Should You Buy A Used Graphics Card?

With the high GPU prices, you likely pondered if you should buy a used graphics card. Well, we're here to help you out with that decision.

Given the ever-present GPU hype, you might have wondered if paying the retail price is worth it or if you should simply buy a used graphics card.

This is a perfectly reasonable way of thinking, especially considering that almost every other piece of technology can be bought second-hand and used perfectly well.

That is the crux of the issue; it could be fine, but it might not be. This guide will break down some of the possible risks when buying a used graphics card, but we will also consider the positive aspects.

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The Key Reason To Buy A Used Graphics Card

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As with any other used item, not only technology but also cars or kitchen appliances, the biggest advantage of buying a used product is a far more affordable price, and that same logic applies to graphics cards. The truth is that you can easily find a much cheaper used GPU from a previous generation but is it worth it?

In most cases, a used graphics card will be safe to buy, and you will have nothing to worry about. Due to the price drop, it may even be more reasonable to buy a used graphics card than a new one. It’s certainly far more budget-friendly, and it’s usually better to buy the last generation’s flagship than the current generation’s mid-range card.

Before buying, you should first consider the benchmarks and additional specifications. For example, if you consider buying NVIDIA’s GTX 1080 Ti over an RTX 2070, it would be a better option to choose the newer card, mainly due to its revolutionary ray-tracing capabilities.

However, buying a used RTX 2080 Ti might be a better option than an RTX 3060 Ti. Yes, the RTX 3060 Ti is technically considered a budget card, and their performances are relatively similar.

However, with the hype of this new generation, the RTX 2080 Ti is rapidly losing popularity, and its price will only lower as time goes by, while the cost of the RTX 3060 Ti will likely remain the same until the next generation arrives, presumably around the end of 2022.

This doesn’t only apply to generational jumps, as you can achieve a similar effect with the mid-generation update.

This was particularly noticeable in NVIDIA’s RTX 2000 series card. An RTX 2060 dropped by around $100-120 when the RTX 2060 Super was released.

In short, the performance-to-price ratio makes buying an older, used card a better option, especially if you are buying on a tighter budget.

The Cons Of Buying A Used GPU

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As with any other used item, there are inherent risks and some things that you might need to gamble on. An important note here is that there is a difference between fixable and unfixable problems.

Saggy PCB

Today, a sagging PCB is rarely a big issue, but it is still something that can happen, so you should pay attention to it.

If you encounter this problem, we can’t in good conscience recommend buying the card. Another issue that could affect the PCB is that it simply isn’t working, which is why you should ensure the card works before buying.

Overheating/Broken Fans

The most common issue that you’ll run into with used graphics cards is overheating. Fortunately, this is usually just an issue with excess dust and is a fixable problem. Sometimes, this will cause the GPU fans to stop spinning, but that is also something that can be fixed relatively simply.

You should also note that it’s possible that sometimes the fans won’t work at all, but the rest of the card works perfectly, so you might be able to knock a few bucks off that card.

However, you will have to spend some time, and likely some more money, replacing the fans to restore the card to working order.

Crypto Mining Wear And Tear

The biggest drawback of getting a used card is that you can never be truly sure what the card was previously used for. It’s possible that the card was used for standard, run-of-the-mill gaming and is perfectly fine to use. However, it’s also possible that it was used for crypto mining.

If the card was used as a part of a mining setup, it could definitely have some inherent flaws. These cards have to be turned on and working at their full capacity for obscene amounts of time. This could be weeks, months, or even years.

This excessive workload means the circuitry is exposed to great amounts of power running through it, which can shorten its lifespan. Other things that could cause damage to the card include the conditions in which it was used.

Miners often look to use as many GPUs as they can in as small an area as possible, which means the card will be tightly packed inside a rig and is heated not only by itself but also by its neighboring cards.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to tell if a GPU was used for mining. The best thing you can do to notice any heat damage is to look very closely at the PCB and try to spot any discoloration.

This is usually the clearest indicator that a graphics card won’t last long.

Another way to check how much the GPU can handle is to run a stress test on it with software designed for the task, such as Furmark. That way, you can see how the card reacts under load and if it can maintain a stable temperature.

So, Should You Get A Used GPU?

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We hope that we have clearly presented arguments for and against buying a used graphics card and that you can now make an informed decision on your own. Our best advice would be to consider your budget first and foremost but also to do some research to find the best price-to-performance ratio.

If possible, you should be patient and wait for the right time to buy a new graphics card. We hope that you will consider choosing to buy a used one.

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Aleksandar Cosic

Alex is a Computer Science student and a former game designer. That has enabled him to develop skills in critical thinking and fair analysis. As a CS student, Aleksandar has very in-depth technical knowledge about computers, and he also likes to stay current with new technologies.