We'll start with a question: Is it worth buying a used PC case? After all, PC cases are an essential part of any gaming or office rig; you're right to wonder if performance or longevity will be hurt by cutting costs.
The short answer is that PC cases tend to age very well unless heavily mistreated. Meanwhile, you'll find the longer answer down below.
The Core Role of a PC Case
Let's first establish what the basic role of a PC case is. (For experienced PC builders, this is admittedly a section you can probably skip.)
A PC case can perhaps be best thought of as a computer's “bones.” Unless you're really diving into some edge-case custom builds, the case is where the vast majority of your computer's parts and peripherals will be installed.
Many people tend to underestimate the role of their PC case because it tends to be invisible when working right. The truth, however, is that it affects airflow, your ability to install various parts, and more.
This all said, even many gamers choose not to indulge in particularly robust cases for their builds. It's less that a case has no impact and more that most cases are adequate, even if better options are still available.
We'll discuss it in more detail later, but often the biggest advantage of a good case is ease of installation. If a case is relatively large and has a good internal layout, it can make installing parts and managing wires a far easier task than with more mediocre options.
Are There Disadvantages to Buying a Used PC Case?
Given an understanding of the core role of a PC case, should you still find a used PC case for sale? Is there a significant downside to going used?
The basic truth is not really. So long as you purchase from a reputable dealer, most used cases will at worst show mild wear while otherwise working almost exactly as they did when first purchased.
The real point of weakness with used PC cases is going to be their in-built electronic components, notably their USB ports. These ports may be outdated and, in some cases, may even be broken.
Beyond that, a used case is going to collect dust over its lifetime. Most reputable dealers will clean cases before selling them, but individual sellers won't always do so. That said, dusting a PC case is a simple job, especially with compressed air.
Some stores, like ours, will even be able to offer clearance prices on cases that have seen barely any use at all. Used cases that have seen little to no use are often visually and functionally identical to a new case beyond their box having been opened.
Business vs Pleasure
When reviewing PC cases for sale, one also should keep in mind the purpose of their case. Are you building a PC for the office? You can afford to keep the case simple; the parts inside aren't going to be getting too complex (for most industries, anyway).
What's interesting is that many new business cases will approach the price of a used gaming case. Unless you're aiming for a very cheap build (which is exactly what some offices go for), going used can still have its advantages.
It could be argued that uniformity can be difficult to achieve if you're buying used and trying to build many PCs at once. That will depend on what type of case you're aiming for, but many retailers won't have five or more of the same used case at one time.
Meanwhile, gaming PCs are somewhat different beasts. Can you use any case for a gaming PC? Sort of, but most gamers will at least want something with room for a good cooling setup and a modern graphics card.
That doesn't bar them from choosing a used option. Instead, it means they have to be more particular. Most gamers will want a case that isn't more than five or so years old and practically all will want to make sure all the USB slots work.
The Many Benefits of a Good PC Case
The reality is that framing the question as one of new vs used PC cases is somewhat wrong. Instead, the thing to consider when making a purchase is whether the case is going to do what you need it to.
A modern case is going to come with modern features (at least if you're somewhat discerning). You can also guarantee those features will work.
A used case can still have modern features, if it is new, and most will at least have the basics gamers tend to look for. Moreover, reputable dealers will either make sure everything is working or at least detail what doesn't in the product description.
What a used case might not have are the exact specifications you're looking for. If you have a very particular case in mind, you may need to buy it new unless you're lucky enough to find a used one.
There are a few things to look at when considering a case, with each at least roughly affecting how much you should be willing to pay. The more robust the list of features you want in a case, the more expensive it will be whether new or used.
This first point is the most subjective. In essence, does the case look the way you want?
Most cases come in mostly black, with many also having glass side panels so one can look at the internals from the outside. A few have in-built LED setups that can be programmed to do various things, depending on what the user wants.
If this point doesn't particularly bother you, you'd be part of a relatively large group. Most people are fine with the “default” look of modern PC cases, even if they find the fancier options interesting.
PC components, specifically fans, tend to make more noise than we realize. If you need to push your fans hard or your case has bad acoustics, it can be a real pain when you're trying to record audio or talk to someone online.
For new cases, all it takes to check acoustics is a quick search online. Unless people are discussing how it's particularly bad or good, you can likely expect a reasonable, although not amazing, level of noise reduction.
The same can be said of used cases, but with some caveats. Cases that have seen heavy use may have had pre-drilled holes widened or in-built parts loosened with wear. These issues can affect acoustics, although them doing so severely would be rare.
All else being equal, a bigger case tends to be better. This won't always be the case, such as if a user needs to transport their PC or fit it somewhere tight, but it's a good general rule.
Big cases make the part of PC building most people find intimidating, part installation, easier. It also tends to signal more robust internal features meant to help with wire management, although that won't always be the case.
Wire Management Features
As we touched on in our size section, a good PC case will have features to help with wire management. The more drives and other devices you intend to install into your PC, the more you're going to appreciate these features.
While size tends to impact wire management by default, even smaller cases can be designed to accommodate complex wiring. It's possible to do without these features but it means you'll likely require more ties inside your PC or you risk a rat's nest of cables.
Ease of Cooling
Computer cooling is a complex topic and your case is only going to play a part in that greater whole. That said, it's undeniable that case design affects cooling.
While many people assume large cases mean better airflow, this isn't always true. Some smaller cases can be designed for excellent airflow and large cases can still have inefficiencies in their shape that hurts cooling ability.
If you don't have your ears to the ground of tech, you may be unaware that USB technology has been evolving. Assuming a case is not decades old, it likely will have what is called USB 2.0 or newer.
USB 2.0 is not “worse” than the much newer USB 3.0 and 3.1. However, it is more limited. If you don't know much about USB ports, a case with a mix of USB 2.0 and 3.1 tends to be the ideal.
Buying a Used Case Can Help Save Costs
A typical gaming PC can run you as much as £1000, with the best rigs costing four times that or more. There is nothing wrong with buying a used PC case to try and save on costs.
The trade-off is minimal. If your only goal is a “good” PC case, you can likely find one used. That said, if you want one that is guaranteed to work and has the exact set of features you're looking for, new remains your best option.