Should You Buy A Used Graphics Card?

Surrounded by the ever-present GPU hype, you likely wondered if the price is worth it or if you should simply buy a used graphics card.

This is a perfectly reasonable way of thinking, especially when considering that every other piece of technology can be bought used, and be perfectly fine.

But there lies the crux of the argument – it may be fine but it may not. Let’s break down what are some risks when buying a used graphics card, but let’s also consider the good aspects of it.

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The Key Reason To Buy A Used Graphics Card

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As with any other thing in any sphere, so not just technology but also things like cars or kitchen appliances, you likely consider the biggest pro of getting a used item is its much more affordable price and that same logic applies to graphics cards as well. The simple truth is that you can easily find a lot cheaper used GPU from a previous generation but is it worth it?

Most of the time, a used graphics card will be safe to buy and you will have nothing to worry about. In fact, due to the drop in pricing, it may actually be more reasonable to buy a used graphics card than a new one. It’s certainly way more budget-friendly and in most cases, it’s better to buy last generation’s flagship than to buy this generation’s mid-range card.

Of course, you should first consider the benchmarks and additional specifications. For example, if you considered buying Nvidia’s GTX 1080 Ti over RTX 2070, then it would be a better option to get the newer card, mainly because of its revolutionary ray-tracing capabilities.

However, getting 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 level, but with the hype of this new generation, RTX 2080 Ti is rapidly losing popularity and its price will only drop as time goes on while the price for the RTX 3060 Ti will likely remain the same until the next generation comes up, which is presumably around the end of 2022.

This doesn’t apply just to generational jumps as it can achieve a similar effect with the mid-generation update. This particular thing was noticeable in Nvidia’s RTX 2000 series card. An RTX 2060 dropped around $100-120 in price when the RTX 2060 Super came out.

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

The Cons Of Buying A Used GPU

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

Saggy PCB

Although in most modern games a sagging PCB is not a big issue, that is still something that can happen so pay attention to that. If you run into this problem, then we can’t in good conscience recommend that you buy that card. Another issue regarding the PCB is that it’s simply not working which why you should make sure that the card works before buying.

Overheating/Broken Fans

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

It should also be noted that sometimes it’s possible that the fans won’t work at all, but the rest of the card is perfectly useable so you may be able to knock a few bucks of that card. However, you will have to spend some time and likely a little bit more money replacing the fans to get the card to working condition.

Crypto Mining Wear And Tear

The biggest drawback of getting a used card is that you can never truly be sure what the card was used for. Of course, it’s possible that the card was used for your standard run-of-the-mill gaming and that it’s perfectly fine to use, but a darker possibility is that it was used for crypto mining.

If the card was used as a part of a mining setup that it can definitely have some inherent flaws. Cards such as these have to be turned on and working to their fullest capacity for obscene amounts of time. We’re talking about weeks, months, or even years.

All this excessive workload means that the circuitry was exposed to the great amounts of power running through it and that can shorten its lifespan. Other things that can be dangerous to the card are the conditions in which it might’ve been used.

Oftentimes miners will look to use as many GPUs as they can on as little area as possible which means that the card will often be tightly packed inside a rig and get heated not only by its own work but from its neighboring cards as well.

Unfortunately, there isn’t really a way to tell if a GPU was used for mining. The closest you can get to notice any heat damage is if you look very closely at the PCB and try to spot any sort of discoloration. That is probably the best indicator that a graphics card won’t last too long.

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

So, Should I Get A Used GPU?

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

If possible, you should remain patient and wait for the right time to buy a new graphics card and we hope that you will consider the option of getting a used one.

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Aleksandar Cosic
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.