Published: September 20, 2020
Since the graphics card is almost always going to be the most expensive part of a gaming computer, hunting for a used GPU (Graphics Processing Unit; just another word for graphics card) is a good way to save money on a PC build. But as a wise old dude in the desert once famously said,"You'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy". Doesn't take a Jedi to know that Obi Wan was of course referring to the used PC market; a hazy maze filled with overpriced products and savage sellers who'll take full advantage at the first signs of noobery ("will it run Fortnite?"), and that's not even the worst of it (shameless scalpers and straight-up scams).
See Also: How to Choose a GPU (Specs 101)
Alright, alright, I'm being hyperbolic, and there's plenty of good people out there with a conscience who won't try to rip you off or sell you a dud, and my naturally optimistic outlook would guess the majority play fair and will be upfront with whatever questions you pose to them. But the reality is you must be on your toes when buying any used stuff, and go in knowing your stuff at least a little bit - especially when it comes to used tech where there's all sorts of things that could be wrong with an item that may not immediately seem apparent (or again, that the seller might never disclose, even if you asked).
Then there's the reality that many sellers try to sell overpriced tech to those who don't understand market prices, so a little understanding of current pricing goes a long way to not get ripped off (and to be able to haggle effectively). If you're hunting a second-hand/used graphics card, especially a RTX 2000 series card like the NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti / 2080 Super, or below, here we'll go over the key things to know when buying a used GPU to be a savvier second-hand shopper, to avoid getting ripped off and lower the chances of encountering issues. I'll also cover what to know about buying used mining GPUs, and the most popular places to buy used graphics cards in North America, the UK, or Australia.
Of course the prices of current and previous generation cards will lower a bit once a new generation comes out, but the recent RTX 3000 announcement was unique in that it quite significantly shook up the used market in a way that we've never seen. If you follow tech at all, even just a tiny little bit, you would have undoubtedly heard about NVIDIA and that announcement. It's the only thing the hardware industry has covered since. When CEO Jensen surprised even the most optimistic of NVIDIA fans with the words "RTX 3070" and "faster than a 2080 Ti" (for significantly less money), the used hardware market flipped on its head - literally overnight. Listings for used RTX 2000 GPUs started flooding the market at great prices (at least relative to what they were previously; you could say RTX 2000 was overpriced in general and this is a healthy correction).
Immediately following NVIDIA's bombshell of a keynote you could even find the once-mighty, now-fallen 2080 Ti going for considerably less than just the previous day, as panicked sellers were trying to cut their losses early and get rid of their now supposedly obsolete cards before the resell value of the RTX 2000 series had a chance to tank further, which they assumed would happen once benchmarks for the new RTX 30 series came out and NVIDIA's bold performance claims were proven to be true.
I say supposedly obsolete because while the new RTX 3070, 3080 and 3090 graphics cards are objectively awesome, that doesn't mean the RTX 20XX cards are immediately dead despite what some kids will say on Reddit. They're still good cards, and the RTX 2080 Ti is still a monster; yes, the 3070 will go toe to toe with it at a far more attractive price, but if you pick up a 2080 Ti for the right price then it's still going to last you just as long as a new RTX 30XX card if you're like most people who don't care for the better real-time ray tracing performance of the new generation cards.
With a RTX 2000 card you also won't miss out on new NVIDIA features like Reflex, the new software that NVIDIA is releasing alongside the RTX 30 series which reduces input latency in competitive games - Reflex will be compatible on any NVIDIA card above the XXXX if you simply update your GPU drivers. RTX 3000 cards also have the exact same NVENC encoder as the RTX 2000 series, which likely means you'll get the same streaming performance with either generation for anyone who's into that.
Speaking of the 2080 Ti, you're also getting 3GB more VRAM than the RTX 3070; despite it being slightly slower GDDR6 memory compared to the 3070's GDDR6X memory, it's still likely going to come in handy for VRAM-hungry titles at 4K (and possibly for the most demanding VR games). So the 2080 Ti vs 3070 debate won't be a clean-sweep victory for the new kid on the block.
But if you're going to buy a 2080 Ti (or 2080 Super or 2070 Super), whatever you do don't buy it new unless you find it seriously discounted (see our price guide below). Your only real option is buying used, and as mentioned the good news is there are a ton of them on used markets around the world right now at attractive prices since the mainstream consciousness right now sees them almost equivalent to a disposable piece of junk. Obviously that's an exaggeration, but many people do think that the RTX 2000 series straight-up sucks right now. At their standard prices when buying new? Can't argue with that, but for a good used price, they're still excellent options for super gaming performance, with more power than most people really need anyway.
