In these challenging economic times, we still want the best tech, but we also need to save money. Buying pre-owned gear is always an option, but to many folks including me, spending on used items feels equal parts risky and “icky.” After all, who wants to spend money on tech that is outdated, has been pawed by strangers and could have a shorter lifespan than a product you buy brand new?
However, I recently pulled the trigger on a preowned monitor and found that buying a used display not only saved me money, but allowed me to get a better quality product than I might otherwise afford, without worrying about it wearing out after a few months or years. While buying pre-owned isn’t right for every situation, it can be a great way to get your hands on a high-end display at a lower-end price.
Why Buy a Used Monitor?
Monitors can last for decades and a screen from five or even ten years ago can still connect to a brand new PC and show the latest programs well. Displays still use the same connections – primarily DisplayPort, HDMI or Thunderbolt – that they did half a decade ago, and even older screens with VGA or DVI ports can connect to a brand new video card with a cheap adapter.
What’s changed most in the monitor market in recent years is the popularity, ubiquity and affordability of variable refresh rate gaming monitors that operate at 120 Hz or faster. While the first 144 Hz monitor came out all the way back in 2012, have become a lot cheaper and faster in the past four or five years, with 165 Hz screens often available for less than $200 brand new. On the high end, 360 Hz are quite affordable and 500 Hz models have just started rolling out.
But in the world of non-gaming monitors, change has been much slower and more gradual. Larger screens have become more affordable with 27 to 32-inch panels now mainstream. Monitors with 4K resolution keep getting cheaper. However, none of these technologies is very new – the first 4K monitor came out in 2013 and it was 31 inches. A monitor that came out two, three, four or even five years ago could have the same specs you want from one today, but be cheaper because it’s pre-owned.
Most modern (even old) monitors use LED or LCD backlights that are rated for between 50,000 and 100,000 hours (opens in new tab). If the monitor was used for 8 hours a day, it would last for between 17 and 34 years. So, if you buy a three to five year old used monitor, it could still be in good condition 10 years later. I have two Dell monitors that I’ve been using daily for 10 years and they work just as well as the day I bought them.
My Used Monitor Story
This holiday season, I resolved to upgrade two of the monitors in my four monitor array. Yes, I have four monitors attached to my desktop PC, but up until recently, only two of them were 4K displays while the other two were 24-inch, 1080p Dell screens I bought all the way back in 2012. So I decided that, during the holiday shopping season, I’d treat myself to two more 27-inch, 4K screens, preferably with wide color gamuts.
My two existing 4K monitors, a Lenovo L28u-30 and Lenovo ThinkVision S28-u10, both have sharp images but colors don’t “pop” as much as I’d like them to. So my goal was to find two more 27 or 28-inch 4K monitors with plenty of color gamut coverage. I’m not much of a PC gamer so I don’t care about variable refresh rate; I just want great colors, sharp text and plenty of screen real estate.
I looked around the market and, while you can find a 4K non-gaming monitor for less than $300, if you want lots of color, you usually have to spend close to or more than $500. So I was looking for a monitor that supports at least 100 percent of the sRGB gamut and preferably 97 percent or more of the DCI-P3 gamut or Adobe RGB gamut. Dell’s Ultrasharp U2723QE goes for more than $600 and covers 100 percent of the sRGB and 98 percent of DCI-P3. Lenovo’s P27u-20, which appeals to me because it matches the aesthetics of my other Lenovo monitors, promises 99.1 percent of DCI-P3 and 99.5 percent of Adobe RGB, but it costs $550.
However, after looking around online, I found that the Lenovo P27u-10, the immediate predecessor of the P27u-20, was available for just $200 on eBay from Northbay Networks (opens in new tab), a company that buys used systems from companies in the San Francisco area and has a good reputation online. The P27u-10, which first launched in 2018 for more than $500, also covers 99.5 percent of the Adobe RGB gamut and a full 97.9% of DCI-P3.
With some trepidation, I pulled the trigger and ordered the P27u-10 for $200, figuring that if it came in bad shape I could get my money back, according to eBay’s policies. But it arrived in great shape and I love it. The color on the P27u-10 is the best I’ve ever had on one of my monitors with deep, rich greens and reds that make even the default Windows 10 wallpaper look great. The text is sharper than on my other 4K monitors and the panel was in perfect condition, without a scratch or a dead pixel in sight.
