Is Buying a Used Graphics Card a Good Idea?

The number one cost of the gaming PC is the graphics card, sometimes taking up 40%+ of your entire budget. Especially with the exorbitant prices Nvidia is charging for their new RTX 2000 series cards and the disappointing AMD high end Vega cards, graphics cards have become more expensive than ever.

On the flip-side, the decline of the cryptocurrency bubble has led to miners trying to offload their use mining cards and cut their losses before their value declines even further. On Ebay, Craigslist, and Facebook, you’ll find hundreds of used graphics cards for prices far below retail.

Here we will investigate the risks and buying a used graphics card (especially a ex-mining card) and whether is it worth taking that risk in order to save a big chunk of change.

Where do I Find a Used Graphics Card?

There are two main ways to buy a use GPU. The first and most common avenue is buying it from it’s owner.

Purchase from Owner

When you buy a used graphics card from it’s owner, you’re usually buying a card that was either used for gaming or for altcoin mining.

The most common places to find used graphics cards sold by their owner is Ebay, Craigslist, and the Facebook Marketplace.

On Ebay, you’ll find the biggest selection of cards as it’s a national platform, but it is harder to communicate with sellers and the cost of shipping and the Ebay fee makes everything around 5-10% more expensive.

On Facebook and Craigslist, you’ll usually be able to haggle the price down pretty low as you would be directly negotiating with a local seller most of the time. But if you live in rural Appalachia or Alberta, you are probably screwed.

You can get a used GTX 1070 for the price of a new GTX 1060

Purchase from Retailer/Refurbisher

When you go this route, you are buying a used card from a retailer that probably also sells new cards. These refurbished cards are usually cards that have been returned, repaired, or open-box cards.

Amazon, Newegg, Microcenter, and all the other major computer component retailers in North America all sell used cards for a discount. Many OEMs will also sell refurbished cards on their website. These cards will be cheaper than retail, but they will still be much more expensive than used GPUs found on Ebay or the Facebook Marketplace. If you get lucky, you’ll get a card that someone returned without using it but is technically “used” (as the box was opened) so it can’t be sold as new again. However, you don’t have any control of what you receive.

Is Buying an Ex-mining Card Bad?

It’s commonly said that buying a card used for cryptocurrency mining is a terrible idea. Logically, this notion does make some sense. After all, mining cards run 24/7 for months and even years under constant workloads in dusty and hot mining rigs.

However, a used graphics card from a miner who took proper care of his cards will actually be more reliable than a used card for gaming. 

Now why is that the case?

Because memory bandwidth, not clock speed is the primary bottleneck for mining and because miners want the best power efficiency, miners will usually underclock and undervolt their cards. Although gamers don’t run their cards 24 hours a day, gaming cards are subject to much more voltage fluctuation and higher clock speeds — things that wear down the components much more than mining.

A very pretty mining rig

However, there is one main downside of mining cards: the fans. Although the fans on mining cards are set at a constant speed, the fans bearings will still fail quicker when the fan is spinning 24/7 (it will make it difficult to maintain good temperatures if the fan breaks). Fortunately, the fans on a graphics card are fairly easy and cheap to replace, but it is a hassle to do. Due to this factor, buying a low-end ex-mining card is probably not as good of an idea as the fan replacement will cost the same amount of money and time as it would on a high-end card.

How Do I Tell If a Used Card was Used for Mining or Gaming?

There’s a massive GPU resale market on Ebay

A lot of times sellers will say what they used their cards for in the description, but other times it’s not immediately clear what the card’s previous role was. by just the listing.

If you’re on Ebay or Facebook, look at what other products the owner is selling. If the seller is selling more than two or three graphics cards, it’s almost guaranteed that he used those cards for crypto mining.

Use common sense. If a seller has listings for eight other identical RX 580s and a 2000W power supply, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out whats going on. If a seller is selling one graphics card, a CPU, a motherboard, and a monitor, he is probably just selling his used gaming rig.

Is it Worth it to Buy a Used Graphics Card?

Yes. Yes. YES!

It is absolutely worth it to buy a used graphics card. You can easily save several hundred dollars off the MSRP and get a graphics card that has proven it’s reliability. Many electronics that fail fail early in the life-span due to fatal defects. After the quick initial die off, the remaning graphics cards will be the ones that are pretty reliable. If a graphics card has already survived for one or two years with its previous owner, chances are that it will survive for a few more years.

Don’t worry about if the card was used for mining or not. Apart from potentially unstable fans, it’s a myth that ex-mining cards are any less reliable than ex-gaming cards.

You may want to check out some other guides like how to check and change your refresh rate on Windows or how to turn off mouse acceleration in Windows for more information.

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