When RTX 3000 was first announced in early September, frantic sellers listed their used GTX 1000 and RTX 2000 cards for super cheap prices in the hopes of trying to cut their losses early, thinking that once the cards were out and proven to be the real deal, prices of their cards would drop even further. Now the RTX 3080 has been released and reviewers have proven the hype was real for the most part (with solid gains over the RTX 2080 Ti, especially at 1440p and 4K), the opposite has happened, and the used market has shifted slightly once more. This time, to the benefit of sellers - not buyers.
Thanks to the well-publicized craziness of the RTX 3080 and 3090 launches, with both selling out near instantly, that created a lot of frustrated would-be buyers, which has lead to used GPU prices increasing slightly as more people are now turning to a used RTX 2000 card due to the uncertain chances of being able to actually buy a new RTX 3000 card in the next month or two. It could be a similar situation with the RTX 3070 launch too. So for now, used GPU prices aren't as good as they were a few weeks ago prior to the RTX 3000 launch issues (read: insanely high demand and nowhere near enough stock).
That will change when RTX 3000 cards become more available (perhaps in a month or two or three, who knows), and you'll see used GPU prices lower once more, but that doesn't mean you can't find a bargain on a used GPU right now - if you understand what a fair price to pay is (we'll get to that). Buying a used graphics card is not for everyone, as there's obviously risks, but it's well worth considering if you do a little research (AKA read the rest of this guide ;P) and tread carefully. You can save quite a chunk off your new gaming PC build, since in the majority of setups the GPU is going to be the biggest expense (and usually by far). But for those who want to save as much as possible, waiting a bit longer might mean you can snag an even better deal than you could now (once RTX 3000 availability smooths out).
The main risk of buying a used graphics card is that it dies on you a few months, weeks, or even days after buying, with some of the main causes of such premature failure being:
When planning and assembling a new gaming PC, the GPU will almost always be the most expensive component of your parts list, so if you buy a dud that turns out to have issues, and you don't buy with protection (explained next) so you can get your money back - it's going to sting hard. But the potential upside of saving a lot of money on your PC build is worth it to many, and if you keep your wits about you it's not that hard to do safely. PC builders buy used GPUs all the time.
But whether it's worth the risk or not; only you can answer that question, and depends on how comfortable you are with whatever method/platform you use to buy your card. If you're buying in-person and are comfortable dealing with people, with the confidence to ask all the necessary questions and decent sense of awareness to suss out a suspicious seller who may try lying to your face - I'd say go for it.
So, what's a fair price to pay for the last-gen NVIDIA RTX 20 series? Here are my ballpark recommendations based on a lot of research, with the frame of reference being the performance of the latest RTX 3000 GPUs as they've set the bar for gaming performance (at least for now). Specifically, these used prices are calculated based on the RTX 3070 set to be roughly on par or better than a RTX 2080 Ti (feels strange writing that, but it is 2020 after all), which was of course the shock announcement from NVIDIA this month that flipped the PC market on its head overnight.
I've listed prices for the RTX 2080 Ti, 2080 Super, 2070 Super, and 2060 Super (and RX 5700/XT further below) as these are the most wanted used GPUs right now (and also some of the most recent). When buying a used GPU, nothing wrong going further back to the GTX 1000 series if the price is right, but ideally you want the generation just before the current one (RTX 2000 for NVIDIA, or RX 5000 for AMD cards) so you are still getting your hands on a modern card that is also power efficient (more modern cards are typically more efficient than older ones). Plus, more recent cards are much more likely to still be under warranty.
Nothing wrong paying a bit more than these prices if you can't be bothered waiting too long to get an amazing deal, but these are the maximum prices I'd personally pay if I were buying used cards.
AMD's most recent RX 5700 and 5700 XT cards are good overall value for money buys, so here's a general guideline on what a fair used price would be right now considering the new RTX 30 series launch and the fact that new AMD GPUs will release later this later (RDNA2, AKA Big Navi). As for the RX 570 or 580, those cards are getting quite old now and I would personally avoid buying them used, besides also being a higher chance of being a mined card (they're still fine to buy new at the right price though for budget builds).