I liked the P27u-10 so much that I just ordered another pre-owned one from a different eBay seller who auctioned it for $159. Even if I was willing to pay hundreds of dollars more to get a P27u-10 in brand new condition, I couldn’t because it hasn’t been made in a couple of years.
What Kinds of Monitors Should You Buy Used?
You’ll save the most money by purchasing a slightly-older, high-end monitor. Professional monitors, those with wide color gamuts and high resolutions, tend to offer the biggest savings as many times they are pulled from businesses who sell them to refurbishers or recycling companies. There’s also even less innovation and change from one generation to the next in the professional space than in gaming.
For example, LG’s 5K, 27-inch monitor, the 27MD5KL, first shipped in 2019 and is still made today and sells new for around $1,199 (opens in new tab). However, if you look carefully, you can find a pre-owned unit selling for as little as $850 on eBay (opens in new tab) (in good condition) or $950 on Amazon (opens in new tab).
In the gaming world, you’ll also save the most on a monitor which is or was at one-time high-end. For example, when we reviewed the Asus ROG Swift PG32UQ, a 4K, 155 Hz display that supports HDR 600 and reproduces 115 percent of the sRGB gamut, a new unit cost $1,000. Now, the model is no longer for sale as new, but you can find a pre-owned one in good condition for less than $700 on eBay (opens in new tab).
To be fair, the price delta between used and brand new units is so small in some segments that it doesn’t pay to consider a pre-owned monitor. For example, the Dell S3222DGM, a 32-inch, 2K display that tops our list of the best gaming monitors, sells for $299 as new but has been as cheap as $249 on sale. The cheapest I could find a used or open-box model for was $225, but that was with a $40 shipping cost. The prior-gen model, which is the S3220DGF, was no cheaper than $300 used, which is no discount at all.
If you’re looking for new displays that are on sale, check out our list of the best monitor deals. We also have indixes of the latest Dell coupon codes, Lenovo coupon codes, Newegg promo codes if you’re shopping for a screen at one of those stores.
Tips for Buying a Used Monitor
If you’re considering buying a used monitor, consider the following:
- Check the seller: Whether you’re buying on eBay or from a third-party on Amazon, do your homework and read comments about the seller.
- Check the return policy: Used items sold through Amazon and eBay usually have a favorable return policy, particularly if you can show that the monitor was in worse condition than described. Make sure there’s a strong return policy.
- Read about the condition: Pay close attention to the description of the condition and whether it talks about any issues such as dead pixels or scratches in the screen or damage to the bezel. Whether the monitor is listed as pre-owned, open box, used or refurbished, it’s the description that counts. I wouldn’t worry, however, about scuffs or scratches on the back.
- Watch the shipping costs: When buying a used monitor, make sure you include the shipping costs in your calculations. Some units will have a very attractive selling price, but then add another $80 to $100 in shipping costs while other listings will have a higher price and include free shipping.
- Save $100+: Don’t bother with a pre-owned monitor unless you’re saving at least $100 over the cost of a similar (or the same) model that’s brand new.
- Test right away: When you receive your monitor, take it out of the box as soon as possible, hook it up and use it (or let it stay on) for several hours to make sure it works as it’s supposed to. If you don’t detect any problems after a few days, it will probably last you for years.
- Don’t put too much stock in warranties: While it’s nice to get a one or two year warranty on your used monitor, a benefit which a few sellers offer, you have no idea how good the warranty service will be. However, most monitors will either work well out of the box and last longer than any warranty period or you’ll detect a problem right away and be in position to demand your money back.
Where to Buy a Used Monitor
If you’re looking for a used monitor, there are several places to shop:
- eBay (opens in new tab): This is an obvious destination, but one that has a ton of sellers, some of whom are more reputable than others. If you select “Certified Refurbished” from the “condition” menu, you will see products that are part of eBay’s Certified Refurbished program and come with a two year warranty standard.
- Green Citizen (opens in new tab): This seller specializes in selling monitors and laptops that have been sold by businesses that no longer need them.
- CNE Direct (opens in new tab): Another business recycler on eBay.
- Amazon Warehouse (opens in new tab): Refurbished and open-box monitors sold by Amazon. Amazon grades the condition of each and offers a full return policy.
- Dell Outlet Monitors (opens in new tab): Refurbished monitors sold directly from Dell. Unfortunately, the prices of these aren’t always much cheaper than the new models.
- Back Market (opens in new tab): Specializes in refurbished products.
- PC Liquidations: Huge selection of refurbished monitors.
MORE: Best Gaming Monitors
MORE: How We Test PC Monitors