Your Guide to Buying a Used Laptop

You need a new laptop computer. Should you buy one that’s new or second-hand? If you’re going for second-hand, should you buy it privately, say through eBay, or from a retailer that sells refurbished laptops?

Before you commit to buying a used or second-hand laptop, take a look through our buying guide.

Choosing between a private purchase or buying from a retailer

Buying privately is usually your cheapest option. You may know someone looking to get rid of an old laptop for just a few pounds. More likely, you’ll be looking at an online marketplace, such as eBay.

Buying privately is cheapest partly because it gives you the least legal protection. It’s your responsibility to ensure the computer does what you want it to. 

The same applies if you buy privately online, from say Facebook Marketplace or eBay. You have very few legal rights if what you get doesn’t do what you want. 

You also don’t know where the seller got the laptop from. For all you know, it could be stolen property. 

There are some fantastic bargains to be had when you buy privately, if you know what you're looking for and are willing to take a risk.

Your protection when buying from a retailer

You get a lot more legal protection when you buy from a retailer, whether over the counter or online. You can return your computer within 30 days if the quality isn’t satisfactory or it’s not fit for purpose. Likewise, if it develops a fault in the first six months.

On top of that, when you buy online you can cancel your order up to 14 days after your laptop is delivered. 

It’s safer to buy from a recognised retailer, but the costs are usually higher than buying privately.

What to look for when buying a used laptop

Has it been refurbished or reconditioned?

If the laptop has been thoroughly refurbished or reconditioned it should look clean. If the seller says it’s been refurbished, ask them what the process involved. Ideally, it should have been cleaned internally to remove dust, all the data should have been wiped from the hard disk drive, and the operating system should have been freshly reinstalled.

What’s the difference between refurbished and reconditioned? None - both terms means the same thing. However, each supplier approaches refurbishment or reconditioning slightly differently. 

What does it look like on the outside?

A used laptop that’s grubby or scratched on the outside can still be a good performer. But the external condition should give you warning signs. A dented corner or cracked screen hinge may mean it’s been dropped, which can damage internal electronics.

Inspect the connector sockets for bent edges or pins - these aren’t good signs.

Does it turn on?

Consider how long it takes from pressing ‘on’ to being usable. A fast laptop will be usable within 30 seconds or less. 

Once it’s on, take a quick test drive. Open one or two apps and see how long they take to load. 

Read our guide to why a laptop a laptop runs slowly.

Inspect the screen

Is it clean, including around the edges? How sharp is the image? If you can, compare the quality of the display with another computer. Have a look for black or very bright dots on the display - these can be failed pixels. Check that the screen brightness can be turned up or down.

Listen to the laptop

Have it play a sound, or ideally some music, to be sure that the speakers work okay. Also listen when it’s silent - can you hear the internal fan whirring and if so, how loud is it? If the fan runs loudly all the time, the computer could be running very hot, meaning it’s more likely to fail soon.

Inspect the power cable

If any of the external sheathing over the internal wires is damaged, it should be rejected immediately as being hazardous. Check that the cable is not getting very hot to the touch, as this can also mean there’s a problem. It will often get a little warm when in use.

Check the battery life

The battery is often the weak point on a laptop. Their lives degrade with age, to a point where they hold little or no charge. You can test it by unplugging the laptop from the charger and seeing how long it runs for. This will vary depending on what it’s being used for, but you should expect at least 30 minutes of power.

Has all the data been cleared?

A retailer shouldn’t be selling you a laptop with data from a previous owner. A private seller might, but if they do, it’s a warning that the computer hasn’t been prepared for sale. It’s also a warning that the storage could be harbouring viruses and other malware.

Has it been upgraded?

You won’t be able to spot upgrades from the outside, so ask the seller. Typical upgrades include adding more memory (RAM) and either installing a larger hard disk drive or replacing it entirely with a faster SSD drive.

What is the returns policy?

If the sale is private, you have no right to return the laptop for a refund. If it’s from a retailer, you’re protected by legal rights. If the laptop was bought online, you have 14 days to cancel your order for any reason, from the date it was delivered to you. This does mean you need to return it, and that could be at your expense.

Read the pros and cons of buying a refurbished laptop.

Refurbished laptops from Peach Stores

When you buy from us, here’s what you get:

  • A refurbished laptop with minimal signs of wear and tear.
  • The hard disk drive has been replaced with a faster SSD drive.
  • The laptop has been subjected to a thorough test of its internal electronics.
  • A fresh install of the operating system (Windows or macOS).
  • A 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • A 24-month warranty.
  • 30 days free Peach Plus Support.

We make it easy for you to buy a refurbished laptop.