Craigslist is the most popular classified ads website in the world, and if you’re really careful you can find some real bargains on used computers on there.
But if you aren’t careful it’s very easy to get scammed or taken advantage of as well.
First and foremost, you need to protect yourself by always keeping your personal safety in mind when dealing with strangers over the Internet.
I recommend that you never let strangers come to your home under any circumstances, and when you visit a seller’s home ALWAYS take a friend with you. Also, think twice before giving a stranger your phone number.
And before you leave, tell a trusted friend EXACTLY where you’re going, including the physical address And then let the seller know that you have shared that information with a friend. That will make your meeting a LOT safer.
And now that the most important tip is out of the way, here are a few tips for safely buying a used computer on Craigslist:
1 – Research the particular computer you’re interested in purchasing by Googling the brand and model number.
Familiarize yourself with the hardware specifications (specs) and the Operating System version that originally came with the machine. That way you’ll know if the one you’re interested in buying was downgraded in any way before it was listed for sale.
Also, familiarize yourself with the approximate age of the computer you’re thinking about buying by typing the computer’s brand and model number into Google along with the words “release date”.
Many used computers will look virtually brand new even though they’re really several years old. You definitely don’t want to end up paying 2017 or 2018 prices for a machine that’s actually quite old in tech years.
2 – Know what used computers of that brand and model typically sell for by searching for it on eBay.
While you won’t come away with a definite fair price, you will be able to get an average sale price.
Compare that average price to the price listed in the Craigslist ad. If the listed price seems high (and Craigslist prices often are), be prepared to negotiate a better deal armed with the info gained from your research and a stack of printouts of the previous eBay sales.
3 – If you don’t know a lot about computers, take along a knowledgeable friend who can help you determine the quality and an accurate value of the system.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to take a friend along anyway, especially if you have never met the seller before.
4 – Before you leave to meet the seller, contact him/her and ask them to have the machine powered up and running when you get there. That way it will be at its normal operating temperature and more likely to prematurely shut down while you’re there if it has that problem.
Insist on seeing the computer powered up and in operation for a minimum of 30 minutes. You can ask questions or make small talk to pass the time.
Load a web browser and check out a few websites, preferably with several tabs open at once.
Load a photo editor and see how well the system performs (Paint or Paint 3D will do if no other image editor is installed).
Most important of all, make sure the system doesn’t shut down on its own after running for a short while.
5 – If the computer you’re checking out is a laptop, unplug the power brick from the wall and see how quickly the system shuts off. If it’s less than 30 minutes you’ll probably have to replace the battery should you ultimately decide to buy the computer. If it’s longer than 30 minutes the battery is probably ok.
6 – Assume that anything you buy off of Craigslist is “As Is – No Warranty” even if the ad states otherwise. Getting many Craigslist sellers to honor a guarantee is about as easy as dead-lifting 2,000 pounds while skipping a rope and singing The Star Spangled Banner.
7 – Keeping number 6 in mind, don’t be afraid to ask for a refund in the event that the computer turns out to have serious problems that weren’t disclosed at the time of sale.
Will you get it? Probably not, but you’ll never know unless you try.
8 – Don’t be afraid to consider alternative sources for used computer equipment.
For example, Amazon has an amazing selection of used computers at ridiculously low prices, and your local newspaper or PennySaver type publication probably has them as well.
And now, to reiterate what I said above about personal safety…
I strongly recommend that you always take someone else along with you whenever you go to meet someone from Craigslist (or any stranger, under any circumstances for that matter). And don’t take along a wad of cash. If possible, insist on paying with a personal check.
Many sellers will accept cash only, but there are plenty out there who will gladly take your check, especially if you agree to follow them to the bank to get it cashed.
Bottom line: Better safe than sorry, as they say. After all, you just never know about people these days!
Bonus tip #1: If you’re planning to buy a computer because your current one is old and sluggish, you just might be able to speed it up (and possibly by a large margin). This post offers several tips for speeding up a sluggish PC.
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