There are plenty of places to buy used computers these days: Just check the Yellow Pages, classified advertisements in newspapers and computer magazines, and of course the Internet.
But consumers need to be cautious and should demand, at a minimum, a short-term guarantee.
At the Goodwill Computer Works in Santa Ana, buyers can replace any system with a comparable one for seven days after purchase, with free technical support for a month. Salesman Ralph Figueroa tells customers to use their machines heavily the first week in order to increase the likelihood of uncovering hardware or software problems.
Costa Mesa’s Computer Recycler provides minimum 90-day warranties on all its refurbished computers, and one-year guarantees on its specialty, the Apple Macintosh.
Patrick Maurer, a partner in Computer Recycler for six years, said buyers should first decide how they plan to use the machine, then talk to a knowledgeable friend or a trustworthy dealer about how much computing power they need.
There are several online computer services that match used-computer buyers and sellers, including Creative Element (https://www.creativelement.com) and the Used Computer Mall (https://www.usedcomputer.com). Services include free classified ads for buyers and sellers, and lists of used-computer swap meets and auctions.
The online services warn users that it is entirely the buyers’ responsibility to ensure they don’t get ripped off. Creative Element recommends specifying cash on delivery, with the parties splitting the cost, as one safeguard.
Tinkerers can find major bargains by frequenting swap meets and the “as-is” bins at Goodwill and other thrift stores. “Some guys have found VGA monitors for $15,” Figueroa says.