If you live in LA, you must have been to a swap meet at least once, or at the very least smelled the brilliant aroma of bacon wrapped hot dogs that protect them like a blockade of porky goodness. Swap meets are an amalgam of types of sellers, they can range from too well informed to just there to make a buck and get out. This presents the buyer, you, with a wide array of choices. Choice is good, especially if you find the exact part you’re looking for. This handy guide will help you find deals that are practically a steal.
Know what to look for: Think of a swap meet as a hundred different people who instead of having a garage sale, came together for your convenience in one parking lot during the weekend. Many of these people will be disinterested or uninformed about exactly what PC parts they are selling. It isn’t unheard of to see fifty dollar video cards being purchased for two dollars. Or thirty dollar USB 3.0 HDD cases, which effectively turn your old laptop HDD into a portable one, for eight bucks.
It is good to have a smart phone handy for quick Google lookups, especially for video cards, and RAM sticks, which usually have minimal labeling. Brush up on your ability to visually determine the difference between different kinds of RAM and other items. A quick glance at an item is all it should take to determine weather or not it’s worth your time. If you can not verify if it will work in your PC do not purchase it, no matter how cheap.
Quality vs. Price: In all likelihood seventy percent of all objects that you will find at the swap meet will be used. Used does not mean broken, and broken does not mean worthless, unless your talking about a crack on the circuit board. A cracked circuit board is always a no sale! Check for scorch marks, and capacitors that are bulging on the top, as these are indicators of unit failure. A little dust is fine, but make sure small fans are not completely clogged with grime.
Hard Drives or HDD’s and CD/DVD drives are usually a dime a dozen at swap meets and will be stacked on tables like VHS tapes. Normally these will be just stripped from old used work PC’s and will not have any damage, but there may be a bad apple in the bunch and short of connecting it to a PC there’s no way to tell. As a general rule you will have to determine its worth by how nice it looks, I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover but the least handled items will have the least risk of damage.
Haggling: The best and worst part about swap meeting for PC parts has to be the sellers. They are there to make money, pure and simple. If they catch even a whiff that what they have is worth something to you, they will exploit it. Poker faces on people, there should be no excited squeals when you find that new gaming video card in the box for a third of the price. You must remind them that what you are doing is a risk, and lower the price accordingly.
Sometimes with RAM sticks you will find a seller just wanting to get rid of them a dollar a piece, because it doesn’t look like much. The harder sells will be items still in boxes, or things that just scream expensive such as a CPU liquid cooler unit. The new thing at the swap meets has been reselling of returned items from large chain stores. Items will still be in their boxes with return stickers on them, but who knows how they got them and who knows if they still work. Above all else, buyer beware, and good hunting!