Whether you're hoping to start a used computer sales business or just need to equip a large number of people with a computer fast, buying computers in bulk can be a challenging project. There are many more pitfalls to buying large quantities of used computers than first meets the eye. Conducting careful research and knowing what you are really buying is critical to avoid being stung by details that were overlooked.
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Locate prospective merchandise. The best deals in the business can be found at professional surplus computer liquidator sites on line. Some websites offer straight wholesale deals, but most function as auctions. The General Services Administration (GSA) operates a very good surplus auction website, as does Liquidators.com. Surplus bulk equipment can also be found on eBay.
Research the condition of the equipment in detail. Are the computers "off lease," meaning they have been purchased from businesses after equipment upgrades? Off lease business computers are often in very good condition cosmetically but usually lack hard drives. Off-lease machines often have a good Windows Certificates of Authenticity (COA) that will reduce the final cost of refurbishing the computer for resale or use. Are the computers defined as "used-surplus?" "Used" computers are often in poor condition cosmetically, will usually lack hard drives, and may even lack a Windows COA sticker. Refurbishing "used" computers can be costly, as much as £130 per machine. Keep in mind that with that kind of investment, the computers you have refurbished may be difficult to resell for profit.
Know the sales conditions and hidden costs before bidding or buying. Some large-lot liquidators and auctions require bidders to place funds in escrow against the right to bid on the merchandise. Some liquidators charge a fee as a "buyer's premium" when you win one of their auctions. If you win an auction conducted by the GSA, they will require you to pick up your merchandise in person, and by a specific date, at one of hundreds of GSA depots around the country. If you're buying GSA auction computers located in Virginia, and you live in California, add the cost of travel to your overhead. Many non-government liquidators will arrange shipping of very large lots for you, but the cost of this service can be high, especially if you are purchasing heavy desktop computers and old "boat anchor" monitors. Get answers to all your questions before bidding.
Plan to do refurbishments and repairs yourself. Most bulk lot computers will need some degree of servicing. Laptops may require the replacement of the battery and an AC adaptor to make them serviceable and potentially marketable. If you lack testing and troubleshooting skills, you may need to partner with an experienced computer technician.
Tips and warnings
- Before you go after large bulk lot auctions containing more than a dozen computers, purchase smaller lots of less than six computers so you can learn the trade gradually.
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