Is it a waste of money to buy a second-hand or refurbished laptop?

Monday, April 6th, 2009 | laptops, Maintenance

Aesop’s fable, The Frogs and the Well, highlights a principle that you should follow when considering the acquisition of a second-hand computer.

Two Frogs lived together in a marsh. One hot summer the marsh dried up and they left it to look for another place to live, for frogs like damp places if they can get them. 

They came to a deep well.  One of them looked down into it and said to his friend: “This looks a nice cool place; let us jump in and settle here.” 

But the other one, who had a wiser head on his shoulders, replied: “Not so fast, my friend. Supposing this well dried up like the marsh, how should we get out again?”

The moral of the story?  Look before you leap.

A second-hand laptop may suit your needs perfectly well.  It may be that the previous owner’s computing needs have changed and that you could get a good machine at a bargain price or as a gift.  But in most cases individuals or organizations get rid of laptops when it is no longer worthwhile to maintain them.  Acquiring one of these machines would mean that you are taking a maintenance load upon yourself.

Some organizations are refurbishing computers and then claim that they are as good as new.  Here one has to ask additional questions: What is meant by refurbishing?  What has been refurbished?  Why did the laptop reach the refurbishment plant? In some cases refurbishment means that the machine was just cleaned very well.

Refurbishing companies generally deal in different brands.  Who will honour the warranty (if any)?  Is there a guarantee on spare parts and components?  What is the level of manufacturer support?  How stable is the refurbishing agent – how sure are you that the company will be there tomorrow?

All these questions point to one thing: look before you leap.
If a used computer is offered to you as a free gift, you may consider accepting it and using it until it proves to be more trouble than the value you are deriving from it, and then replacing it with a new one.  But if you have to pay for it, you must give the matter a second thought – consider the total cost of ownership.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

Tags: , ,

13 Comments to Is it a waste of money to buy a second-hand or refurbished laptop?

Refurbished computers
Monday, 1 June, 2009

I am in favor of refurbished products as they surely are a burden of the world resources.

Monday, 1 June, 2009

Yes, decomissioned computers are indeed adding to the e-waste burden of the world. When computers can’t be used any longer, they must be disposed of in a responsible manner. Recycling of components and materials is indeed an important consideration.

The point I made in this posting is that teachers must think carefully before choosing a refurbished computer as a viable option to new ones. The important issue that I want to emphasize is maintenance. When a teacher – or anyone else for that matter – who have never used computers before, is given a computer that will break down, it could only lead to discouragement. Hence the advice: look before you leap.

I know of some organizations who donate used computers (PCs and laptops) but also offer to help if they break down – such donations make a valuable contribution. Unfortunately, some gifts of this nature are merely a polite form of e-dumping.

Dan McGuire
Friday, 5 June, 2009

I’ve initiated a non-profit here in Minneapolis that will take donations and provide laptops or netbooks to students or groups of students. (see my website

I worked in the used Telecom/Computer business before getting my elementary teaching license. Lots of business and government organizations buy and use all kinds of used equipment.

The piece of hardware, either used or new, is usually only one small aspect of the ‘installation.’ Teacher, and administrator, training is still the biggest part of the job and the one most often given short shrift.

Thursday, 30 July, 2009

It is usually a waste of money to *buy* a second-hand laptop. It’s like choosing a Dodge over a Mercedes. Sure, the expensive Mercedes might look like a waste of money and the Dodge “suits” your “needs” “just fine”, but you actually would have saved money by buying the Mercedes because it is so much lower-maintenance and it lasts so much longer.

Now, if the computer is a ThinkPad (the Mercedes of laptops), it’s a bit different. That would be like buying a refurbished Mercedes. It _might_ be worth the money to buy a refurbished ThinkPad, as long as it’s younger than about 3 years and a nice model like a T42. I’d still discourage anyone from buying any refurbished laptop (even if it’s a ThinkPad), just because I don’t like to see people making compromises for computers. :-/

Refurbished Desktop Computers
Monday, 5 October, 2009

It is a super deal to save up to 80% on a computer,which allows people to buy that very expensive computer that they could not afford before but can now because of the discount.

Recycled computers
Thursday, 28 January, 2010

Many people use the laptop but can not afford even a desktop computer, trying to find stores with reconditioned computers

Used Sporting Equipment
Monday, 29 March, 2010

This is so true! There is nothing wrong with used item as long as it works fine just like a brand new product.

bargain laptop computers
Tuesday, 21 September, 2010

Really very good site and info that you give to us, but I didn’t find any social networking like twitter to follow, this help us for quickly knowing your new update. thank for sharing…

Laptops in Islamabad
Thursday, 28 October, 2010

Very helpful information. Very helpful, great share.

refurbished laptops
Saturday, 23 July, 2011

I just stumbled upon your blog after reading your blog posts wanted to say thanks.i highly appreciate the blogger for doing this effort.

refurbished laptops
Friday, 9 September, 2011

I just stumbled upon your blog after reading your blog posts wanted to say thanks.i highly appreciate the blogger for doing this effort.

refurbished discount computer
Tuesday, 4 October, 2011

I just stumbled upon your blog after reading your blog posts wanted to say thanks.i highly appreciate the blogger for doing this effort.

Danish Wali
Saturday, 3 December, 2011

No its not a waste of money to buy a refurbished laptop. It is safe. But you should make sure that you are purchasing it from a well known company to increase your chances of getting something that is not a lemon. Bought a Dell Optiplex GX520 from “ElectroComputerWarehouse” and the product id is “dell_gx620_3.0_sff”.

Winner - Education Blog

Follow me on Twitter



A calender of all posts to date

October 2015
« Sep