Should you buy a used video card?

Should you buy a used video card?

Should you buy a used video card? On alternate periods cryptocurrencies seem to acquire great value and the best graphics cards are bought in bulk by miners. Combined with the pandemic that has already caused GPU shortages in 2020, the past nine months have been a terrible time for PC gamers looking to upgrade their most critical component. If you need a new graphics card, turning to the second-hand market might seem like a good idea, but even that has some problems right now.

The GPU shortage is so severe that two or more cards three generations ago they continue to be sold on eBay at drastically inflated prices. Let's just take a quick example. The GeForce GTX 1060 6GB launched in July 2016, a full five years ago! The initial launch price for the Founders Edition was $ 299, with third-party models starting at $ 249. In late 2019, it was easy to find a used 6GB GTX 1060 on eBay for around $ 150-175. Currently, their average price on eBay has been $ 314 for the past two weeks, all to get you an old card that may not even work properly!

Here are the things you should know when considering buying one. used graphics card.

Price and performance: looking for a bargain

There is a way to determine which GPU you should buy and it starts with knowing your budget and a realistic expectation of the achievable performances. Of course, you won't find a card that works like a $ 700 GPU for $ 350 right now, but in some cases you might spot a $ 400 card that works like a $ 500. At least, that's the hope.

Over the next few months we will probably start to see more used GPUs on eBay following the closure of several Chinese mining farms. Generally, you should avoid buying a used card so you don't inherit someone else's problems just to save some money. Except when it comes to a decidedly substantial savings. The GeForce RTX 3060 is a very interesting latest generation GPU, with performance not too far from the GTX 1080 Ti: it is only 5% slower, it also supports Ray Tracing and DLSS. Taking a look on eBay we find it at $ 742 on average, 2.25 times more than the official recommended price. Also, the GTX 1080 (slower than the 3060) costs around $ 442 and the GTX 1080 Ti around $ 625.

If you can get similar performance while saving $ 125-300 just by buying a used product, it might really be worth it. worth it. If you don't want to miss out on Ray Tracing and DLSS support, the RTX 2070 (not Super) works almost like a 12GB RTX 3060, so you might want to consider acquiring it. However, it costs around $ 755 right now, and an older card with less memory for more money doesn't seem like a good choice.

In other words, you need to determine whether a used card is a bargain or not. . And a "bargain" doesn't necessarily mean it's for sale at an extremely low price. For the moment, the recommended prices are a bit useless: it is worth remembering them, but most of the products are sold at a much higher price. Perhaps this will change in the next few months, but a good deal today would be a latest generation card costing about 25% more than its recommended price, or a previous generation card at about recommended price.

There's good news as eBay's prices for the latest generation GPUs (NVIDIA Ampere and AMD RDNA2) have dropped around 15% in the past month. We expect older generation cards to drop in price even more rapidly as they will be less desirable. The RTX 3060, for example, is just a bit slower than a GTX 1080 Ti and consumes 30% less power. Based on these parameters, a used GTX 1080 Ti would only make sense if the price were lower than the cost of an RTX 3060, particularly if it is possible to get the new one.

Get ready to face the worse

There is no way to tell what previous owners may have done with a graphics card when shopping online, so our advice is to prepare for the worst. Do not trust the information provided by the seller. Any ad that says it was “never used for mining” is probably just preventing you from thinking that. Some sellers will actually tell you that a card was used for mining, but even in this case we would assume the use of rather high overclocks, with cards potentially pushed beyond the safety limits. We would also be wary of articles "as new", "only open" or even "still sealed", as all may not correspond to reality.

Murphy's law plays a fundamental role here. If something could be done with a GPU, it probably was. But that doesn't mean a card can't be recovered. Thermal pads and thermal paste can deteriorate over time, and dust can accumulate in the fan blades and heat sink fins. A little bit of maintenance and cleaning is all it takes to get the card back ecstatically as good as new.

There is one exception to this, however: if you can meet in person for a purchase, you can already think about how it was use the card just by giving it a quick look. Check for dust and if the screws holding the card together have been removed. If someone has a card in their hand and it looks clean, especially in the nooks and crannies, there's a good chance it hasn't been used at full capacity for a couple of years.

The age of the Graphics Card Matters

Like any product, age can make a big difference. These are not antiques, but more like buying a used car. If something is only a year old, even if it has been driven thoroughly, it should still have a warranty and are less likely to have serious problems, whereas a car that is ten years old with over 190,000 kilometers could be a source of trouble.

If you find a reasonable deal on an RTX 3060, at worst it has been used 24/7 for mining since the end of February 2021. Despite mining 24/7 certainly caused more wear and tear than playing video games for four or five hours a day, however we would expect a card less than a year old to still perform flawlessly. A GTX 1080 Ti, on the other hand, could have been used on alternate periods for mining for the past four years.

