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Why Are Old Intel CPUs Expensive? (You Need to Know This!)

If you’ve been looking into getting a new CPU or upgrading your existing one you’ll have been surprised to find the old Intel CPUs are generally only slightly cheaper than the latest generations. This is at odds with what you would expect with electronics as generally the older versions are dramatically lower in price. So, in this article, I thought I’d explain why old Intel CPUs are so expensive.

To upgrade to a newer generation Intel CPU you need to upgrade the motherboard and RAM memory. This makes the upgrade very expensive and many will choose an Intel CPU from the same family as their old one, these CPUs aren’t manufactured anymore so the demand is higher than the supply, resulting in higher prices.

Therefore, sellers can easily sell them even at high prices because it makes sense for the buyer. In this article, I will provide an analysis of the costs involved in replacing the motherboard and RAM to get a newer generation CPU, so you can see why people are willing to pay high prices for old Intel CPUs. As well as, cover the difference in performance between old and new Intel CPUs. 

Main Reasons Old Intel CPUs Are So Expensive

Intel CPU

Old Intel CPUs cost about as much as newer Intel CPUs. Although, Intel CPUs are quite inexpensive it does seem a bit odd that Intel CPUs keep their price. Here are the main reasons why this is.

The main reasons are that new Intel CPUs don’t fit into older motherboards and some newer generations of CPUs didn’t provide a significant upgrade in speed. To get a newer CPU means a person also needs to get a new motherboard and RAM, this creates a high demand for old Intel CPUs.

Generally, second-hand products are about half the price of brand new ones. But, this is clearly not the case with Intel CPUs. Here’s a table I put together that shows the price of CPUs based on the generation. You may already be aware the generations go up in ascending order. For example, a generation 11 is newer than a generation 10.

Intel CPU modelPrice
Intel i3 generation 8 (2017 to 2019)$299.00
Intel i3 generation 9 (2018 to 2019)$216.00
Intel i3 generation 10 (2019 to 2020)$144.00
Intel i5 generation 9 (2018 to 2019)$259.00
Intel i5 generation 10 (2019 to 2020)$228.00
Intel i5 generation 11 (2020 to 2021)$283.00
Intel CPUs base price

To understand this better let’s look at a common situation. A person has a 2-year-old PC, and their CPU breaks, so they need a replacement CPU. Their motherboard only supports the CPU they had. As an example, they had a 10th-generation Intel i5 CPU.

If they bought an 11th or 12th-generation Intel i3, i5, or i7 it won’t fit into their existing motherboard. So, their two options are 1) Buy the same CPU they have now 2) Buy a new motherboard, RAM, and CPU.

A new motherboard costs in the range of USD$180.00 and up, this can be seen on this page of the AMD website that lists their motherboards from their cheapest to most expensive. As you may know, AMD and Intel are the two leading providers of motherboards chipset.

About 8GB of RAM is a minimum, but RAM is fairly inexpensive and costs around $50 for 8GB depending on the brand. Therefore, the total cost to upgrade the motherboard and RAM is about $200 to $250. 

Then about another $200 for the latest generation Intel CPU. So the total all up is about $400 to $450. Many people who have an older generation CPU are happy with the performance and don’t necessarily want to upgrade their entire system just because the CPU breaks.

Therefore, they would much rather buy a new CPU only. Because of these reasons, it creates a high demand for older CPUs. Because of that people are willing to spend higher and higher prices for old Intel CPUs. This then creates an expected price for old Intel CPUs.

People selling CPUs, such as people who have got a whole new PC, or retailers that sell computer components may or may not be aware of the fact that people buying their CPUs would much rather buy a new CPU than replace their motherboard and RAM as well.

But, when they look around at what price they are going for, they would simply list them at around the price everyone else is. Or, maybe a bit cheaper to sell it faster.

Here’s a quote from someone who sold their second hand Intel CPU:

“Personally I purchased a 4770k for $200 in 2013 and can sell it used for about the same price. It’s probably the best purchase I ever made for my PC in terms of re-sell value.”

How Well Do Intel CPUs Hold Their Price

An Intel CPU that performs really well for most people is pretty inexpensive. With electronics there are generally always newer versions that come out every year, therefore being able to on-sell them can be really handy. So, how well do Intel CPUs hold their price?

Intel CPUs hold their price very well. Some older Intel CPUs are more expensive than the newer generation models. It’s common for a second-hand Intel CPU to sell for 80% or more of the current retail price for it because there are fewer CPUs on the second-hand market than the demand. 

The prices of Intel CPUs do change slightly based on the supply and demand at a given point in time. For example, due to luck a lot of people can all need an Intel i5 10th generation CPU at once or within a short window of time say in a week. 

So they can buy up a lot of the available Intel i5 10th generation CPUs. On auction sites, the prices for these can then get bid up as buyers have seen there aren’t many available and want to get one right away. When that happens the price can increase.

Are Old CPUs Still Performing Well?

You’ve likely stumbled upon a computer say at the public library or a university that appears reasonably old. It’s definitely not brand new, so you may be wondering if old CPUs can still perform well enough for what you need a computer to do, and what generation of CPUs is too old. Here’s what I found.

As a general rule, old CPUs still perform well. Many people still use 2nd generation Intel CPUs. The main consideration is if you’re going to use it to play the latest games, if you are then you should get an Intel i5 9th generation or better.

For example, you could get an Intel i7, or i9 9th generation. Or, an Intel i5, i7, i9, or newer. Generally, an i3 can only just play the most popular games. I explained this in more detail in this article about whether Intel i3 CPUs are good for gaming.

How Much Is the Jump in Performance from Older to New Intel Generations

Almost every year the top CPU manufacturers such as Intel and AMD bring out a new CPU. So I thought I’d answer how much better each new generation of CPU is than the previous year’s release.

Generally, for a CPU that is 2 generations up you can go down one i number to find his equivalent. For example, a 9th generation i9 is equivalent in performance to an 11th generation i7. Say you wanted a newer version of an i5, you would go up 2 generations and down one i number to get the equivalent performance.

This is a general rule of thumb though, and the performance won’t be exactly the same but is a good guide for deciding what model to get when you want increased performance or are happy with the current performance you have.

Sources

I started building and fixing PCs in high school. After a couple of years of offering consultancy to a PC repair shop, I became the goto guy for all my acquaintances for PC/Laptop related buying advice or troubleshooting.