If you want a gaming PC, you’re going to have to spend money. To put it another way, it’s not cheap to put together a powerful system.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, some market conditions can cause prices to spike, making the PC construction process much more expensive.
Because of this, you may want to cut some corners, and cutting corners in PC building often means buying used components. Is this a good idea?
We’ll focus on graphics cards in this article and examine if a used GPU is a good investment. Do you think it’s a good method to save money?
The answer to this question, as with many others of this type, is a bit nebulous. No matter what the answer is, there’s always the possibility of a “maybe.”
This is a complex issue, and we’ll go through it in detail below.
Price and Performance: Searching for a Deal
The first step in deciding which graphics card to buy is to know your budget and set realistic expectations for performance. Keep our GPU benchmarks hierarchy on hand, no matter what your budget is. To see how different generations of GPUs stack up, this is the easiest method to go about it. It’s not likely that you’ll discover a $350 GPU that can match the performance of a $700 model, but you might find a $400 model that can match the performance of a $500 model. At least, that’s what we’re hoping for.
We should expect to see more secondhand GPUs on eBay in the next few months as China continues to shut down crypto mining operations. The wisest advise is to avoid buying a used card since you don’t want to take on the burden of someone else’s debt simply to save a few dollars. However, it’s possible that we’re not just talking about saving a few dollars here. In terms of performance, the GeForce RTX 3060 isn’t too far behind the GTX 1080 Ti — it’s only about 5% slower, and it supports ray tracing and Deep Learning SuperScale (DLSS). The RTX 3060 is still listed on eBay for $742, which is 2.25 times the actual MSRP. Compared to that, the GTX 1080 costs $442, while the GTX 1080 Ti costs $625.
Buying a used card and getting comparable performance for $125–$300 less is an option worth considering. As long as you don’t mind the loss of DLSS and ray tracing, you may want to give RTX 2070 (non-Super) an opportunity. Except that it’s currently $755. It’s not a smart idea to get an older card with less memory for more money.
To put it another way, you have to decide whether or not a used card is a good value. In other words, just because something is being sold for a low price doesn’t make it a “bargain.” Even while MSRPs are still relevant, most cards are currently being sold for more than their initial price. Maybe that will change in the coming months, but a good deal today would be a current-generation card that costs within 25% of its MSRP, or a one-generation old card that’s right around MSRP.
Since last month, eBay prices for the latest generation of graphics cards (Nvidia Ampere and AMD RDNA2) have declined by roughly 15% on the auction site. We predict the price of earlier generation cards to fall even faster because they are less sought after (see below). An example of this is the RTX 3060, which is only slightly slower than a GTX 1080 Ti, but consumes 30% less power. That means that if the price of a used GTX 1080 Ti is less than the cost of a new RTX 3060 (which is presumably out of stock everywhere we’ve looked, at least in the US), a used GTX 1080 Ti would only make sense.
Assume the Worst and Prepare for it
When searching for a graphics card online, it’s impossible to know what the previous owner(s) may have done with it, therefore our recommendation is to assume the worst. Don’t put your faith on the seller to tell you the truth. Anyone who claims that their property has never been mined is usually lying. Even if a seller claims that a card was used for mining, we’d still presume maximum overclocks and redlining, with GPUs perhaps being pushed past acceptable limits.. We’d also be suspicious of claims that an item is “like new,” “open box,” or even “factory sealed,” because all of these descriptions are vulnerable to fabrication.
Here, Murphy’s Law is at work. If a GPU could have been used to do a task, it most likely was. But that doesn’t mean that a card can’t be recovered at all. Heatsink and fan blades might become clogged with dust due to deterioration of thermal paste or pads. It’s possible that some TLC and cleaning will restore the performance of an older card. Add up the expense of fresh pads and even fan replacements, along with the time it takes to clean a card.
You can know a lot about a card just by looking at it if you can meet up in person for a purchase. Check to verify if the screws that hold the card in place have been removed. These “warranty void” labels do have a purpose after all. You can tell how long a card has been mined by looking at the corners and nooks and crannies, especially if they are clean.
Graphics Card Age Matters
With time, age can have a significant impact. When it comes to antiques, older is not always better. A used vehicle comparison is appropriate. Even if a vehicle has been driven hard for a year, it should still be covered by a warranty and less likely to have major issues. On the other hand, a ten-year-old vehicle with more than 120,000 miles on the odometer is a recipe for disaster.
