How To: Buying a Laptop at Online Auction

I hate buying technology, not because I don’t like cool new gadgets and useful tools for the workplace, it’s just the cost. Actually, to be truthful it’s not the cost, it’s the money I loose as soon as I walk out the door with my shiny piece of new technology. Whether it’s Harvey Norman, Dick Smith or any retail shop, the fact is as soon as you have got out the door with that new laptop it’s value has plummeted.

Not that anything you buy retail is any different, but I really had to ask myself is having the latest really necessary, is it worth the cost, do I need 8GB of ram and the latest PRO FX thingy video card just to get online, do some word processing and the like? Probably not.

With that in mind, it was several years ago now that I switched to buying used instead of new. The cost savings, for me, are huge and I get the job done. Sure, no one’s going to be impressed by my ‘cool’ new gadgets, but I don’t care!


There are a few things, that I think, have helped me to be successful in purchasing used laptops and the like at online auctions, which include, asking questions prior to bidding, knowing my limit and always buying big name brands. That last one I feel is important, with laptops I have always stuck to the one brand being Dell. IBM/Lenovo may be another good choice too, as these two brands are quite common in the corporate environment and most of their products are built fairly robust to endure that environment. Parts and accessories are also easy to get due to being so common.

Here’s a killer tip for getting amazingly cheap used IT equipment: Ebay is not the only online auction in town. While Ebay has many benefits, mainly its buyer protection programs and the ability to cry on PayPals shoulder when a purchase goes awry, but those benefits aside, it is not the cheapest place to source used laptops. Most of the larger local auctioneers now have an online presence, Grays is probably the leader, and the most well known, but due to that, it’s probably not the cheapest either. Fortunately, there are several other online auctions to scrounge from!

I have bought from Grays Online several times and have always found their site easy to use and after sales support is good too. I had to return an item once due to it not being as described and it was all without fuss. Other places I’ve purchased at successfully include Slattery Auctions (offices in VIC, NSW and QLD) and All Bids (ACT). In all cases, the items were shipped via Australia Post.

At all sites the item descriptions are brief and usually include only very general references to the serviceability of the item. For example, the description may say ‘Doesn’t Boot Up’ (aka don’t bother!), ‘Working Order’, ‘Ex-Lease: Used, Tested – Working’ and may also include general references to the physical condition such as ‘Minor Scratches’, ‘Some Wear’ etc. Most laptops won’t include any software discs but may have a Windows license sticker on them somewhere so you’ll just need to get hold of a disc that matches the operating system license whether it be XP, Vista or Windows 8.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, particularly at the smaller auction houses, if you get to speak to the right person they can be quite helpful, and the time to ask is before you buy! Most of the sales are “as is” so the onus is on you to be comfortable with what you are buying.

How much to bid

This isn’t too difficult, simply scout around online and get an average of the prices at online stores, eBay and the like. Do keep in mind that sometimes people put outrageous prices in their ‘buy it now’ option on eBay, follow the end bidding to see what the market is really prepared to pay.

Also, be sure you are not comparing grapefruit to oranges. Laptops may have the same model number but can feature different speed processors, video cards, memory and the like, which can all make substantial differences to the end value.

How to bid

Most sites feature the ability to enter a maximum bid which saves sitting around watching and bidding until the auction ends, just enter your final budget, set and forget. Some people say that this can tend to bump up the final price, let’s say if someone else has entered their maximum bid amount, then the system will simply run the bidding up until they have reached the maximum bid amounts set by buyers, all in the early stages of the auction. Some prefer to set their bid in late, so there is less time for other bidders with auto bids to go back in and up their maximums. Everyone has their own theories and what feels right for them.


Auctioneers with online auctions include the already mentioned, Grays Online, AllBids, Slattery Auctions, plus check our directory for lists of auction centers, check their websites for online auctions.

Find the local auction centre in your area: Auction Room Directory by State


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