Should You Buy a Used Graphics Card?

There's plenty on the market, especially after China's massive crackdown on cryptocurrency, but is it worth it to buy a used GPU?

With China’s recent bannings of cryptocurrency mining causing a flood of used graphics cards and a massive shortage wiping out stock of NVIDIA and AMD cards, the slight want or need to buy a used GPU is growing amongst those who might be feeling inclined to upgrade.

However, there are a few things to consider before you commit to the alluring calls of cheaper hardware. The waters are choppy and you might not succeed in getting your desired treasure.

GPU Burn Outs

While a majority of those used graphics cards being hauled out of China’s farms won’t be found easily on eBay and the like (they’re currently on an app called Xianyu, run by major retailer Taobao), it’s still worth talking about why you should probably avoid these like the plague.

See, cryptocurrency mining is hard on a graphics card. Imagine running all day, every day, then being asked to play football afterward. You’d probably keel over before you could even get halfway down the garden.

This is what’s going to happen to these graphics cards. These cards are worked to the bone, burning out, and then replaced as quickly as they came. Just because the Chinese government has managed to shut down these operations before the lifespan of these cards expires, doesn’t mean that they’re worth the investment.

Due to the harsh nature of how these farms operate with their cards, it dramatically reduces their life expectancy, safety, and overall value.

If you thought your massive session was harsh on your PC, it’s nothing compared to what these cards have been through.

Returns and Warranties

There’s also the matter of returns and warranties. Obviously, if you’ve found yourself in the rabbit hole of the Chinese auction sites where a vast majority of these cards are being dumped, you’re not going to get any chance of a return or money back if it arrives DOA.

This isn’t even just down to terms and conditions, these people might not even be around to raise issues over email after the next few weeks.

While we’re not going to go through every term and condition, there are obviously more protections if you’re buying via eBay or Amazon. It’s just that you might want to request more information from the sellers on the off chance that they’re selling a dud.

A few things you can look out for via images are obvious signs of damage, dust, and hair. Any other dirt build-up will need a closer inspection, so be sure to get a full appraisal before you even think of committing to the purchase. If the seller won’t help out in this regard, turn the other way.

What about from Wish?

While not something that you’d find from reputable sellers online, a thing to consider when buying via websites like your AliExpress, Wish, or BangGood, which might be hosting used GPUs due to being China-based, is to always ask for evidence that the card is actually what it says it is.

Many sellers on these more low-brow apps will sell an ‘RTX 3060’, but in reality, could be fobbing you off with a GTX 1050. If for whatever reason you decide to commit to this, HWiNFO is a perfect tool to actually figuring out what you bought.

My recommendation for these types of websites is to avoid PC electronics at all costs, other than proper peripherals and accessories. Anything that might go in the computer or have storage needs to be avoided due to the easily faked details that can be done to the hardware.

Tat and stationary? Desks? Furniture? Go for it. I’ve never had one bad thing arrive unless it’s electronics. I even own multiple Wish T-Shirts, because they’re really good for 15p.

Ensure You're Protected

Circling back to eBay and Amazon, as you’ll have the protection of both Amazon’s rather lenient returns system and PayPal from eBay, as well as eBay’s own dispute service, it’s possible to use these websites to get the used gear without the potential worry of it dying immediately and being lumped with a very expensive piece of metal and plastic.

The main thing to keep in mind is that a used GPU isn’t always the same as a ‘run into the ground in a Chinese Bitcoin Mine’ used GPU.

So is there any benefit at the moment to buying used?

Well, as with the prior mentions of the shortage, the conversation has dramatically changed in the last year or so. Scalpers are the mainstays here, while honest sales are nowhere to be found.

Major resellers like Scan, are combatting the massive price hikes from scalpers by inflating their prices with additional items in bundles, offsetting the cost, and trying to bring back in customers.

Let’s use the RTX 3060 (around $300) and its 3060 Ti (about $500) counterpart as an example, as this is the main one being dumped as of the time of writing. If you see a 3060ti for more than NVIDIA’s recommended price, steer clear.

These cards are priced low as they’re intended for gaming at a lower barrier to entry than the 3070 or 3080. They’re really not meant to be sought-after hardware but bundled in prebuilds as a great budget option.

As of right now, eBay is nothing but 3060 cards being priced far too high, and 3060 Tis inflated to the above the price of a 3070 at MSRP ($599).

It’s ridiculous but unsurprising. The rampant buyouts from cryptocurrency miners, endless bots that seek and destroy any online shopping backend, and a pandemic that has utterly wiped out multiple production lines and is only now barely getting back to its feet, it’s just the perfect storm to be ripped off.

PC Guide's Recommendation

Our recommendation? Wait. If you can game at 1080p, game at 1080p. If your computer has utterly imploded in on itself and needs a complete do-over, I’d honestly, at this point, recommend buying one of the custom builds from one of the many, many reputable PC building companies that have cropped up. They often allocate stock for these business ventures, as to not scupper their own profits.

You might even find a top-of-the-line PC for a few hundred dollars more than the graphics card you so desperately want.

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