Maximizing Your IT Budget
A comprehensive guide to buying used servers
We built a comprehensive guide on the most commonly asked questions we hear when an IT user is interested in buying used servers. From how to buy, where to buy, and the cost of buying - we have all the answers to your questions right here!
Purchasing used servers doesn't need to be complicated or time-consuming when you choose to work with a reliable reseller setting the standard.
Can I buy used servers?
Yes, you are able to buy used servers, from just one system to thousands of them at once. You can buy servers in all brands, form factors from the latest and greatest releases to decades old legacy equipment There are multiple outlets to attain used servers from, and if you work with an established and credentialed provider, a great experience and even greater savings can be yours.
When considering buying used servers, you may be wondering - what are the real benefits of it?
Today, IT buyers can decide to buy used servers, as millions of systems are constantly cycling through the market. Used servers are a great choice for many reasons and often provide the same performance, if not better, than brand-new servers.
Below are a few reasons why to consider buying a used server.● Affordable Price/ Higher ROI
The #1 reason to buy used and refurbished servers for many is that you will typically get high-quality equipment for a much lower cost than manufacturers. You can almost always gain the same return at a minimal cost.● Performance/Reliability
Tested and refurbished servers generally perform at an equivalent or better rate than new servers. When buying a used server from a certified and experienced vendor, they have likely tested and evaluated every part of the server before reselling.● Easily Replaceable/Low Maintenance
Spare hardware components are readily available from resellers for mature server bases. Many buyers will buy small lots of spare parts to use whenever any potential problem arises with their existing infrastructure, saving money in the long run and making them more resilient while reducing downtime.● Sustainability
For every used server sold, the need to manufacture new ones gets delayed by years. As more IT users ease into the world of refurbished servers, we can continue to cut the impact of electronic waste and reduce our carbon footprint and green house gas emissions.● Reduced Lead Times
Reduced lead times are a huge factor that guides many people toward buying used and refurbished servers. With the increase in supply chain issues, used servers are ready to be sold and delivered within just a day or two.
Make your supply chain more resilient by establishing trusted suppliers in the used IT space. It might just save a project or rescue you in an outage.
These considerations play a sizable role in why individuals want to buy used servers over new ones, but always look at what makes the most sense for you and your organization.
Where to buy used servers?
When looking to buy used servers, look for an IT resale business with experienced engineers, proven reliability metrics, and extensive inventory, paired with years in business. Organizations such as Alta Technologies are called ITADs, IT refurbishers, IT remarketers, secondary market resellers or grey market resellers (a pejorative used by new resellers).
Choosing to hop on the internet and purchase the first used server that shows up may not provide an optimal price or product. If you research with the above characteristics in mind, it will lead you to established organizations with the assurance that you are getting the best possible price, product, and service, without concern.
If you do choose to buy used servers from eBay, make sure the seller is established and committed to quality. Many online marketplace sellers are running by the seat of their pants and do not test equipment nor stand by their guarantees. While established ITADs and resellers do sell on eBay, be selective.
You can even take it a step further and make sure the company has industry associations and certifications from organizations like the ASCDI, or UNEDA. These certificates indicate that the company has built strong relationships within its market and are committed to ethical trading and business standards.
We believe the term “grey market” is the worst kind of propaganda, an insidious term latched onto by manufactures to paint their competition as nefarious. ITADs and refurbishers are hard-working repair and refurbishment service providers, offering sustainable solutions for IT buyers that also save them money while extending the life of IT systems and supplying an alternate supply chain.
As we continue to learn about the environmental benefits of reuse, and fight battles around right to repair, the term “grey market” in place of used IT should be called out as immoral for the future of IT and our planet.
Can I buy used server parts?
IT buyers can buy used server parts for their upgrade or spare part needs, in addition to fully configured system options.
Understanding the process helps to break down what a used server undergoes when received by a refurbisher or ITAD. Once a used server is received, it goes through a refurbishment process; and is typically broken down to a base chassis, with the parts being stored separately for unit resale or future configuration builds.
First, the servers thoroughly cleaned to remove all dust and dirt particles, stickers, and any remaining residue. Once the used servers are cleaned, it is broken down piece by piece into a CTO (configuration to order) or bare chassis, with the parts static bagged, barcoded and stored in inventory bins. If the equipment has already been resold before hitting a warehouse, it will most likely be repackaged and shipped out immediately after cleaning and testing.