In short, buying a used state-of-the-art GPU tends to be safer than buying a previous high-end GPU from several years ago. You may be lucky with a perfect GTX 1080 Ti, or you may find yourself with a 1080 Ti now at the end of its life cycle, with VRM or other components that have already begun to deteriorate.

Also, if you are taking in considering even slightly less mainstream products, keep in mind that AMD has now officially retired all R9 300 series GPUs and earlier, along with the R9 Fury / Nano cards. Only the RX series cards still have active driver support. NVIDIA has also withdrawn driver support for GTX 500 series and earlier GPUs and announced that it will phase out Kepler support (GTX 600 series and 700 GPUs) later this year. It probably won't matter much, at least in the short term. But Windows 11 and future games may not run on older cards. If you want to play all the latest titles, we recommend at least an AMD RX 400 series or an NVIDIA GTX 900 series.

Pay close attention to the return clauses

In general, if you buy something on eBay, even if the seller says "no returns are accepted", you can still ask for a refund if the product doesn't work. But it's best to deal with someone who has a normal 30-day return policy.

In relation to this, you'd better buy something within your country of residence. While returning a defective product to China may be possible, it takes much longer and shipping will likely cost more. Also, it may take a week or more for the product to arrive at your home, which is no fun if you just want a working graphics card.

You should also look at the vendor's feedback. Do not buy anything from a newly registered user, especially if the deal seems too good to be true: it probably is! Someone with hundreds or thousands of past transactions won't want to damage their reputation. Many video card companies also have eBay stores, which should be safer than other options (assuming they have stock in stock).


If you are buying a used graphics card , especially one that's over a couple of years old, things could be very different. You'll have to pay attention to features: for example, Ray Tracing is only supported on NVIDIA's RTX series or AMD's RX 6000 series, while DLSS requires an NVIDIA RTX card. Also check the power consumption of the GPU and make sure your PSU can deliver enough power for whatever card you are considering.

Outside of these aspects, there are no major problems with buying an AMD card or NVIDIA. Again, use desired performance and price as the main factors. If you find a card that offers the performance you want at an acceptable price, the brand is usually not a critical factor.

Also pay attention to VRAM, which has become a more important factor with the latest games. GPUs with four GB or less of VRAM can limit selectable settings and even have a hard time running some recent titles with minimum quality presets. AMD tends to offer more VRAM for a similar price than NVIDIA. Basically, if you want to play the latest games, 6GB should be the absolute minimum.

Stress testing and benchmarking

If you find a used card that meets all your criteria and decide to buy it, c is still one last step once it arrives at your home: try it! Our reviews and benchmarks can give you an idea of ​​what to expect in terms of performance, assuming you have an equally fast CPU and system, but stability is just as important as speed for the components used.

Vi we recommend running some demanding benchmarks once you have the card to verify that it is working properly. 3DMark might be enough, but it's very useful if you have a paid version where you can set it up to repeat a test sequence 50 times. FurMark is a good torture test, but any challenging 3D game can be enough. We recommend that you have other utilities running to check GPU temperatures, fan speed, and power consumption. For more information on how we test video cards, we recommend that you read our dedicated article.

The point is that you will want to make the GPU perform heavy tasks to make sure it works properly. If not, the sooner you can ask for a refund and return the product, the better. You should also check the clock and memory speeds. If you only see 1,500MHz while playing on an RTX 2070 or your memory is running slower than it should or something is wrong.

If you run HWInfo64, MSI Afterburner or some other utility and record the results, look for a drop in frequencies accompanied by a rapid rise in temperatures. It's not uncommon to see 70-80 ° C on many GPUs, but anything above 80 ° C tends to be troubling. This varies by GPU (for example AMD's RX Vega cards tended to consume more power than competing GPUs), so do some research as well, but it is better to be able to keep temperatures in the 70 "C range.

Final thoughts on buying a used graphics card

If reading this article you are worried that you will spend a lot of money on a used graphics card only to end up with a non-working product, we have reached the our purpose. Given what we have seen in the world of cryptomining in recent years, we would be reluctant to buy a used card as well. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and if your primary GPU has just failed or you are entering the world of PC gaming for the first time, you may need to consider a used GPU.

Dealing with a local vendor ( for example via Facebook Marketplace or similar) may offer you more peace of mind in some cases, but once paid in cash it becomes much more difficult to get a refund. EBay and auction sites aren't necessarily great either, but eBay tends to side with buyers far more often than sellers. Buy from a well-known eBay seller with lots of feedback and years in business and you will probably be on the safe side.

Given the choice between buying a new graphics card and saving some money by using a previous generation product that could work a little worse, we normally advise PC gamers to save and spend a little more. But in a world where it's still virtually impossible to buy a new GPU without paying exorbitant prices, looking at the second-hand market may be your only option for a while.

Let's hope the GPU shortage ends. sooner or later and that we can put everything behind us once again, but, unfortunately, it will still take several months for this to happen.

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