A cheap RTX 3060 that’s been mining continuously since the end of February 2021 would be your best bet if you can find one. We’d anticipate a card that’s less than a year old to be able to run games without any major issues, even if it’s used for 24/7 mining. At some point during those four years, a GTX 1080 Ti may have been put to work mining. Even if mining isn’t involved, it might still be a filthy disaster.
It is often safer to buy a used GPU from the current generation rather than one from several years ago. Your chances of finding a mint GTX 1080 Ti are one in a million, and you could end up with a 1080 Ti whose VRMs or other components on the board are already failing. Prepare for this eventuality.
Do keep in mind that AMD has officially decommissioned all R9 300-series and older GPUs, as well as the R9 Fury/Nano cards. Only the RX series of cards are still supported by the latest driver. Older this year, Nvidia also declared that it will no longer offer driver support for GTX 500-series and earlier GPUs, as well as Kepler support. In the near term, it doesn’t matter too much. Older graphics cards may not be able to run Windows 11 and future games, though. You’ll need an RX 400-series AMD GPU or a GTX 900-series Nvidia GPU to play the latest games.
Pay Close Attention to Return Stipulations
Even if the seller says “no returns accepted,” you can still get a refund if you buy anything on eBay and it doesn’t work. However, it’s preferable to work with a company that offers a standard 30-day return policy.
You’ll get a better deal if you buy from a store in your own nation. While returning a defective goods to China is technically conceivable, the process is far more time consuming, and shipping costs are very certainly to be higher. In addition, it may take a week or more to arrive at your location, which is inconvenient if all you need is a working graphics card.
Look into the seller’s past as well. It is best to avoid buying anything from a brand-new vendor, especially if the deal seems unrealistically low. When you’ve done hundreds or even thousands of transactions in the past, you don’t want to ruin your name. Many graphics card manufacturers have their own eBay stores, which is a better option than other alternatives (assuming they have any inventory in stock).
AMD or Nvidia
AMD vs. Nvidia has been discussed before, but that’s an overview of where things stand right now. You may want to think twice before purchasing a used graphics card, especially if it’s more than a few years old. When shopping for graphics cards, keep in mind that some functions, like as ray-tracing, are only available on certain models from Nvidia’s RTX or AMD’s RX 6000 series. A Nvidia RTX graphics card is also required for DLSS. Make sure your power supply can support the card you’re considering by checking the GPU power consumption.
We don’t have any serious concerns about purchasing an AMD or Nvidia graphics card. Again, performance and cost are the most important variables. If you can locate a GPU with the performance you need at a reasonable price, the brand usually doesn’t matter.
VRAM, which has become more important in recent games, should also be taken into consideration. If you have a graphics card with less than 4GB of VRAM, you may be limited in the settings you can select in some games, or possibly be unable to run some of the most current releases at all. Compared to Nvidia, AMD tends to offer greater VRAM for the same price. A minimum of six gigabytes of RAM is required to play the most recent games.
Stress Testing and Benchmarking
You still have one more step to go through once you buy a used card that matches all of your requirements: Make sure you test it to the hilt! If your CPU and system are both fast, our graphics card reviews and benchmarks can give you an idea of what to expect in terms of performance. However, stability is just as crucial as speed when purchasing a used part.
Once you’ve received the card, run some rigorous benchmarks to make sure everything is working as it should. 3DMark is fine, but if you have a commercial edition that allows you to run a test sequence 50 times, it’s even better. Even if you don’t have the time to play FurMark, any 3D game will do the trick. You’ll need to run various utilities to monitor GPU temperatures, fan speeds, and power consumption. To test your graphics card, we’ve written a comprehensive post.
A well-functioning graphics card will require a significant amount of work. Because of this, the sooner you can get your money back and return your credit card the better. Additionally, you should have a look at the processor and memory clock speeds. While playing games on an RTX 2070, if you’re only getting 1500MHz or less, something is amiss. AMD GPUs and Nvidia GPUs’ core specifications may be immediately found on Wikipedia.)
Logging the results of using HWInfo64, MSI Afterburner, or some other program should reveal a decrease in clock speeds along with a rapid rise in temperature. GPU temperatures of 70–80 degrees Celsius aren’t out of the ordinary, but anything over 80C is cause for concern. Because GPU temperatures can vary widely (AMD’s RX Vega cards, for example, tend to use more power than rival GPUs), it’s important to do your homework. However, we prefer to keep our graphics cards in the mid- to upper-seventies.
