Monday, July 27, 2009

Are new, used computer prices converging?

I don't have a whole lot of data points to apply here (just what I'm seeing on eBay and around town and such), but the ones I do have point to a possible trend. For example, while but out and about this weekend I noticed:

- This new 1.6Ghz CPU, 2Gb RAM, 160Gb HD Vista PC at Wal-Mart for $298.

- A 1.8GHz CPU, 1Gb RAM, 100Gb HD XP PC at a used store for $165. It had a monitor, but not an LCD/flat panel monitor; rather, a 17" VGA CRT of the type they were selling for $5-$10 on the shelf below.

I'm pretty sure both machines had DVD R-W, built-in card reader, more USB ports than you could shake a stick at, etc. Both machines were the same brand (eMachines).

I've purchased systems from the used place before and found both the boxes and the prices (usually about 1/4 to 1/3 of new) quite satisfactory. It's a thrift store, not a computer shop, but the guy seems to know his stuff, and a $5 doorstop of a machine gets priced at $5, not $50, there.

Based on past used-to-new pricing ratios of roughly equivalent systems (the used machine is usually going to be a generation behind on OS and probably not have quite as much RAM), I'd have expected to pay maybe $100 for this machine at this store (and almost certainly would probably have bought it at that price).

What gives? Are the prices on new machines falling faster than used sellers can afford to match? Or are the prices on used machines just plain going up? I'm leaning toward the former explanation, but I'm sure someone out there has a lot more data at his or her disposal to answer the question.

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