The secondhand personal computer market is rapidly expanding as sharp growth in demand for new PCs sends relatively new ones to the used market.

Survey company MM Research Institute Ltd. said about 900,000 secondhand PCs were sold in fiscal 2003, up 11.1 percent over a year earlier. This fiscal year’s sales are expected to register a double-digit increase to more than 1 million units.

Industry sources said users are increasingly seeking to own more than two PCs, and are looking for cheaper secondary models on the used market.

A recycling law that came into effect in October, charging computer owners 3,000 yen to dispose of laptops and 7,000 yen for desktop models, means owners are only too happy to sell their used computer to a secondhand store, sources said.

Used-PC company Sofmap Co. estimates that the average sales price of a secondhand PC is about 85,000 yen. Relatively new PCs that have been used for less than two years sell quickly, it said.

Sony Corp.’s high-definition Vaio, which debuted in May 2003 and can record TV programs, sells new for about 260,000 yen. Used, it can be picked up for under 200,000 yen.

Sofmap’s used PC sales already account for more than 10 percent of total sales, and profitability is three to four times higher than that of new PCs, company officials said.

Most used PCs come with an operating system and a warranty of several months.

Many PC producers entrust the job of collecting and refurbishing secondhand PCs to specialist firms. But NEC Corp. began buying used NEC PCs and restoring and selling them as NEC Refresh PCs in January 2003.

Its subsidiary, NEC Personal Products Co., buys used NEC PCs at its maintenance center in Ota, Gunma Prefecture, where data are erased, an OS is loaded, parts are exchanged and packaging and shipments are made.

Tetsu Katayama, president of NEC Personal Products, said such shipments have already topped 10,000 units.

“The business has become profitable,” he said.

The company had been concerned about the negative effect on the sales of new PCs, but there has been no such impact because the buyers of new and used PCs are different.

As a setup to accept used PCs has been created, it has become easier for users to buy new ones, he said.

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