Whether it has a cracked screen, crashed hard drive, missing keys, or myriad other problems, you can still use your old laptop for something other than a flower pot stand. That system could earn you cold, hard cash, provided you believe the claims of companies like CashForLaptops or LaptopsIntoCash. These services, and others like them, promise money for notebooks of all types. But, promises don’t necessarily translate into dollars—or at least not the number of dollars you deserve. An instant-quote process is the first option on one of these sites. The Web forms ask customers to specify a notebook’s brand and model, as well as any known defects or absent parts (cracked display, no AC adapter, etc.). The programs then spit out a dollar amount. The (Potential) Payoff “We do extensive research daily on the fair market price [of a notebook], ” said Becky Wright, general manager of CashForLaptops. “The average computer runs $175, but I’ve bought MacBook Airs for almost $1,000.” To test the above claim, we asked CashForLaptops to give us a quote on a MacBook Air in excellent condition. It offered $780, a little bit less than the $820 quoted by LaptopsIntoCash.
To put these numbers in perspective, Dell quoted a measly $146 trade-in credit, Gateway a $89 credit, and HP an incredibly low $27. And unlike CashForLaptops and LaptopsIntoCash, Dell and HP charge a $15 fee for wiping your old hard drive. That amount is deducted from your trade-in credits if you don’t do it yourself. When we spec’d out an aging and non-functional Compaq Presario V2200, we were quoted $70 from CashForLaptops. At least that’s better than the $40 LaptopsIntoCash offered. Our Compaq had no trade-in value for Dell or Gateway, whose trade-in estimator screens looked identical. HP offered $18.60. Both CashForLaptops and LaptopsIntoCash mail customers pre-paid mailing boxes (complete with packing materials and protective padding). The laptop is then inspected, and if it meets the standards that you set in the quote process, a check is mailed in that amount (dollars may be shaven off the quote if it doesn’t). According to Wright, the whole process takes about two weeks. Who Are These Guys, Anyway? If you’re wondering about the reputations of these outfits, we were too. That’s why we checked their Better Business Bureau ratings. CashForLaptops, which has been in business for seven years, has a respectable B- rating (at the time of this writing). Meanwhile, the five-year-old LaptopsIntoCash has a C- rating, although the two complaints filed against the company in the last three years have both been resolved. So what happens to your notebook after you send it in? CashForLaptops and LaptopsIntoCash have partnerships with the original equipment manufacturers to strip systems for parts for use in refurbished machines. If you’re rightfully concerned that your personal data will fall into the wrong hands, you might rest easy in knowing that the companies first delete the information that lives on each PC’s hard drive.
“We scrub every single hard drive that we get in,” said Wright, whose company uses Object Media’s Secure Delete software for data deletion. Important note: Object Media’s site states that the “program does not meet the requirements of the U.S. Department of Defence, and probably does not meet U.K. Ministry of Defence guidelines on secure deletion of data.” We recommend performing a data wipe yourself using Jetico BCWipe (www.jetico.com), a free utility that meets U.S. military standards. Show Me the Money We put CashForLaptops to the test by sending the company our Compaq Presario V2200. It took three days to get an e-mail confirmation from the time we confirmed the sale. A week later, we received a worn and well-used (but cushioned) box with a return label, which we used to mail the notebook to the company. One week after sending it in, we received a voicemail message informing us that there were things we needed to discuss. After returning CashForLaptop’s call, and leaving messages, we got an e-mail two weeks later offering us $30 less than previously quoted, because of “missing foot pads,” and “excessive wear/tear on top cover and keyboard.” We grudgingly accepted the $40 offer, which now matched that of LaptopsIntoCash. A week after receiving an e-mail confirmation that a check had been sent, we received our $40 compensation. Although the promise of cash sounds more attractive than a trade-in from a PC manufacturer, we trust HP and Dell more than such companies as CashForLaptops to follow through with their promises.