Graphics cards that have been used in PCs that "mine" for cryptocurrency (ie Bitcoin/Ethereum) get a really bad wrap, but is the fear of buying a used mining GPU warranted? Or are used mining GPUs fine to buy and use for your gaming PC? There are differing opinions on this, with the main stances being either of the following:
So who's correct? Should you avoid buying a graphics card that was used for mining, or should you not worry about it? And can you even tell if a card has been used for mining in the first place? I'm not going to lie and say I'm an expert on this particular matter (for example I'm super late to the Bitcoin party and only just recently invested in some, completely missing the initial booms). But based on my own research into this to create this guide, if you want my opinion then there's truth to both sides - buying a used mining GPU could be bad news if a miner didn't have the optimal setup for it (or if the card is naturally quite old), but it could also be absolutely fine if the miner looked after the card well (and some do so more than many gamers do).
But it's going to be almost impossible to tell if a card's been used for mining when looking at it in-person, unless it's been obviously and completely thrashed to the point of apparent physical damage - let alone if buying online (ie Ebay). Of course, you should always ask a seller if their card has been used for mining (and get more info such as cooling, whether it was undervolted or overclocked, etc), but you can't assume everyone will be upfront about it as used markets can be ruthless remember. Then from there, make your own judgement call.
Generally speaking, if you know a card was used for mining, I would personally avoid it to stay on the safe side - even if the seller says it was looked after. The good thing is though that these days there's a lot less used mining GPUs on the market AFAIK, as compared to a couple years or so ago when a ton of people were selling them following the Bitcoin boom. For most people in the market for a used graphics card these days in late 2020 and moving into 2021, chances are you're chasing a used RTX 2000 series card to stay relatively modern, and with those you really shouldn't have much to worry about.
If you want to decrease the chances of accidentally buying a used mining GPU, from my own research these have been the more popular mining GPUs in the past few years.
Just remember basically any card could have been used for mining though. Less powerful cards than these ones listed are unlikely to have been used for mining, as miners want a certain amount of power in a card. Higher-end cards like a GTX 1080 or above, RTX 2060 or above, Vega cards, Radeon VII, or RX 5600 or above - these all could have been mined with too. So you should still ask a seller if a GPU was mined with, no matter what the model. It's just that you should be extra cautious with the models listed above (eg the RX 570 and 580 are well-known to be very popular mining cards).
Remember, if the seller does NOT mention in their ad whether their card was used or not used for mining, always ask the seller. If they say it was used for mining, consider just walking away (I would), but if you want to dig a bit further ask if it was undervolted and what the exact setup was (as in how it was cooled/ventilated and how the card was looked after). I'd also ask if the card was overclocked as well, as some miners do this too. If they say the card was mined, but they don't know about volts/cooling, I would definitely avoid.
If the card was supposedly undervolted and well looked after (and/or bought recently with a receipt), you might be okay, but again, I'd personally avoid any card you suspect was used for mining no matter the circumstance. That's just me though, as if I was buying a used GPU I'd want to be as safe as possible to all but eliminate risk.
Besides trying to avoid used mining GPUs, and especially ones that have come from questionable mining setups (ie not professionals), here's a few more things to keep in mind when hunting for used graphics cards if you don't have much experience with buying used stuff. This is mostly just common sense and my own opinions from experience, so if you have anything to add or you disagree with something, feel free to let me know in the comments at the end.
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I'm Julz, creator of BGC. In my teens I learned game programming as a hobby in my spare time, which led to a keen interest in the hardware side of things as well. I then started this site to share what I was learning about DIY at the time, and through years of trial and error and slow reiterations in the quality and depth of content, over time the site has evolved from a very rudimentary little blog with only a handful of pages into a relatively in-depth resource for PC builders and gamers that has helped many gamers and power users take the plunge to build their first PC with confidence to reap the benefits of doing so.
My fav games of all time are the immortal OOT, Perfect Dark, MGS1, MGS2, GE007, DKC2, and HL1, but since trying VR for the first time a few years ago I've been completely fascinated by it and the limitless possibilities it presents. Once you experience the greatest virtual reality experiences available today like Half Life Alyx and Saints and Sinners just to name two, if you're like me you'll feel pretty freakin' excited about the future of gaming and entertainment as a whole.
PS: After a long hiatus from hobbyist game dev, I recently made a return and am excited to say I'll soon be announcing my first official game release - an immersive story-driven VR Sci-Fi Adventure powered by Unreal Engine. When the time is right I'll be announcing the first sneak peak trailer on my Twitter if interested.