How much is my computer worth? That’s a really common question after you buy a new computer. Or when you find your old computer in the basement. Here’s how to find out what your computer is worth.
If your computer is more than a few years old, there’s a reasonable chance someone will be interested in it as a collectible. And if your computer isn’t old enough to be vintage but it’s new enough to be usable, there’s a market for usable secondhand computers too. A blog post I wrote on finding vintage computers gets steady traffic, so I know there are plenty of people looking for old computers. Here’s how to find out if they want yours.
How much is my computer worth: A general rule
Computers depreciate faster than cars, which is why I go out of my way to buy off-lease business PCs for my own use. But like cars, their value starts to creep back up once they get old enough to attract collector interest. That age generally is around 15-20 years for PCs.
The key is software. Once there are games that don’t run correctly on modern PCs and operating systems, and there are adults who are old enough to be willing to spend money to play those games again on vintage hardware, that hardware increases in value.
Your run of the mill used not-yet-vintage PC is probably worth $50-$200. Your old Pentium 4 that couldn’t run Windows 7 is nearly worthless but its value is likely to start creeping back up. Get into Pentium III range and older, and now you’re talking vintage. The older and nicer the PC is, the more it’s probably worth, especially if it has the ability to swap the video card. The bigger the name brand, the more it’s likely to be worth.
How to find out how much your computer is worth
The easiest way to find out what your computer is worth is to check Ebay. Just looking at Ebay listings isn’t a good way to find out how much your computer is worth because you don’t know how long those listings have been active. But there’s a way to get a quick estimate based on actual sales.
To get the best price, you really need to know the make and model, how much memory it has, the size of the hard drive or SSD, and the type of processor for best results. Otherwise people will assume you have the base model and pay accordingly. But first, get an estimate so you can figure out if it’s worth your time to research it further.
Search on the model. For example, I could search on HP Elitebook 8440P. Don’t pay attention to the price on the first one that comes up. It may or may not be realistic. Just click on a listing that matches yours in terms of memory, hard drive/SSD size, and processor type. Underneath the photo in the listing, there’s a link labeled Have one to sell? Sell now. Click Sell now. Don’t worry, there’s no obligation at this point. Scroll down about 2/3 of the way down to the section labeled Pricing. Ebay will give you a recommended starting bid, an estimate of what it will sell for, and the chances of it selling.
So how much is my computer worth when I punch it into Ebay? I checked. My HP 8440P, according to Ebay, should get a starting bid of $99 and ultimately sell for $142-$192 and have a high chance of selling. My old Dell Inspiron E1505 with 4 GB of RAM and a 320 GB HDD, according to Ebay, should get a starting bid of $52 and is likely to sell for $74-$111. It also has a high chance of selling.
Whether you ultimately choose to sell on Ebay or not, Ebay’s estimates give you a good idea what someone would be willing to pay for your computer.
Dealing with vintage computers
Vintage computers have become collectible, driven by nostalgic Gen Xers like me who remember using them when we were younger. But like anything, not every old computer is super rare or valuable. It’s worth more if it still works, but even if an old computer works, it may need some serious maintenance to stay in working order for long. Someone probably is interested in your old Apple, Atari, Commodore, or TI computer if you have one. Someone is absolutely interested if you have an old Kaypro or Osborne. But old computers that are worth four or five figures are the exception, not the rule. Old computers that are worth $100 are more common than old computers worth $1,000.
Accessories, peripherals, software, and paperwork have some value too. Sometimes the value isn’t high, but including it will increase the chances of it selling.
What to do if Ebay can’t give you an estimate
On vintage computers, Ebay doesn’t always have enough sales data to give you an estimate. In that case, search on the computer make and model to see what comes up. Then, instead of clicking on an individual listing, scroll down a bit and look on the left for a checkbox labeled Sold items. Click that. Then you can compare what you have to items that have actually sold and decide what to do with the item.
There are people who list Commodore 64s for $400. That doesn’t mean it’s what they’re worth. Find a listing that looks like yours, in similar condition, and actually sold to get an estimate.
Selling your computer
Of course you can sell your computer on Ebay, but here are some other ideas for where to sell your computer if you decide to sell. Selling locally via Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace will let you save on fees and the hassle of shipping. List it on the low end of the price range to increase the likelihood it will sell. If you can, set the computer up so you can include a photograph of it in operation.
A hobbyist will buy a broken computer, but just like anything, he or she will pay more if you can demonstrate the computer actually works. I saw someone try to sell a Tandy 1000 for $400 on Facebook Marketplace, not knowing if it works. It’s not worth that if it doesn’t work, because a hobbyist may have to put $100 worth of parts into it to get it working. I expect it would have sold quickly for half that though.