How to Determine the Value of a Laptop

By Brian Jung

A young man typing on a laptop computer on his sofa
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Whether you are buying or selling, getting the price right on a used laptop is important if you want to keep your wallet full. New and better products are released to the computer market so regularly that computers devalue quickly, and it's difficult to know whether an old machine is ready for the scrap heap, the donation pile, or will live up to an enticing description on Craigslist.

Dwindling Value Curve

According to computer parts liquidator Andover, you can very roughly estimate a computer's value with the following calculation: "If you paid $1000 for a computer today, next year it will be worth $300 and the year after that $100. Three years from the date of purchase, it is worth about $30." This is just a starting point, however. Other factors come into play.

Benchmarking Your Machine

Just like new laptops, higher performing used laptops will demand higher prices. Determining the performance of your laptop starts with the central processing unit, or CPU. Processors have both a speed associated with them, measured in Gigahertz (GHz) and the number of cores which can run simultaneous processes. Faster processors with more cores are more valuable than slower processors with only a single core. Other elements that effect performance are the amount RAM and the quality of the video card.

The More Juice the Better

Older laptops tend to have older batteries which discharge quickly and don't give you much time for unplugged computing. Batteries are expensive to replace, so a laptop with a weak battery is worth a bit less than one with a strong or new battery.

The Lighter the Better

With a few exceptions, such as lower-performing netbooks, smaller and lighter laptops are worth more than larger, heavier ones. Lighter laptops often employ expensive materials, such as titanium or magnesium, they have more advanced, lighter batteries and they might use cooler-running processors. An exception at the large end of the spectrum would be a gaming laptop which has a large screen and high-performing hardware that may demand a higher price.

That Lived-in Look

Laptops often get banged around. Even a few scratches will affect the value of a laptop, but more significant damage, such as a cracked screen or a wonky charging port will bite even deeper into the value.

This Thing Does Everything

Sometimes it's not the laptop itself, but the software that's installed on it that gives it value. Full sets of Microsoft Office Suite or a licensed copy of an expensive program, like Adobe Photoshop, can add value to a machine, especially if it comes with the original install discs.

Help From the Internet

Websites like Gadget Value, Worth Monkey or Used Price (links in Resources) allow users to look up their products to determine the fair market value for them. These, of course, give only a ballpark figure. Modifications to the product, product condition and geographical location will all have an effect. You can also check listed prices on Craigslist or look at selling prices on eBay for similar products to get a sense of the market value of your product.