So yes, used servers can be sold together in a specific configuration or parted out piece by piece based on each customer's needs. The option to buy only one part is great for customers looking to replace something that failed on their existing equipment and is considered the “EOL” for manufacturers. Other customers may buy dozens or hundreds of parts for a wide scale upgrade across scores of servers.
Where to buy used server parts?
Buying used server parts has never been easier. There are numerous outlets selling used parts for servers, harvested from decommissioned IT assets.
Many resellers and individuals list IT parts on eBay. Be careful buying from random sellers and make sure they warranty their equipment and test all hardware. There are many small operations with no testing capability on online marketplaces.
2) Google Shopping
Searching for a part on Google can be a similar experience to eBay – you don’t quite know what you’re working with. It can be a place to start your research from.
3) Refurbished Resellers / ITADs
Vetting long-time, respected resellers with industry associations, certifications and references is your best bet for finding reliable used systems and parts while saving significant cash. These are mission critical items, why trust anyone but experienced experts for these parts?
4) OEMs / Manufacturers
The OEMs often have parts available, but in most cases these are incredibly expensive and may not be immediately available, plus their stock is limited. OEMs are known to source from quality ITADs and refurbishers.
When searching for used parts, look for a long-standing company with experienced engineers, proven reliability, and extensive inventory.
How do I find used servers?
To find used servers, start by researching online and connecting with established resellers in the industry. Many companies around the globe focus on extending the life of IT equipment. Established refurbishment companies devote their time and energy to providing the best used servers and experience to their customers, fully backed by warranty.
Alternately, take your chances at online ecommerce marketplaces such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and Backmarket. Just be sure to vet the seller behind the seller page as you could be dealing with a legit dealer, or a junk trader who can’t test. Without research, you just don’t know for sure.
Who sells used servers?
Initially, used servers are sold or given to ITADs, refurbishers, or recyclers, or traded in to OEMs or leasing companies, from the original IT users. Some bankruptcy liquidations are even sold to the dealers by auction companies.
From there, the #1 resellers of used servers are the refurbished dealers and ITADS, of which there are thousands around the world. The average company in this space is small, with many small dealers only employing a handful of people. There are also large organizations dealing in used IT such as Alta Technologies, which holds over 1.3 million systems and parts in stock and sells thousands of parts each day.
Some individual IT users or home lab users will sell their rigs on marketplaces such as Craigslist and Facebook directly, but these are often older units and not refurbished nor given an extended warranty.
Manufacturers also have certified refurbished programs, often at heavy premiums versus the open market sellers, and limited stock. This is an option, but hardly competitive versus the used servers available from independent resellers which are also eligible for maintenance.
Who are the top companies selling used servers?
Resellers with years in the industry and long-standing established relationships tend to be considered the top companies selling used servers.
A few of the top companies are:● Alta Technologies
Alta is a leading enterprise IT reseller in North America stocking over 1.3 million parts and systems. Along with selling refurbished servers, networking and data storage, Alta is always looking to purchase excess IT equipment to add to an ever-growing inventory. Alta prides themselves on always being the tried and true choice for IT buyers.● Dell
Did you know that Dell offers an online service called “Dell Outlet” where you can buy refurbished laptops, desktops, computers, monitors, and even servers? Using their outlet service can score you flash deals, but stock can be limited at times and not as low as the open market resellers.● Kimbrer Systems
Kimbrer is an experienced refurbisher of IT servers, storage, and networking equipment in Europe. With over 200,000 products in their warehouse and quality service that can reach over nine languages.● Value-Added Reseller (VAR)
A VAR is also known as a value-added reseller. These companies are mostly known for reselling customized products and services that enhance the value of an original third-party product. They can tap into excess IT from OEMs, often at a great premium over independent IT brokers.
Finding a company with years of history and industry knowledge is the key to buying and selling quality used servers, no matter which segment of the market you dive into.
Can I buy a used server online?
There are many options where you can buy used servers online, some much more reliable and transparent than others, with levels of expertise varying greatly.
Savvy IT buyers will spend time searching Google and reaching out to vendors to determine their credentials, testing process, years in business and industry affiliations. Make sure all equipment is guaranteed for maintenance, comes with warranty and that the reseller can provide strong references to similar customers.
After submitting an Inquiry Form or RFQ on a reseller's site, it is recommended to try and connect with the experts via email or over the phone, to get all of the information you need to feel comfortable making a buying decision. Price is key to used equipment savings, but the real value is in savings with peace of mind and the delivery of quality, guaranteed equipment.
Does Amazon sell used servers?
