Sell Your Old Computer With an Online Auction

First Published:
Date Published: 2000
Copyright © 2000 by Kevin Savetz

Congratulations on your new computer, the one with the blazing fast, nitrogen-cooled processor, six terabytes of RAM, and the oh-so-sexy Lucite case. Now the question is: what will you do with the old one?

Of course, you could give that old machine to your kid or shove it in the attic. And maybe we would advocate that if this were But it's not, so let's consider another option: selling your old computer in an online auction.

You might be tempted to abandon your usual auction site in favor of a computer-specific site like or There's certainly no harm in doing that, but it's not a necessity, either. eBay, Yahoo!Auctions, and the other general-interest auction sites all have copious computer categories and plenty of shoppers. And you already have a feedback rating, and know how to get around one of those sites, right?

The most important thing when it comes to selling your computer is describing it. This is one time when a quick description and a picture just won't do. Tell the buyer everything you know about the computer. Start with the basics -- processor, memory, disk space, and the like. That may be good enough for many buyers, but techies will want to know more. So include specs, specs, specs. Somewhere, there's a geek looking for used PC to run Linux, and he'll want to know dirty details like the size of the backside cache, the hard drive speed in RPM, the motherboard model, the chipset on the video card, and other gory details. If you have this information, it behooves you to share it.

If the computer will include any peripherals, software, manuals, cables, whatever, make this clear, too. If there are any problems with the machine whatsoever, 'fess up in the auction listing. It's better to be forthright than to sell your computer to my mom, who will want a refund as soon as the PC fan starts making that buzzing sound.

The biggest hassle comes after the auction: shipping. It takes patience and plenty of bubble wrap to pack a computer so that the case doesn't crack and the monitor doesn't implode during its bumpy journey. You may want to delegate the whole packing and shipping process -- take the computer to a shipping service center (like Mailboxes, Etc.) and let the professionals do it. Of course, they'll charge for the service. Make it clear in the auction listing if you intend to pass the cost of professional packing on to the buyer.

The shipping cost for a computer (plus assorted software, peripherals, and books) is invariably expensive. Weigh the lot on the bathroom scale, then use an online shipping estimator such as or to let potential bidders know what to expect.

That old machine might not be worth much anymore, but selling it should garner you enough bucks to pay the credit card bill for that expensive form-fitting magical, digital, optical mouse you just bought. Be reasonable in your expectations of what you'll get for that old PC. Although you may have paid $2000 for it three years ago, rest assured it is worth only a fraction of that amount today. Don't scare off bidders with a highly optimistic reserve price. Instead, let market forces do their thing.

If all this sounds like too much effort, haul the old beast to the Goodwill shop. Or put it in the attic.

Articles by Kevin Savetz