuals

If you are buying a used PC, you will normally end up buying it from an individual. Most stores don't sell used PCs, though some do; still, most used PC sales involve private transactions.

The advantage of buying a used PC from an individual is that you can often get a low-end system very inexpensively. This is assuming that you can find someone willing to price their used PC fairly. Many who sell PCs used grossly overprice them; see the discussion of used PCs for more on this common situation. In addition, used PCs themselves often have serious limitations, such being older and running an increased chance of component failure. Again, I discuss these risks in the section on used PCs.

As for the buying process itself, when it comes to dealing with individuals you are in a "whole different ballgame" compared to buying from companies. Most of the protections that apply to consumers when dealing with vendors don't apply to private transactions. You can't use a credit card that can be charged back if the item fails; you have no "30-day return privileges"; you get no warranty, no support and no service. It's usually cash in return for hardware, and that's that.

You should think of buying a used PC the same way you would buying a used car. If you have sufficient knowledge to ensure you aren't buying a "lemon", and you are getting a good enough deal, these drawbacks are worth the very low prices you can sometimes get on used machines. This is especially useful when buying a machine where you don't need the latest and greatest, and don't want to "overbuy" a new machine that has excess performance. Just remember the risks you are taking. Most people are honest, but some are not, and it is possible for even a PC expert to get "taken" by a PC that looks good at first blush, but turns out to have problems. If this happens, you will have little recourse.

If you are going to buy from an individual, it is probably best to buy it from someone you know: a relative, friend or co-worker. However, if you do this, you must be careful to spell out in exact terms the condition of the sale, to avoid hard feelings. And even if you do this, if something goes very wrong with the system, you may feel that the person that sold it to you "ripped you off", and that has ruined friendships in the past. Proceed with caution. :^)

Next: Summary Comparison of PC Sources


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