How do I get a PC for cheap? | Ask an expert

For an ultimate deal, you’ll have to buy used—and be blessed with good luck.

Credit: PCWorld

Q: How can I get a PC for cheap?

A: The best times to buy a new PC for cheap are during major sale events like Black Friday, Prime Day, and back-to-school sales in the U.S. (Despite the exchange of gift cards and cash during Christmas, discounts on Christmas Day and the week following generally disappoint.) Keep an eye out for “doorbuster” or lightning deals during Black Friday in particular, as those limited-time offers can drop prices very low.

To get truly dirt-cheap, though, you’ll have to buy used. Strategies for buying used vary, but almost universally, the best payoffs come locally. I prefer to start by looking up the resale practices of local universities and school districts, as some sell surplus gear to the public and the buying process can be less nerve-wracking than interacting with private sellers. Depending on your area, you may be able to score an incredible deal. Last fall, I found a batch of Ivy Bridge-era laptops starting in the mid-$100s on a K-12 school auction site, which would have worked out well as DIY Chromebooks.

Another good place to check out is /r/hardwareswap on Reddit, which has clear guidelines for how to trade safely and a feedback system for users. On that subreddit, you’ll find a mix of computer components and fully built-out systems, so it’s a particularly good resource for people who want to build their own cheap PC and customize it to their tastes—or do a cheap upgrade to an existing PC to make it feel new again.

pexels pok rie 1432675 Pok Rie / Pexels

The /r/hardwareswap subbreddit can be a good source for gently used PCs and PC components.

After that, Facebook Marketplace listings are worth a look, with Craigslist and eBay being the final options, given the presence of potentially fraudulent sellers and / or the need to conduct in-person transactions. For eBay, you may have more success with the auctions if you limit your search to items only available for local pickup.

If you do buy used, be sure to vet all listings thoroughly—make sure to take note of any flaws or damage, and be especially vigilant about items that are being sold “as-is.” You may be able to transform a banged up part into a working one, but you also may not. I have a friend who bought a CPU with broken pins, thinking he could repair it and net an uber-cheap working 2700X. Cue violins. (Fortunately, he hadn’t spent much on it, and the seller had been very clear they didn’t know if it would be repairable.) You can turn a gamble into a more minimal risk with careful research and self-honesty about what you’re able to repair or tweak.

Welcome to Ask an Expert, where we tackle your questions about PC building. Have your own burning concern? Shoot us an email at thefullnerd@pcworld.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Alaina Yee

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?