Tips for buying used tech items online

Buying tech gifts will be especially tough this season, which is leading shoppers to consider buying big ticket items used online.

David Payette and David Lynch help tech shoppers decode deals on their YouTube channel, "Payette Forward."

David and David say online deals on used phones, desktops and laptops are plentiful, but the way you shop needs tweaks.

First: Who do you trust?

Is is certainly easier to give your money to a logo rather than a screen name.

When checking reviews, you're not interested in the product. You're interested in the seller.

Seller reviews are the best way to make sure you're not making a mistake.

And it's not only the stars or rankings that are important. You also want to see a lot of reviews — thousands at least. 

eBay reviews include both selling and buying — building trust there requires a few more clicks.

Next: When reading listings, the first thing you should do is pick a condition.

"The most trustworthy of all these is factory refurbished," David and David said. "Open box products are usually returns."

Seller refurbished can be iffy — it depends what the seller did to refurbish the item, David and David explained. 

After that choice, it's all about the battery.

According to Lynch and Payette, if a seller is not leading with the fact the battery is in good shape or specifically saying how many battery cycles it has or the battery health percentage, it means you're probably going to have to get a new battery eventually.

They also say the more direct the seller is about the battery, the better.

Damaged products should be ignored outright. 


Third: The specifics. How old is too old? How used is too used?

"All the modern smart phones, they have great cameras, great battery life, great processors," said Lynch and Payette. "It's more about the year. The sweet spot is 3-years-old."

For computers, it's the processor. Newer is better here — and listings can be shy about their age.

"The Intel i7 processor was released in September 2008, but you can buy one today. Is it the same processor? No," said Payette and Lynch.

Finally: Returns. It's make or break for some —  because expectations? Lower them.

"It could also be potentially very difficult to return a product you buy. eBay has buyer protection policies, but it's a real pain in the butt to fill out one of those forms. You can't even fill out the forms for seven or fourteen days," said Payette and Lynch.

There is a lot to consider. 

When asked for their top three, David and David say seller reviews, avoiding damage and battery life. 

Be mindful of those when shopping used — and your holidays may get happier.