used computerThe goal of this article is to take a look at the used computer market in Vancouver. Within it we attempt to answer the following questions: When should you consider buying a used computer and when should you consider buying a new computer? Where are some reasonable locations to begin your search for a used computer in Vancouver? Finally, how much can you expect to pay for a used computer in Vancouver and how does this compare to the price of a new one?

Buying New Versus Buying Used

Computer speed, storage space, and general capabilities have increased immensely during the past few decades. In fact, they have increased at such a staggering rate that most people today simply have no need for a brand new computer. As a result, many people are wisely choosing to look at the used computer market where they can buy a slightly older model for a very reasonable price.

Before we go into great detail it’s wise to first deal with the question: should I buy a new computer or should I buy a used computer? This can be a slightly tricky question as it depends partially upon your particular circumstances – however, we here at Seymour Computer Repair will attempt to simplify it a tad.

You  should probably buy a new computer if:

  • You are going to use your computer to play state-of-the-art video games: Video games, particularly newer video games, require a great deal of processing power and graphical capabilities in order to render (draw) advanced photo-realistic scenes. Older, used computers will oftentimes be unable to play these games or will simply under perform.
  • You are going to use your computer for advanced movie making or photo editing: Advanced movie making programs (Adobe After Effects, Final Cut Pro … etc.) and photo editing programs (Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator … etc.) generally require a  fast computer chip with a large chunk of RAM (random access memory). If you are going to be using these types of programs then it may be wise to invest in a newer, faster machine. If, however, you are only going to be creating small, simple movies using Windows Live Movie Maker or iMovie then a used computer may still be acceptable.
  • You have special computer requirements:  Some people have special computer requirements. Perhaps they want to be able to watch Blu-Ray movies on their machine or perhaps they wish to be able to listen to surround sound on their computer. Truthfully speaking, you are unlikely to be able to satisfy these requirements with an old, used computer. Instead you will likely need to buy a new computer – perhaps even one which is specially put together for you.
  • You want/need a warranty: It goes without saying, but used computers rarely come with any kind of warranty. You may be lucky and find one that is still within its warranty period (a period with generally lasts 1 or 2 years); however, this is the exception rather than the rule. If a warranty is extremely important to you then you will likely need to buy a new computer.

You can probably buy an older, used computer if:

  • You only use your computer for basic tasks: A used computer will likely be fine if you use your computer for the following types of tasks: casual internet browsing, basic email, checking Facebook, word processing, basic printing/scanning … etc.
  • You are looking to save a bit of money: Used computers tend to be older than new computers; consequently, they also tend to be less expensive. Furthermore, people who upgrade their compute system usually want to rid themselves of their old “junk”.
  • You don’t mind a machine which is slightly slower: We want to emphasize the word “slightly” because a used computer, these days, isn’t really that slow when used for basic tasks (as outlined above). Sure, an older computer may take a bit more time to start up and load your programs – but to the normal computer user this probably won’t be a big deal.
  • You are willing to take a bit of a risk: Used computers tend not to come with a warranty; consequently, there is no guarantee that they will last another 5 or 10 years. When buying a used computer you have to place a little bit of faith in the computer which you are purchasing. One way in which you can improve your chances is by buying a computer from a reliable and honest individual.

Where Can You Find Used Computers in Vancouver?

Let’s say that you have taken a look at our previous list and you have decided that a used computer may be right up your ally. After all, you aren’t looking for anything super fancy, and you are only going to be using your computer for basic stuff: email, Facebook, word processing, scanning, and printing.

At this point you need to figure out where to look. Luckily, Seymour Computer Repair has you covered. Here are some of the better places to look for a used computer within Vancouver and throughout the Lower Mainland.

  • Free Geek Vancouver: Free Geek Vancouver (located at 1820 Pandora Street) is a non profit organization which focuses on reusing and recycling people’s old computers. What Free Geek does is: (1) take donations from people like you or I, (2) recycle useless computer parts, and (3) put together used computers with the remaining useful computer parts. One of the big advantages of Free Geek is that they have been around for quite some time and, thus, are a known, trustworthy commodity. The one problem is that you won’t know exactly what they have until you give them a call or go visit their store. When purchasing from Free Geek you can’t be too choosey!
  • Craigslist Vancouver and Kijiji Vancouver: Both Craigslist and Kijiji have a special section dedicated to computer sales. The advantage of these sites is that you can determine, ahead of time, what type of computers are available. This is because most sellers go into detail about the products they are attempting to sell. The problem, of course, is that sellers on Craigslist and Kijiji are somewhat anonymous and have no visible track record; hence it is a little bit difficult to tell if they are selling you something which is defective or not.
  • Friends and Relatives: One of the better ways to grab a used computer is to ask around. You’ll probably be surprised at the number of friends and relatives who have old computer hardware lying around their house just waiting to be recycled or reused. The benefit with grabbing an old PC from a friend or relative is that it will likely be really cheap and the individual is likely extremely trustworthy (a win-win situation). The only problem occurs if you have no friends/relatives with unused computer systems :]
  • Computer Repair Shops: Some computer repair shops sell used computers in addition to new, custom built, machines. There are a vast number of computer stores throughout the Greater Vancouver area so we won’t take a look at any one specific store. All we will say is that it is usually best if you phone them up and talk to them a bit about what you are looking for. The benefit of buying from a computer repair shop is that they are likely to be reputable since they probably don’t want you badmouthing them to friends and such. The problem is that they may not have a great selection of computers to choose from (then again, you can’t be too picky when trying to grab a used computer).

