TL;DR – Type a laptop in eBay search field, search for it, then scroll down and select ‘Sold Listings’ on the left hand side and then sort laptop prices from low to high or high to low.
Is it that easy?
If you’re simple and just need a computer, it can be that easy. There are a dime of dozen cheap enterprise laptops out there, then base/mid price consumer ones as well, and arguably gaming laptops after that. Some upgrades/options on these laptops are easy to find; upgraded GPU, CPU, RAM, Storage. But sometimes things are harder, like getting that perfect high color gamut LCD. Sometimes sellers don’t put all the info in the title, but when you read the description or look at photos, you’d see if its the upgraded model. If you’re looking to buy a laptop from eBay, I’d recommend at least looking at 3 models before biting the bullet on one.
It does help if you are patient on a deal, don’t just buy a laptop within an hour, keep on checking the market for 2 weeks, utilize the save search feature & notifications on the eBay app for iOS or Android. It doesn’t hurt to look outside of eBay; try Offer Up, LetGo & CraigsList. If you’re in a big city you’ll have a lot of hits, but if you’re in smaller or rural areas, most likely you’ll have to drive a while for it… Also while I say this, just get a laptop that has an SSD, because installing an OS will not be explained here if you’re thinking of an upgrade.
Compare it to rivals
When I’m price searching for a laptop, I would do a Google search of its competitors. for example ‘Lenovo Carbon 2014 vs” and see the laptops reviewers compare them to. However it’s not always cut and dry, is Dell’s competitor the XPS or is it the Latitude 14 E7470? Is HP’s competitor the Elitebook Folio G3 or the Spectre x360? Does the X1C go up against the MacBook Pro 13, 15, or the MacBook Air 13?
Every manufacturer caters to their end consumer differently than other manufacturers. This is why there isn’t a direct rival to the X1 Carbon, but when it comes to general machines like the T450s, E7450, & HP… whatever it is, they have similar size, & specs, but sometimes not the same price range. This is especially true when it comes to consumer laptops, the price difference of those can be big compared to a business variant of the same year/spec. Two things to consider, the seller is trying to make up what they paid for when they bought it at a store, or that laptop sells for more because it looks nicer than the business laptop.
R2 Ready & As Is
If you want to buy an As Is laptop, the best ones to get are units that are R2 ready, which are for resale from business & corporate environments. They might come complete: battery, HDD/SSD, & AC Adapter, but in most cases I’ve seen these without AC adapters or storage (and in some cases no drive caddy). Usually people sell these laptops with As In in the title or in the condition, additionally they may not accept returns. Some of these R2 ready laptops are sold as used, because it sounds better than as is, so in theory it would sell higher, but for the most part what they do is test the laptop to bios and call it a day. In most cases businesses just dump out perfectly good laptops, & these R2 sellers probably seen so many of these before that they general know if its a good laptop or not just by looking at it. For me out of the 30 laptops I bought R2 ready, maybe 4 were bad or wrong spec’d. You want to buy from sellers who have 100% feedback score and at least 200 feedback ratings.
Battery not warrantied, no returns
Sellers will sometimes say battery isn’t warrantied, this is expected from popular sellers. A laptop can be tested real easily in a matter of 10 minutes, but the battery cannot. Programs that show battery thresholds can work good, or sometimes they cannot. People can return a laptop if it is not as described, and when a seller says ‘we tested it for 7 hours’, the person buying it might be surprised it can only last 5 hours when they use it…
The reason why they do this is because a high amount of people would return a laptop if it has bad battery life. What is bad battery life? If a laptop only lasts up to 2 hours on battery, & if I know its supposed to last about 6 hours, then it’s bad. But there are some people out there that if the laptop only lasts 15 minutes than what the OEM or some laptop reviewer says, its a bad battery. I know the latter sounds stupid, but there’s people out there who do this. Unlike most electronics where a battery can be cheaply replaced, laptop batteries can be costly, and even if you bought a ‘new’ battery for your laptop, it might have less battery life than expected or it needs to be cycled. Big outlets will have a lot of laptops to sell, they won’t really have time to cycle. Now some sellers DO tell you to cycle it, as they might install a new battery. But most sellers won’t have time to do this, because they got at least 20 laptops to fix in one day, cycling battery life takes a lot of time. Likewise, to test a battery accurately is one of the most time consuming things there are if you’re in the eWaste business. Altif they sell battery as is, you basically bat away cheapskate buyers.
