Two years ago I needed a way to refresh more PC's and Laptops at my company without spending more. New Dell laptops were great but expensive and over the years we had accumulated many Latitude C series parts. The C series ran from the CPX C600 C610 C400 and C640 models before their new D line of Latitude laptops were released. The docks, drives and many other parts are usable in any of these models so we decided to take advantage of this and purchase used Dell laptops. eBay was where we sourced these. Over the years I've learned some valuable things about buying these expensive items. Here are some tips and some recommendations of sellers I've found to be very reliable.
Know what you are buying.
Don't just go by the model and specs of the machine. I'm seeing two types of units out there. Those that are complete PC's sold as used units. Also refurbished units that have no serial number on the bottom or in the bios. These units can be had at very good prices and so far I've found them all to be in great condition. The problem is that without the serial you can't even get tech support from Dell and obviously there isn't a warranty. If you don't mind this from the right seller these are great. For my use at my company it just isn't worth the appearance of a model with no serial number. I'm passing on these for now.
Always pay using Pay Pal or some other service that lets you use a credit card.
Even when you use a credit card on Paypal your covered by the dispute and charge back protection provided by your credit card company. I've had two instances where the seller did not ship my laptop and I had to dispute the charge with my credit card company. In both cases I received a credit back from my company and had no trouble from Paypal. Before disputing open a formal case with Paypal as they require that before you do a charge back. I'm not sure what the consequences would be but better to appear as if you are trying to use their system.
Buying regularly? Try to form a relationship with a couple reputable sellers.
After doing business with a handful of sellers I trust I now completely bypass eBay. The sellers love the money they save on fees and I can often have them hunt down mint condition Latitude laptops. Some will even customize the laptop to your specs.
Check the sellers feedback.
Look to see that the seller regularly sells Dell equipment. This tells you two things. One that they are a reputable seller and have a history of people who bought the exact same item and were happy. The other thing is that if you see positive feedback regarding non-similar equipment you can assume that they will have no spare parts or service ability. If you see many sales of similar Dell equipment you can be sure that if you have a problem and notify them right away they will probably be able to fix your laptop.
Ask about warranty or warranty transfer assistance.
If you are lucky the unit you purchase will come with some warranty left from Dell. However Dell will not transfer the warranty into your name unless you have the original owners name and address. If you can find a seller willing to provide this you just struck gold! Note, this is not common at all. You can still get Dell to service an in warranty unit but they won't transfer the ownership to your name.
Buying Servers? Look for Dell refurbished units with a warranty.
I don't know how it works but there are many resellers of Dell Servers that are new or refurbished from Dell. These come with the Dell warranty and are transferable. When the server arrives its in the original Dell box still sealed up. The price can't be beat and I've never had a problem. My suspicion is that for those with the right connections, Dell will sell you volumes of over production and refurbished units far below pricing you'd see in their Dell Outlet site. http://www.scsistuff.com is a great vendor for this type of buy.
John Gall is a full time IT Manager and self employed IT Consultant in Minnesota. He runs several hobby web sites related to technology and travel from http://www.gallconsulting.com