What Should You Look For and How Much Should You Expect to Pay For a Used Computer in Vancouver?

Let’s assume, once more, that you are looking for a used computer which can perform a variety of normal tasks: reading your email, going on Facebook, creating word documents, printing, and scanning. What type of computer do you need and how much, approximately, will in cost in Vancouver?

For our discussion we will assume that you are going to purchase a used Microsoft Windows PC. If you are going to purchase a Mac computer you can still follow along; simply realize that your computer will be more expensive and you will have less choice when it comes to the internal components.

A reasonable used Windows desktop would have the following as a minimum:

  • A Pentium 4 (p4) computer chip or better.
  • A P4 computer chip which is at least 2.0 Ghz (Gigahertz). In general, a larger number signifies a faster computer.
  • 1.5 GB (Gigabytes) of RAM (random access memory) or more. In general, a larger number signifies a faster, more responsive, computer.
  • 80 GB (Gigabytes) of hard drive space or more. The more hard drive space you have, the more documents and programs you can store on your computer.
  • A basic sound card, graphics card, and network card. Generally speaking you don’t need to worry about these components as they come built into nearly every computer system available.
  • A 17 inch LCD monitor. The larger the size of your monitor, the easier it is to see what you are doing and organize all of your different windows.
  • A keyboard and a mouse. Generally speaking, computers come with a keyboard and mouse so you shouldn’t need to worry about them.

Taking a look at Free Geek we found the following prices:

  • A mid level Pentium 4 (P4) computer with an 80 GB hard drive: $70
  • 1 GB (Gigabyte) of extra RAM (random access memory): $18
  • A 17 inch monitor: $30
  • A sound card: $10
  • A 128 MB video card: $10
  • A network card: $5
  • A DVD drive: $10
  • Miscellaneous Cords: $15

In total, it would cost us about $170 – $180 to create a reasonable used desktop computer from Free Geek. If you don’t want to buy the parts separately you can simply talk to Free Geek and they would likely put it together for you for a nominal fee.

A reasonable used Windows laptop would have the following as a minimum:

  • A computer chip which is at least 1.8 or 2.0 Ghz. In general, a larger number signifies a faster laptop.
  • 1 GB (Gigabyte) of RAM or more. In general, a larger number signifies a faster, more responsive, computer.
  • 80 GB (Gigabytes) of hard drive space or more. The more hard drive space you have, the more documents and programs you can store on your computer.

Free Geek doesn’t list the specifications of the laptops they sell; however, they do state that their laptops generally cost between $100 and $150.

Summary

Although new computers (both desktops and laptops) are neat to have, they are often unnecessary for the casual computer user. This is why we here at Seymour Computer Repair often recommend people look at buying a used computer if they are only interested in surfing the web, checking email, creating word documents, and listening to music. Not only are used computers generally sufficient, but they also tend to be a heck of a lot cheaper. For instance, a brand new, low-end, desktop machine will likely cost you at least $400 or $500 at Futureshop. Add on a decent monitor and you are likely looking at $600 to $700. Meanwhile, a reasonable used computer can be picked up from Free Geek for several hundred dollars.

Although used computers can be advantageous, one does have to remember several important points:

  • Used computers are just that – used. Consequently they are likely to be slower than a new computer. This will likely be an important distinction if you are going to be playing high end video games or if you are going to be using advanced movie/photo editing software.
  • Used computers rarely come with warranties. Occasionally you will find a decent used computer which has a few months left on its warranty; however, this is rare. Consequently, it is important that you take the time to get a feel for the individual selling you the PC. Most people are very reasonable and have no intention of selling you a lemon; however, exceptions do exist.
  • Used computers don’t have all of the bells and whistles of new computers: If you are looking for a machine which has specific capabilities such as the ability to play Blu-Rays or the ability to play surround sound then you may need to look at purchasing something new; possibly even something custom built.

Overall, whether you live in Vancouver or elsewhere, we recommend that the next time you purchase a computer you take a look at both the used computer market as well as the new computer market. If you do have any questions about your next computer purchase or if you need help with installation then don’t hesitate to contact us – Seymour Computer Repair!