Why don’t they just give you a new battery or just pay the difference?
First off returns will affect your ability to sell on eBay. Even if the customer gave 100% 5 star feedback & had returned the battery for a better one, it gives a return rate to the reseller. After so many returns, you will lose the ability to list a certain amount of items or the money from the sales will be on hold for a month or two. They can’t run a business like this, so henceforth, sellers don’t accept returns on batteries because ‘its bad’.
Where can I buy a battery then?
Amazon, eBay, aliexpress. Buy from sellers who have 3 to 6 months on return policies. There are some who have 1 year warranty. Although there are sellers who offer OEM, having spoken to PathanID a bit on discord, there are a lot of fakes out there. Some laptops will not work with non-OEM batteries. Due to the complexity of this… its just best to search online on forums who have successfully bought batteries & buy from those that are recommended.
eBay sellers I recommend
Green Citizen – They sell as is parts laptops, fixed up used laptops & used computers missing storage. That means they are great for first time buyers wanting a fully working system & I’ve bought many laptops from them and even an iMac… after upgrading their systems I’ve resold them and made profit. Their listings are easy to find because they’ll post their logo in the background.
Arrow Direct – They are one of most reputable companies to buy a used & refurbished laptop from. They accurately describe a lot of the laptops they sell and they have a lot of different locations they sell from. I’ve had good results buying from them and giving recommendations to other people to buy from. They might be a bit on the higher side of price recommendations but you can find great deals from them. Also their shipping is on point with prefabbed boxes made specifically for laptops! They are a Microsoft Authorized refurbisher, so if you want a legit install of Windows 10 with a COA that won’t get ruined, nab one from them.
Vertex PC – I personally never bought from them but they’ve been in business on eBay since the 2000’s and they have over 700 laptops available. Good place to buy a refurb laptop with fully accurate specs, even model numbers for their hard drives, RAM & detailed CPU specs! They even say if it is backlit, has a webcam or a touch screen; very easy for a less savvy tech buyers!
EPC – This company is big, I’m not sure if it is as yuge as Arrow, but whats nice about them is that they have a few seller accounts. I don’t know if they franchised their business, but the other accounts do have good feedback. They’ve been in business since 1986, they sell both computers & parts. EPC-Texas, EPC-Vegas, EPC-Carolina, EPC-Missouri, EPC-Pennsylvania & EPC-Printers.
Power On – This company sells parts and computers. They offer refurbished, used & barebones laptops. I had bought an iMac from these folks with a wiped drive & had flipped it with a clean install. They can be a little pricey on the BIN, but they do have auctions. At the time of this writing they have 350+ BIN listings & 55 auctions.
WeSellMac? – 33 items listed, 11 auctions, the rest buy it nows. They don’t really post much photos, but if you’re looking for an Apple MacBook or iPad, these fellows sell them. They post the specs in the title & description, they only post like 3 photos, so thats kinda sucks, but at least they post the cycle count!
ThinkPan / ThinkPad Grocery – This seller has a lot of parts for computers, they don’t sell laptops or desktops, but this is my number 1 place to go for HDD Caddies & tidbits. If you don’t want to wait a month importing something from China, these folks offer reasonable prices for parts.
Mclean-Surplus – An ish load of items. I bought from them in the past, I believe two E7440’s in pretty nice condition. They sell both parts and as is laptops. About 150+ auctions starting at $9.99 & $20 shipping for barebones/as is laptops.
Is that all?
Yeah pretty much that is the guide. You should be getting a laptop with a power adapter, operating system and a fairly good battery. Prior to buying from a seller, ask them if they include all of this just to be safe. Maybe get a laptop sleeve if you’re going to put it in your backpack, maybe get a laptop bag. Thinking about getting a mouse? There are so many bluetooth mouses online new & used for under $30, some can be powered by one AA battery for up to a year. I don’t really recommend keyboard protectors or shell guards, you might get a laptop sticker to save yourself from getting it scratched up, but really the $40 sticker won’t stop the depreciation of the laptop.
