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Should You Buy a Used Graphics Card for Gaming? Let’s Find Out

Guide on buying a used GPU

With the prices of new graphics cards soaring into the sky, it’s really hard to get one for satisfying your gaming hunger. Also, the increasing demand for crypto mining has made the brand new chips disappear from the market like never before. With all this, the only option left on the table is to buy a secondhand or used graphics card. But wait, is it really worth buying a used graphics card for playing games?

Well, it depends upon the previous scenarios through which that particular graphics card has gone through. And if the GPU you intend to buy has been a part of a mining rig, then think twice before buying it. Here’s why you should be careful.

A recent study has found that mining crypto on a GPU 24/7 reduces its life span up to 10% each year. But the great GPU shortage around the world has surged the prices of the lower-end cards to an unpredicted level, the only choice for consumers is to stick with used chips. A GTX 1060 card that was selling at $175 back in 2019 is now over $275 this year.

Getting a Used Graphics Card for Gaming

Till the prices of the graphics card get back to their MSRP level, it’s better to opt for a secondhand graphics card for your gaming or content creation needs. You can buy a used graphics card for almost half the price of the new one.

Should You Buy a Used Graphics Card
Collection of used graphics cards in a store

Also, make sure you set a budget and performance expectations in your mind before buying a used GPU. Keeping aside your budget will open doors to powerful graphics cards that will last for years and deliver the same amount of performance as you could expect from a brand new card.

At the moment, you can see a huge list of used graphics cards on eBay. It is because China has banned crypto mining leaving behind more room for the new graphics cards to be available in stock. The prices of RTX chips have significantly dropped down by 15%, which is a good indication that prices will continue to fall for the old generation cards as well.

Things to Determine Before Buying a Used GPU

Now as you’ve made your mind to buy a secondhand video card, here are some important factors to keep in mind:

Don’t go for cards used in mining

Well, you can look at a graphics card and know about its physical condition, but you can never know how vigorously it has been used by the previous owner. Especially, if you are interested in buying used RTX chips that say “never used in mining”, be super cautious at that point. We, you, and the doggy in your room knows that the RTX graphics cards are the diamonds found solely in a crypto mining rig.

Do not get fooled with the claims like “Used-like new”, “out of the box”, “factory sealed”, as these things don’t make a listing genuine at all.

A GPU that has been pushed over its limits will have dirt in its fan blades and heatsink. But cleaning a GPU isn’t a big deal at all. In this case, it’s better to have a deal in person where you can physically check the graphics card by yourself before buying it. Look for the warranty stickers on the screws and make sure the edges are cleaned. A GPU that hasn’t been a part of a mining rig will speak for itself.

Age

A simple formula is to look at the age of a graphics card. By age, we refer to the first release date of that particular GPU. For example, the Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti is a five years old card, so there are more chances that it could have been used for mining.

In simple words, buying a secondhand video card from the latest generation is safer as compared to old generation chips. Let’s take an example of the RTX 3080, even if this card has been a part of a mining rig, it still has much more time left before getting retirement.

On other hand, if you go for a GTX 1050 Ti, which is an old generation card, you could end up getting one that’s in the last days of its life. The VRMs and capacitors in old generation GPUs have higher chances of going bad sooner or later.

Physical Condition

By looking at the physical condition of a graphics card, you can get an idea of how it’s been used in the past. Most important of all is to look at the VRMs and capacitors on the board, make sure these are not broken or blown up. Also, thoroughly check the cooling fan, video ports, and brackets to confirm they are in contact with the mainboard.

physical condition of a graphics card
Dust on a used graphics card

If you are buying a used GPU from an online marketplace, ask the seller to send you more pictures of the card from every side. Normal signs of wear and tear on a used graphics card are fine to go with. However, if the physical condition of the card looks terrible, then that card has been overused and there’s no reason to buy it.

Nvidia or AMD

We’ve compared AMD and Nvidia in detail, but it’s slightly different when you’re going with a used video card. It doesn’t matter what brand you consider unless you want a specific type of performance from your chip.

For example, the Nvidia RTX and AMD RX 6000 series GPUs allow you to play games with ray-tracing on. Similarly, the Nvidia RTX cards come with DLSS 2.0 support, but AMD lacks this feature.

Also, it’s worth looking for VRAM as most games need you to have more amount for smooth gameplay. 4GB is the bare minimum these days. AMD offers more VRAM when compared with similar range graphics cards from Nvidia.

At last, it’s the price to performance ratio that everyone seeks in a used graphics card, therefore brand doesn’t matter at all.

Price

Let say you come across a listing that shows an RTX 3060 with a $500 price tag, then there might be something fishy in it. Always enquire for the reason behind a lower price and only proceed if you get a satisfactory answer. Similarly, you can bargain for a higher price tag a agree at a sweet spot that is feasible for you and the seller.

Stress Testing GPU

If you are buying the used GPU from a local computer shop, Facebook Marketplace, or Craiglist, then you must ask the vendor to stress test it right away. Stress testing or benchmarking a GPU will reveal its real power and performance. There are a lot of benchmarking applications to test the guts of your GPU like 3D Mark, FurMark, and Unigine Heaven

You can install third-party software like GPU-Z or HWInfo64 to test the temperature range, fan speed, and power consumption of the graphics card. A temperature up to 80 Degrees is a normal thing on a GPU, but anything over 80 Degrees is a thing to worry about.

checking a used graphics card with GPUZ for temperature monitoring
GPUZ Screenshot of GTX 1050

When buying from an online marketplace, you can ask the seller to send you the screenshots of the benchmark results for better accessing the stability and performance of the GPU.

Warranty

It’s hard to find a used graphics card under warranty these days. But if you managed to get under the warranty, it would be something as if you have bought a brand new card. Even the warranty of few months gives you peace of mind and assurance to get your GPU repaired or replaced if anything goes wrong.

Legit Marketplace

Whenever it comes to buy used hardware, no matter if it’s graphics or whatever, it’s worth looking for one on a trusted platform. The most trusted market to get a used video card is eBay. Moreover, you can easily review the history and positive feedbacks of a seller on eBay before making your final decision.

Never ever go for a Chinese market like Alibaba or AliExpress when searching for a used GPU. The extremely low prices of GPUs on such a market might compel you to book one, most probably you would end up in a wrong or low-quality product.

Final Words – Is it Worth Buying a Used GPU?

At last, if you have made your mind to buy a used graphics card, make sure that it’s never been a part of a mining rig. But if your most favorite GPU is out of your reach and there is no way of getting other than buying a used one, go for it.

Getting a GPU from a local shop or Facebook Marketplace will give you more peace of mind as you can test the graphics card by yourself. But once you’ve paid for a card, you’ll miss out on the refund policy if anything goes wrong with the card later on.

eBay and related online marketplaces tend to take more care of buyers as compared to the sellers. So, you are more covered by their buyers’ protection policy. Finally, buying a used graphics card to cater to your gaming needs is still far better than buying a brand new GPU with an inflated price tag.

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