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Buying Used Electronics: Good or Bad Idea? December 8, 2008

Posted by Tom in Technology, Uncategorized.
Tags: ,

I’ve been seeing/hearing a lot of discussions about e-waste, and buying used electronics. Many companies sell used and refurbished products at a discounted rate, and there is a misconception that consumers have that they are buying other people’s junk, or that the product is not as good or unreliable. Although I agree that in some cases this may be true, there are plenty of great used electronics for sale, if you know where to look and the right questions to ask.

A lot of my friends feel that it’s worth it to pay that extra money in order to have something brand new, but we often glance over the fact that we throw out millions of tons of cell phones, computers and you-name-its every year. And where do they all end up? Check out this great blog post on the GRC Wireless Recycling blog to find out.

I think buying used electronics, when you have the option, is generally a good idea, as long as you do a little research and ask the right questions. There is a great article on Discovery’s Planet Green about how to buy used electronics and what to ask before purchasing. One more tip I’d like to add is, since you may be buying an older version of the product, to make sure that the version you are buying is energy efficient. Updated electronics are sometimes more energy efficient and you should definitely take that into consideration.


1. Luke - December 20, 2008

My rule of thumb for when efficiency is the issue: if it gets hot, then buy new. Else buy used.

All of the wasted power turns into heat (yay thermodynamics!). So, if the device gets hot in your hand, then it uses a significant amount of energy — and if the device is consumer-electronics, then a newer device will probably have better energy efficiency, since a low-power allows the vendor to build out of smaller/cheaper parts.

Foe instance, wristwatches typically don’t get hot — they don’t use enough energy to matter. My cell phone gets hot. My iPod doesn’t really.

But it can get complicated — newer dual-core computers can do nearly twice as much math as single-core computers, and the number of watts are about the same. Of course, if you use your computer lightly, then the older computer will have the same utility — so you could save on up-front costs there even if it’s a wash from the energy-efficiency side of things.

Of course, disposing of the old device could sway the balance. But disposing of electronics is much easier with Freecycle — the less fortunate folks will agree to dispose of a piece of electronics properly, in exchange for getting it for free and being able to use it until the last bit of utility has been extracted from it.

2. Luke - December 20, 2008

Er, some of the less fortunate folks, anyway — and I’ve met some very nice people though Freecycle! It’s a community just like any other, and I didn’t mean to speak for everyone.

But the folks to whom I’ve given old laptops and cell phones (devices that no-longer suit my purposes, but have some usefulness left) seem like the kind of stand-up people who intend to keep their word.

And that’s pretty cool. 🙂

Tom - December 22, 2008


Thanks for your comments! And also for the referral to Freecycle – for any other readers, the link is http://www.freecycle.org – sounds like a great way to keep stuff out of landfills and save money at the same time!

3. Aaron - October 11, 2010

Use referral code PROTILT at Full TIlt Poker for a 100% bonus!

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