Refurbished Electronics: Are They Worth It?


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How “refurbished” is different from “used” and could save you hundreds of dollars.

The shortage of microchips that’s created a tight market for automobiles has also led to limited supplies of electronic devices. Some folks can just wait until inventories are replenished, but what if you need a new phone or laptop right away? Fortunately, there’s another option that can save a lot of money: refurbished products.

If you’ve never bought a refurbished product, you might wonder if it’s worth it. In many cases they are—if you shop with caution.

What does refurbished mean?
One of the reasons people hesitate to buy refurbished goods is because there’s no standard for what refurbished means.

Read the fine print—find out what refurbished means to each seller. Some refurbished products are indistinguishable from new ones, while others may have minor scratches, dents or blemishes to the physical appearance but would not affect product performance.

Reputable sellers are upfront about what they consider acceptable quality and what ends up in their refurbished inventory, such as repaired factory defects, open-box returns and demos.

Here are some terms to help you evaluate a seller and their products:

  • Seller-Furbished: You can’t be sure of the quality of replacement parts or the repair. You can often find these products on reseller sites such as eBay.
  • Manufacturer-Refurbished: The company that makes the product uses its own parts and typically checks the product to make sure it meets quality assurance standards. Many companies have websites dedicated solely to refurbished products.
  • Warranty: The seller promises the item will work. Warranties on refurbished goods are typically shorter than those offered for new products.
  • Money-Back Guarantee: Rules for refunds vary among sellers; read policies carefully to see what limitations may apply.

Warranties vary
Many selling platforms, like Amazon and Best Buy, guarantee goods for 90 days while companies, such as Apple and Bose, stand behind refurbished products for a full year. eBay Certified Refurbished products are covered for two years. Also, some credit card companies offer additional warranty protection.

Should you go for it?
Consider how much the product may have been used or abused before it ended up on the refurbished market. For example, phones are much more likely to have been dropped or immersed in water than a tablet or laptop.

If you’ve ever tried downloading an app and discovered that your device is no longer supported by the software developer, you know that sometimes product age matters. If you need the most advanced technology available, a refurbished item may not be suitable because oftentimes they’re older models.

Another thing to consider is an item’s purpose. Are you purchasing a laptop for your business or for your child to play video games? The stakes are much lower if the computer is going to be used for gaming.

Shop around
Compare the refurbished product’s price and warranty among multiple sellers as well as to new items. When you find what looks like a good deal, check the seller’s reviews to see what other buyers say about their experience with refurbished goods.

Avoid a big budget hit
Even though refurbished electronics can cost hundreds of dollars less than new, they’re still a significant expense for most people. One way to alleviate a hit to your budget is to set aside some money each pay period in a savings account. Even having part of the purchase price on-hand can help alleviate financial pressure and reduce borrowing.

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