Amazon does sell used servers on their marketplace, but they rely on third-party sellers to fulfill their listings for used systems and parts. Lately, manufacturers have pressured Amazon not to list used parts within their brand, sometimes making Amazon a poor alternative to eBay and Google searches for certain types of refurb product.
Using Amazon comes with limitations on equipment availability, speed of deliverability, and visibility into which sellers you are working with. While Amazon is convenient for everyday purchases, it hasn’t taken off for used IT equipment the way that eBay has.
Where is the best place to buy used servers?
As we said earlier, although most people want to buy something at the click of a button, it is not always a reliable choice for used servers. The best place to buy used servers is with a trusted, long-standing supplier equipped with the expertise and inventory to provide the value and reliability you require.
Once you’ve found a great supplier, getting pricing and parts is as easy as sending an email.
While choosing the best place to buy used servers, you should always complete a thorough background check on the seller providing used servers.
Ask yourself some of the questions below to guarantee it is the right fit.
1. How long has the organization been in business?
2. Does it look like they have repeat customers and authentic reviews and references available?
3. Do they have any certifications or involvement in industry associations?
4. Do they have an extensive inventory available and ready to ship?
5. Do their product managers show expertise in their product line?
6. Have they appeared in press or trade publications or podcasts?
These questions are a great starting point to vet any resellers on the market. You always want to make sure you are getting quality products at a reasonable price and find long-standing organizations that have testimonials to back their business.
What timeline do I need to buy used servers?
Typically, used gear is very accommodating to buyers in a quick pinch. Equipment is commonly available next day or even same day, if you’re working with an independent reseller.
Used servers are a great option for those in a time crunch because most secondary market resellers can turn an order around today, for delivery as soon as FedEx can deliver. In comparison, an online marketplace or eBay seller can take days to even ship, while a VAR can take multiple days to weeks before simply providing a quote.
By calling an established refurb dealer, you can typically receive a quote within 5-10 minutes, if not instantly. The equipment is usually in stock, ready to ship today and you can start your project tomorrow.
Minimal timeline restraints and supply chain issues are why the used server market rose in desirability among many IT buyers over the course of the pandemic. If Cisco tells you the lead time is 11 months, while a dealer like Alta can deliver the same item in the AM for less… which option would you choose when your manager wants a project delivered yesterday??
What is the shipping policy for used servers?
The shipping policy for used servers can vary depending on where you source the used server. Most independent resellers can ship same day for delivery around the world via FedEx, UPS, DHL, USPS or others via any one of their shipping methods.
If you purchase the equipment online at eBay or an ecommerce site, you may be limited to certain shipping methods.
If ordering dozens, hundreds or thousands of servers, you will likely work with a logistics person at the seller, to schedule an LTL trucking option, padded van or whatever level of service is required to safely transport the equipment so that it is ready to deploy.
Whether you are selling or buying used servers, the shipping fees can vary as the weight, dimensions, and location are ever-changing between products and customers.
What should I budget for used servers?
Plan to budget 30-80% less for used servers than you would pay for new servers of equivalent specification. You may need to buffer in extra time for installing any applications and firmware updates that might have been in place on a new server delivery, but overall you can get more for your budget with used servers than new.
Like with any new server, doing your research on requirements is required to nail you’re your own budget for hardware, software and services. Developing a list of needs should be your first step in calculating your budget for any servers. While creating your budget, you want to receive quotes and compare all available options throughout the market. Comparing options will ensure you're receiving the best quality and price for your desired equipment.
Remember to seek value, a combination of expertise, guarantees and support, along with base price. Used servers can be a great solution to stretch your IT budget, particularly when proved by a trusted, long-standing vendor that stands behind their equipment in both support and guarantees.
What is the price range of used servers?
The price range of used servers is broad and can range from $10.00 to over $100,000, depending on whether you need a basic, legacy model or a recently released mainframe or UNIX system. Most used servers fall between the low hundreds of dollars and low thousands of dollars and are typically discounted 50-80% off the price of a brand new system.
The price range of used servers truly varies depending on the brand, model, components selected, generation, and current availability on the secondary market. When comparing used vs. new, you will find that used servers are still the most cost-effective option in almost every single scenario.
Why are used servers so expensive?
In most cases, used servers are not so expensive, and relatively cheap compared to new servers. With millions of used systems trading at any given point in the marketplace, you can save hundreds to
Used servers are so expensive in certain circumstances, because their supply may be limited by market factors or recent release. If a server has only been released in the past few months, there will be very limited supply on the market and prices will not match the typical 50-80% discount off of new. Also, if a large hyperscale customer is buying up all of the supply for that particular server, there will be very limited supply available and prices may be high again.
