Tips for Buying a Computer on eBay

Learn the Tips For Computer Buying on eBay

Couple shopping eBay on a laptop with one of them holding a credit card
LWA/Dan Tardif/Getty Images

eBay is one of the largest sellers of computers on the internet. It is possible to purchase new and used computers in great condition on eBay. If you are a techy person, you can even buy everything you need on eBay to build a computer. To successfully buy a computer on eBay, read the seller’s description, return policy, and make sure you understand shipping terms.

Specific Search Criteria

To find exactly what you need, make sure to use specific search criteria. Are you looking for a desktop or a laptop? Do you want a PC or a Mac? Do you need an all-inclusive package with lots of upgrades and accessories for gaming or video production, or just a basic computer for checking email and surfing the internet? eBay has everything you need. Think about your needs before starting the search. Buying a computer is like buying a car. Forethought and planning are needed to think through all the options, features, models, and price points. 

Use Search Features Wisely

eBay makes it easy to find exactly what you want and filter out things you don’t. Let’s walk through a sample search on eBay for a MacBook Air to demonstrate how to use the search and filter features.

  1. Enter three to five keywords about the computer you wish to purchase. Making the search too specific at the beginning may eliminate valid options. Unfortunately, one place eBay is lacking is uniformity of titles. Sellers can use any words they want in titles, so it is best to start with a broad search and narrow it down with filters. We will enter “MacBook Air” to start the search.
  2. Once the search populates, you can then look on the left side menu and start narrowing the search with criteria such as year made, type of processor, color, screen size, operating system, memory, condition, price, and buying format.

Continue to work through the filters until you have narrowed the search and found exactly what you need.       

Warning About Used Computers

When buying a used computer, only buy from sellers that carefully describe the item’s condition and who include photos of the actual unit for sale. If stock photos are used, be sure to look at the listing and make sure photos of the exact computer are also shown. Many computer resellers on eBay sell off-lease corporate machines that may come with blemishes or damage that varies from machine to machine. If features like battery life, screen brightness, loose hinges, or keyboard stiffness are important to you, read the item description carefully to see if these concerns are addressed and if they aren’t, contact the seller to ask about the condition of the item in question. Don’t buy, bid or make an offer on items if you can’t get a clear answer from the seller.

Check for Feedback

In addition to all of the computer-specific checks, review the seller’s feedback. Are previous buyers happy? Is there any negative feedback regarding the product, shipping, or service? Do your due diligence to make sure the seller is worthy of buying from. eBay’s Money Back Guarantee will help you if get stuck with a bad transaction or uncooperative seller.

eBay Shipping Costs

Although not as large in previous years, computers are fragile enough to require lots of extra packaging material for shipment. For this reason, computer shipping costs can often run quite high, anywhere from $20-40 for a laptop or notebook system to over $100 for a fully configured desktop system. Be sure to account for shipping costs in your budget as you comb through auction listings. Also, make sure you understand shipping methods. The seller can choose from USPS, FedEx or UPS. Make sure you understand which carrier will deliver the computer so you can plan accordingly to receive it.

Bottom Line

The most important thing about buying a computer is to make sure you understand all the features and options so you choose the best computer for your individual needs. A college student who likes gaming and takes online classes needs something completely different than a retired person who just wants to check email, read the news, and look up recipes. It’s a good idea to go test drive some different computers at Best Buy, the Apple Store, or office supply stores to discover the current options and understand the most recent technology.

Updated by Suzanne A. Wells