If you know me, then you definitely know that I’m the queen of “frugal finds” and bargain hunting. So a few months ago when I decided to replace my Windows laptop with a MacBook Air, my first instinct was to try and find the best possible deal. I initially contemplated buying a brand new laptop, but eventually decided against that since this wasn’t actually a planned purchase and I couldn’t justify spending over US$1,000 / JM$130,000 on what was a last minute decision, though I had spent weeks thinking it over.

 
So, how was I going to get the MacBook that I wanted at a price that a fabulously frugal woman like myself would be happy about?

I turned to my trusted Google search bar and after some extensive Googling, I was able to weigh the pros and cons of buying a pre-owned Mac. Among the pros were the price difference, of course, and being at relatively little risk of outright computer failure due to the sturdiness of Macs (*has traumatic flashback to blue Windows screen* 😩). The cons included not knowing what the previous owner(s) had done with the computer and not having a manufacturer’s warranty on my purchase. Still, I was steadfast in my decision to buy pre-owned.

 
What to look for:

Among the things I paid attention to in my research were the battery cycle count (more on this later) and the useful lifespan of a MacBook Air (7-8 years). This meant that if I bought a 5 year old model MacBook, then I could expect to receive 2-3 years of useful life from it. In my opinion, this was actually pretty decent. I then made a list of the specs that I needed in my “new” laptop (13″ MacBook Air with at least 128gb storage and 4gb memory) and the price I was willing to pay to get the aforementioned 2-3 years useful life from it (US$350-$380).

 

Finally, I turned to the pre-owned marketplace capital of the internet – eBay! But not juuust regular ol’ eBay… eBay Auction! And after a few days of bidding unsuccessfully, I finally secured my 2014 13″ MacBook Air with 128gb storage and 4gb memory for only $287! Receipts below.

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And now, I’m going to give you ALLL the deets on how I did! *cracks knuckles*

 

Actually… Hold on for a sec. I have two disclaimers first:

  1. I am simply sharing how and why I decided to buy a pre-owned computer. Please note that buying a brand new laptop is also a smart decision as it eliminates a lot of the potential issues that may come pre-owned devices (not knowing the history of your device, for example). However, I just didn’t care to empty my checking account on something that was only a want.

  2. I am aware that the price I was willing to pay for a pre-owned Mac (US$380) could have purchased a brand new Windows laptop. However, I much prefer Mac’s operating system and was ready to finalize my transition to Apple.

With that out of the way, let’s get into why you clicked this post in the first place. if you too are interested in purchasing your own pre-owned MacBook for the low, here’s a step by step guide on how to do it:

1. Pre-Purchase Preparation
  • Identify the MacBook model (Air/Pro), size (11″ / 13″) and storage that you want. I specifically wanted a 13″ MacBook Air with at least 128gb storage and 4gb memory.
 
  • Determine the oldest year device you want. Mac devices are like buying cars – you ideally don’t want to purchase anything older than 5 years. I bought a 2014 MacBook in 2018. In 2019, you may choose a 2014 or 2015 device as the oldest model you’re willing to buy.
 
  • Decide on your maximum spend. I was willing to spend up to US$350 for a 2014 MacBook Air and US$380 for a 2015 model. Your max spend can be more or less depending on the specs and newness that you want.

2. Exploring Your Options
  • Now that you’ve determined what you want, do a eBay search with the info above. For example: 13″ MacBook Air 2015.
 
  • Narrow down the search results by selecting the “auction” tab and narrowing those results down even further by selecting your preferred memory, hard drive capacity and screen size in the left tab.
 
  • Skip over everything that’s above your pre-determined price range! I’m serious. Don’t waste any time on something you can’t/won’t end up choosing.
 
  • For the ones that are within the range of what you choose to spend, look at how much time is remaining in the auction. The sooner it closes, the better it will be for you. If an auction is a few days away from closing, it will likely be out of your determined price range by the time it closes. This is due to other bidders forcing the price up in a bidding war as they attempt to outbid each other.

3. Narrowing Your Focus
  • When you find a device that you would like to bid on, look at the seller to ensure that they are reputable (no less than 3 stars) and accepts returns. Do not purchase unless the seller offers 14-30 days returns. Just because you can no longer get a manufacturer’s warranty doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get some warranty nonetheless.
 
  • Now that you’ve found a reputable seller who offers returns, look at the photos of the machine. You ideally want to see photos of the laptop from ALL angles (4 corners + top lid and bottom + keyboard w/ backlight + screen powered on). And you definitely want to avoid corners dents (indicates a hard/substantial drop), dead pixels (blank/black spots on screen when powered on), missing keyboard keys and ANY kind of liquid damage.
 
  • Okay, so the device looks fine physically. What’s next? The battery cycle count I mentioned earlier! This is simply how many times the MacBook battery has been charged. MacBook batteries can last up to 1,000 charges before affecting the machine’s performance, so you ideally want a cycle count well below that. Mine was 300 when I purchased it. I was willing to buy a machine with up to a 500 cycle count. If the cycle count isn’t shown in any of the photos, ask the vendor. Also, be mindful that if the count is high, it simply means that you’ll have to change the battery soon. Personally, I didn’t want all of that to deal with so a low cycle count was my ideal.
 
  • Read the listing’s description to find out if any accessories are included (original charger, especially) and what the device’s serial number is. Cross check the serial number at imei.info/apple-sn-check/ to ensure that the specs listed by the vendor match up to specs listed by the manufacturer (Apple). If the serial number isn’t shown, ask the vendor to provide you with it.
 
  • Providing that it meets all those requirements (most do), add the device to your watch list. Then look for a few more and add those to your watch list as well. Auctions are competitive so you’re going to need a few options.
 

4. Bidding to Win
  • Once you have watch-listed an auction item, eBay will send you a notification within 15 minutes of the auction closing. Get ready to start bidding! This is an extreme sport so use multiple devices if you have to. 😂

Here’s the trick, though: Try to avoid putting in a bid until the final 30 seconds before the auction closes. This is important because if you’re continuously placing bids, you will help to push up the price of the machine in a bidding war. The goal is to buy the best possible machine at the lowest price.

When an auction is about to close, bidders will start to put in very high bids at the last minute to try and win the auction. Within the final 30 seconds, you will know for sure if you still have a chance based on your max spend or if you should just move on. Also, waiting until the final 30 seconds gives you enough to time to increase your bid if you get out-bid.

When I just started bidding, I would wait until 5 seconds of the auction closing to out-bid the highest offer. However, I eventually learned that other people were also doing the same so I would always lose.

Waiting until the 30 second mark allowed me to outbid the highest offer, get a response, and then out-bid that next offer within the final second, which prevented them from putting in another bid before the auction closed. I spent a week bidding (and losing out) on several MacBooks before I figured out the system and finally won.

  • Upon winning your auction, submit payment within 2 days and wait for delivery.

5. After delivery

Yaayyy! You now have your very own MacBook and you didn’t have to break the bank to get it. 🙌🏾

  • When you receive your device, power it on and match the serial number to what was posted on the listing.
 
  • Upgrade to the latest MacOS and give your laptop a full charge. Ensure that you also check all the keys to make sure they work, as well as the keyboard backlight, the USB drives and all other ports.
 
  • Finally, get yourself a nice $10 case from Amazon or eBay to cover any scuffs or scratches on the machine and enjoy your ‘new’ MacBook! 😊

I hope you found this helpful! But here’s the best part: This step by step guide doesn’t just work for MacBooks/laptops. You can use this same process to get almost any high end item for the low via eBay auction. Best of luck!

Until next time,

– Kenishia

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