During the supply chain shortages of the early 2020s, the used market was in high demand, pushing more buyers towards alternate options, like buying used servers. During this period, many used IT systems and parts became constrained and prices rose. As of 2023, the market is getting back to normal, where huge savings are available on refurb hardware again. Compared to new, used servers are almost always an incredible value
Where can I find cheap used servers?
You can find cheap, used servers on marketplaces such as eBay, Facebook and Craigslist, but remember, cheap does not always equate to cost savings. If you buy untested, non-guaranteed items from random sellers, you may get nothing for your money. There is a solution to find inexpensive hardware, that comes with the guarantees and quality you need.
IT buyers can find cheap used servers from long-standing, trusted ITADs and refurb IT resellers. Searching for an organization that has been in business for decades, tests all equipment with a proven process, engages with industry associations like the ASCDI, and has great references can yield you the value you’re after.
Great equipment, at excellent prices, right on time… you might just become the hero of your IT department, (rather than the butt of a joke for buying the cheapest option).
Do you finance used servers?
Many customers do finance used servers, using leasing companies to spread that cost out over years, just like they would with a new server purchase.
To finance used servers, you can choose from a few different options that best fit your current situation. Typically, you can finance equipment on one to three year leases or short-term rentals of 1 to 11 months.
Most professional refurbishers offer financing options that make it even more affordable for you to purchase used servers. Financing used servers allows you to utilize like-new equipment at a manageable cost and is the best option for a company that requires a lot of flexibility while working through a development phase.
Do you lease used servers?
Customers do lease used servers each and every day, just like new servers.
Leasing used servers is typically for an extended period, from a year to multiple years. Servers are build to last for 10+ years, and customers concerned with cost and sutainability are now pushing their refresh cycles to 5 to 7 years, so stretching your investment over multiple years just makes sense.
Although leasing can be considered a more cost-effective option that helps meet the needs of many businesses looking for a better ROI. With a lease, your equipment is typically 100% covered by the lessee for handling any issues that may come up during your lease period. Leasing not only helps save you time and effort but also money!
Do you rent used servers?
Customers in certain situations do rent servers.
When a client is going through a server migration, or even a cloud migration, they may need to lease equipment to facilitate data and compute in motion. Other clients may have a very short term project where equipment is required for less than a year.
IT refurbishers often rent equipment to clients in these situations, when equipment is needed for at least a month, but not longer than a year. The flexibility of a short-term rental gives IT users flexibility to get their projects done without committing to buying entire systems, and ultimately stay well under budget.
If a client needs to “rent” hardware for at least a year or more, they turn to a formal leasing arrangement. With leasing, companies can draw from a capital budget, separate from their traditional IT budget, which helps minimize the gap within budget issues.
What is the return policy for used servers?
The return policy for refurbished servers is set by the individual seller and can vary from “as-is” to a lifetime warranty, depending on the vendor. The industry standard return policy for used servers is 90 days as a solid median, as that amount of time gives the buyer three months to install the equipment and place it under an OEM or third-party maintenance contract for ongoing support.
In addition to a return policy, make sure that you are buying from a reputable company. A lifetime warranty or return policy for a system is a useless marketing ploy, if the seller does not stand behind their products. Look for resellers with years of happy customers, engaged in industry associations such as the ASCDI, who stand behind their equipment and take the long view with helping out their customers and investing in engineering.
Summary: The used server market is constantly evolving in inventory to keep up-to-date, stocking older models and current systems alike! When purchasing used servers, do extensive research to ensure it is with a reputable reseller backed by years of experience and industry expertise. There are multiple considerations when it comes to acquiring used hardware, to repat the benefits of savings and sustainability, but a great partner can guide you to the ultimate value.
Additional Reading & Resources:
- Article: What are Used Servers?
- Article: Using & Maintaining Used Servers
- Article: Types of Servers
- Article: New vs. Used Servers
- Article: A More Sustainable IT Future
- Article: Separating ITAD Fact from Fiction
- Alta: Used Servers for Sale
- The Ultimate Guide to Refurbished Servers
Author: Corey Donovan
Corey is a reuse advocate with 20 years experience in ITAD and serves as President of Alta Technologies, the gold standard for quality in testing and refurbishing servers, networking and data storage hardware, since 1995.
An active member of the Right-To-Repair movement, Corey also serves on the ASCDI Board, is a member of the Forbes Business Council, Vistage, SIA and UNEDA. He enjoys local adventures with his family and dog, Freya, near Minneapolis, MN.