Pretty much that is the guide, the following is if you’re thinking of upgrading parts.
Get the right power adapter
I don’t recommend using off brand AC adapters for laptops, I’ve bought a few and came across dozen of these, they don’t last compared to the originals. Have no fear, OEM power adapters can be bought online pretty cheap, but in some rare cases they can’t. Super niche/new laptops might have an odd plug or low stock item. It is best to find the part numbers for your power adapter & how much wattage it uses. The age of USB-C chargers may shake things up a bit, because quite a few laptops let you charge from other manufacturers while others are picky. For example I will be searching a power adapter for the HP Elitebook 8760W which requires 230W & is the ‘big barrel’ similar to Dell chargers.
- HP 8760W Charger – 33 results, lot of knock offs, $18 lowest for OEM 230W, but some a lot more
- HP 8760W AC Adapter – 23 results, a few knock offs, same $18 OEM 230W
- 677765-001 – 20 results, most OEM, & some in bulk. $20 lowest
- HP 230W adapter – 157 results, all types of chargers, but quite a few at $16 for the same OEMs as above.
Get memory cheap
When I’m looking for a cheap modern laptop, I typically skim results for memory installed as a requirement because it is relatively the easiest upgrade for a computer and typically the cheapest. There are some exceptions to this rule, like 4GB DDR2 modules, 256MB 66MHz EDO, & at the time of this writing, new DDR4 RAM.
Wait: DON’T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT BEING AN EASY UPGRADE! Please look at maintenance guides, DIY videos or iFixit tutorials on upgrading RAM for the laptop(s) you are thinking of buying. Every laptop is different, but most business laptops have easy upgrade paths, specifically memory & storage.
Having flipped about 50 laptops on my own and over 500 as an electronic recycler; laptops that are listed as used, new or refurbished with 16GB or 32GB RAM offer big price markups compared to laptops with 4GB or 8GB. High memory can be bought cheaply if you’re buying as is laptop but that’s a strategy for another day. I’ve bought i7 workstations cheaply because they had ‘only’ 4GB of RAM installed, likewise i5 laptops with only 2GB RAM. RAM sold in pairs, or bundles are sometimes called lots or sets in listings.
Is all DDR3 RAM the same?
There are different speeds for RAM yes, and then there’s the 1Rx8/2Rx8 crap. The latter doesn’t really matter, but the RAM speed might slow you down. If you already got an SSD this isn’t a big noticeable factor, nor would this really affect your computer (MacBooks are picky).
- PC3-8500s (1066MHz) is probably the oldest ram,
- PC3-10600s (1333MHz) is a little bit faster & is the most common on eBay.
- PC3-12800s (1666MHz) third most common.
- PC3L-12800s (1666MHz) Low Voltage RAM, needed for Haswell & later processors that use DDR3L
- PC3L-14900s or PC3L-17000s? – Gaming RAM, hardly any on eBay, buy on NewEgg, Amazon or from Manufacturer.
Search results for PC3-12800s RAM
- 2GB DDR3 single modules – $4 to $10
- 4GB DDR3 single modules – $12 to $25
- 8GB DDR3 single modules – $27 to $45
- 8GB DDR3 Lots (2x 4GB) – $28 to $40
- 16GB DDR3 Lot (4x 4GB) – $40 to $85
- 16GB DDR3 Lots (2x 8GB) – $55 to $110
- 32GB DDR3 Lot (4x 8GB) – $140 to $200
- DDR3 & PC3L? – Some of these results were this RAM, but had a little bit higher base price.
Upgrading the processor
Adding new thermal paste on your laptop will do wonders on how well it can boot up and work during harder tasks. But if you still need more power, consider upgrading the processor. I have two price guides for them, one for Core 2 Duo’s, and one for i7 Quadcores first to fourth gen. Most systems can be upgraded from 2006 to 2013.
I will refrain from this section at the moment due to the complexities of storage options. Although DDR3/L RAM is easy to upgrade, storage can require a whole new installation of the OS. I had done a guide on how to install an OS in the past, but depending on what operating system you want to install, can be either easy or difficult.