I bought my old 2009-model white MacBook new in 2010. It immediately became the most expensive thing in my inventory. It makes sense to spend a bit extra on something that will last you years, right? Although, that means that when it’s time to upgrade, the thought can be quite intimidating.
After five years, my laptop is slowing down. I admit, I never took the best care of it. I haven’t upgraded it or replaced any parts. I checked the battery health last week and it’s been through 1500 cycles (Apple suggests that the max for a healthy battery is 1000 for the model). I’d been wanting to get a new computer for a while, something less bulky but modern.
Choosing a new travel laptop: why I decided to go second-hand
I knew I wanted a MacBook Air from the beginning. I wasn’t fussy about the size (11″ or 13″), but I was scared off by the price. Here were my considerations in making the final choice:
- I wanted something light. My old MacBook weighs in at… heavy. I’d already travelled with it a lot and knew the irritation this caused.
- I wanted a Mac. I had used the Mac OS for years and was just used to it. Not to mention the Mac apps I’d bought over the years that would be useless to me on another system. I did briefly consider a Hackintosh (MacOS installed on another laptop).
- I wanted something I would be happy with for years. If I’m spending this amount of money, I need to know I’ll be happy with it for a long time. It’s no use going for something cheap now that I’ll want to replace in another year or two.
- I wanted a modern system. I wanted a model from the last year, with good specs. I would be using it for video editing, writing, and photo editing, so I just wanted something that would keep up over time.
Considering these points, I was stuck. I didn’t want to spend $1000 CAD, but I knew I wouldn’t be happy with settling for something I didn’t really want. So, I started looking into second-hand systems for sale in the area.
How to buy a second-hand laptop
Look for something relatively new, with the receipt
I only looked on Kijiji for MacBook Air models from 2014. Make sure that the person selling is the original owner or purchaser–you don’t want to buy anything second-second-hand.
Ask why they are selling, and get the serial number
No one is really going to say if they had problems with the product, but you can ask them via email and then in person just to get a sense of if you trust them and if the story changes. Check the serial number beforehand. You can verify when the system was purchased, when the warranty is up (with Apple you can at least), and do a quick check on if it’s been reported as stolen.
Meet somewhere public, with an outlet nearby and Wifi available
You need to check the charger and successfully connect to a Wifi network. Meeting in a public space is just good practice when meeting a stranger.
Look over the physical system
Make sure there aren’t any dents or scratches. Open a blank text doc and make sure all of the keys work. Assess the screen for dead pixels.
Ask the previous owner if they’ve had any problems with it
They will almost 100 per cent say no. But this is a good test, since if anything does show up, you know they were lying. And that’s kind of shady.
Bring a USB and run some tests
Restart the computer, run diagnostics (hold D while powering up the MacBook), go to About this Mac and recheck that the serial number matches, check the battery health, test the USB ports. You might want to bring a couple of programs on the USB to check the state of the hard drive, etc.
Go with your gut
If it doesn’t feel right, or if you don’t trust the person, just walk away. You’re not losing anything by saying no. If you’re going to spend your money, you should feel comfortable with the purchase. No one can make you feel bad about that. You can always compromise by considering something refurbished.
What did I buy?
Meet my 2014 MacBook Air 13″. It cost me $750 CAD (which is around $300 cheaper than new, and $150 cheaper than refurbished from Apple). So far, all has been good and I feel good about the purchase. I still have my old MacBook, and I might upgrade some parts in the future so it’s more usable, but from now on I’ll be travelling happily with my much-lighter MacBook Air.
What is your experience with buying electronics second-hand? What’s your travel laptop of choice?