The Key Reason To Buy A Used Graphics Card
Graphics cards are no exception to this rule. Buying a used graphics card is cheaper than buying a new one, much like buying a used automobile or a new kitchen equipment. Is it worth it to buy a second-hand graphics card from a prior generation?
Buying a used graphics card is often safe, and you don’t need to be concerned. You could be better off buying an older graphics card, as the price has dropped significantly. For a fraction of the price, you can purchase a much more powerful card than the current generation’s mid-range card.
You should think about the benchmarks and further specs before making a purchase. As an example, the newer NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti over an RTX 2070 would be a better choice because of its innovative ray-tracing capabilities.
The RTX 2080 Ti may be a better choice than the RTX 3060 Ti, however. Yes, the RTX 3060 Ti is a budget card, and its performance is comparable to that of the RTX 3060. The RTX 2080 Ti is gradually dwindling in popularity due to the anticipation around this new generation, but the RTX 3060 Ti’s pricing will likely remain stable until the next generation arrives, which is expected to arrive towards the end of 2022.
This isn’t limited to generational changes; a mid-generation update can have the same effect. In NVIDIA’s RTX 2000 series card, this was most apparent. It fell in price by roughly $100-120 when the RTX 2060 Super was announced.
If you’re on a lower budget, getting an older, used card is a better option than buying a new one.
The Cons Of Buying A Used GPU
If you’re going to buy a used item, you’re going to have to take some risks and make some bets. There is a difference between problems that can be fixed and problems that cannot be fixed.
A sinking PCB is no longer a major problem, but you should still keep an eye out for it. We can’t in good conscience recommend that you buy the card if you encounter this issue. It’s also possible that the PCB is broken, which is why you should test the card before purchasing it.
Overheating is the most common problem you’ll encounter when purchasing a used graphics card. Because this is usually a dust problem, it can be easily remedied. Occasionally, this can cause the GPU fan to cease spinning, although this can also be easily addressed.
Also, keep in mind that if the fans occasionally fail to function, but the rest of the card is in fine working order, you might be able to save a few dollars on the card. The card will still operate, but it will take some time and money to get it back to its original state.
Crypto Mining Wear And Tear
If you buy a used card, you’ll never know for sure what it was originally intended. Possibly, the card was used for normal, day-to-day gaming, and it’s safe to use. Cryptocurrency mining may have also been a possibility.
The card may have some inherent problems if it was used in a mining setup. It takes a lot of time for these cards to be activated and working at full capability. Even years could pass before this is resolved.
Circuitry is exposed to a lot of power, which can limit its lifespan, because of the high workload. There are other possibilities for harm to the card, such as the environment in which the card was used.
Miners frequently try to fit as many GPUs as possible into a small space, which means the card will be packed tightly inside a rig and will be heated both by itself and by its surrounding cards as a result of this strategy.
A GPU’s mining activity can’t be detected, which is unfortunate. Looking at the PCB very closely and looking for any discoloration is the best way to spot any heat damage. This is the most obvious sign that a graphics card is about to fail.
A stress test using specialized software, such as Furmark, can also be used to determine how much the GPU can withstand. You’ll be able to see how the card performs under stress and whether it can maintain a steady temperature by doing so..
Presentation and Packaging Matter
There is a correlation between the condition of a used GPU and whether the seller has preserved the original packing, including all of its official documentation and the crucial anti-static bag, despite the fact that this may be an overly broad generalization.
Care must be taken to ensure the long-term performance of PC components, which are delicate and complex. It is common for vendors to keep their packaging because they know they will be reselling the items at some point in the future.
To avoid a card with dust-clogged shroud and heatsink, it’s best not to look at it at all. In most cases, reputable dealers who know what they’re doing will supply many images of the card, allowing you to see the condition it’s in.
It’s also a good sign if you notice a well-packaged graphics card in its original packaging, as well as all the documentation that usually comes with it. In addition to providing extra photographs, further details, and even running benchmarks on request, conscientious sellers are also likely to address questions about the graphics card’s past.
Where Can You Buy A Used Graphics Card?
One site can’t possibly be the only place to go when looking for a used graphics card on the internet, especially because even the most reputable sites have their fair share of online shopping horror stories associated to them.
On the plus side, everyone seems to focus on the negative rather than the positive aspects of life. A tiny number of scams and defective parts have been sold alongside thousands of smooth transactions on sites like eBay, Craigslist, and the Reddit community r/hardwareswap.
That being said, eBay’s “Money Back Guarantee” policy does provide ways to get your money back if the transaction is a failure. If you receive an item that is defective, broken, or otherwise does not correspond to the listing, you are entitled to a full refund. Once eBay gets involved, they’ll normally side with the buyer if the vendor is trying to extort money from them.
Craigslist is more of a gamble because there is no protection or insurance, but the convenience of proximity and the opportunity to view a graphics card in person before making a purchase make it worthwhile.
Rather than allowing a few rotten apples to brand a whole website as untrustworthy, it’s best to judge each individual vendor. It’s easy to gauge a seller’s trustworthiness by looking at their ratings and feedback.
You can be confident in them if they have positive reviews from a large number of individuals, while those with bad reviews and no previous activity deserve caution.
How Much Should You Pay For A Used Graphics Card?
Used graphics cards can be a great way to save money, especially if you’re looking to replace an old one that’s broken. When all other factors are equal, the price becomes the decisive factor.
Using the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) and a median pricing from a number of reputable retailers, you can get an idea of how much a pre-owned graphics card will cost. Of course, the condition of the graphics card is also an important consideration when purchasing a used computer.
Now, at what price point does the risk outweigh the reward?
You can expect to save a considerable sum by purchasing at a discount of between 20 and 30 percent off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). Used graphics cards are generally not worth purchasing unless the price is significantly lower than MSRP. A modest risk is better than none at all, so why take a chance when a new GPU is just a few dollars extra and comes with a warranty?
If you come across a card for sale at a price that appears too good to be true, it probably is. Even so, there are times when a working component is sold at a low price because the seller wants to get rid of it quickly. Most of the time, though, the high-priced item turns out to be defective or the advertisement is a rip-off.
Which Used Graphics Card Should You Buy?
Personal preference, budget, and gaming needs all play a role in determining which card to choose. There are many similarities between acquiring a used graphics card and purchasing a new one: check benchmark results, customer feedback, and compatibility.
When it comes to older models, we favor Nvidia GPUs because they have a better track record of durability.
It doesn’t really matter what model of graphics card you have, as long as you know when it was purchased. Playing newer games will be easier on a card with the most recent architecture. There will also be greater “wear and tear” on older cards because they’ve been in use longer.
Aside from not being as efficient or power-efficient, older architectures don’t support many of the latest innovations. Keep in mind, too, that if you’re trying to save money, an older card will be less expensive.
To be on the safe side, look for a GPU that is no more than two years old. This gives you plenty of breathing room in case you end up with a defective component. Most manufacturers offer three-year guarantees on their GPUs. Some warranties given by OEMs, on the other hand, are unclear and shaky at best. Additionally, MSI has had issues with warranty claims since they change the warranty goalpost.
It’s advisable to stay with models made by companies who have a proven track record when it comes to warranties.
Is It Worth Buying A Card From A Cryptocurrency Mining Rig?
Although GPU prices have returned to normal, gamers will have a long time to forget how out of control they became due to the cryptocurrency mining craze. Is it a good idea to purchase a graphics card that was previously used in cryptocurrency mining?
Generally speaking, not at all. Because mining is such a demanding operation, it’s likely that the graphics card you’re looking at is already showing substantial signs of use and abuse. While some miners are concerned about the long-term health of their GPUs, others don’t mind cranking up the clock in order to get the most out of their hardware.
It’s impossible to know what you’ll get when buying mining cards; you can get lucky and get a well-preserved card that will serve you well for years, or you might acquire a beat-up card that will let you down in a few months.
Buying a used mining card, on the other hand, is a serious risk. That’s something we don’t recommend, especially if you’re spending a significant lot of money on it.
Should You Get A Used GPU?
With our help, you should be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to purchase a used graphics card. Consider your budget first and foremost, but conduct some research to discover the best price-to-performance ratio possible.
When purchasing a new graphics card, you should be patient and wait for the proper time. We sincerely hope you’ll think about buying a used one instead.
And that’s all you need to know about purchasing a used graphics card!
Some people are wary of purchasing old devices since you never know what you’ll get, but others see it as a cost-effective method to save money. If you want the best deal, keep an eye on costs and pay attention to who you’re buying from, as per normal.