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What Does Refurbished Mean, and Should I Make the Jump?

Refurbished goods are one way to save money on large purchases.

But if you are unfamiliar with purchasing refurbished items, you may be concerned about the quality. Don’t worry, though. Refurbished purchases from reputable companies can deliver experiences just as good as those from brand-new items.

Apple routinely offers refurbished goods, including iPhones, iPads and Macs, for hundreds of dollars less than their brand-new counterparts. The savings can quickly add up.

What Does Refurbished Mean?

Refurbished goods are products that have been restored as though they were brand new. Purchasing a refurbished product isn’t the same as receiving someone’s old, used product. If it is done correctly, you shouldn’t see any difference between a new and a refurbished item.

While used products are sold as is, perhaps with a bit of cleanup, companies selling refurbished products will return goods to their original factory states. In addition to cleaning, refurbishing can involve replacing worn parts, restoring software to factory settings and repackaging the product as though it were new.

When Apple sells refurbished electronics, the company thoroughly cleans and inspects the product. Refurbished iOS devices like the iPhone will always come with a new battery and outer shell. Apple also includes all original accessories and repackages the products in new boxes.

5 Tips for Finding Reliable Refurbished Electronics

Unfortunately, not all refurbished devices are treated the same; you must research the seller before purchasing.

While original manufacturers tend to have healthy track records with refurbished products, purchasing from a third party specializing in refurbished products may warrant extra caution.

Here are five tips for finding great deals on refurbished electronics:

1. Stick to Stores and Brands You Trust

You need to know that they are refurbishing the items themselves or using reputable companies to do the work.

Look for descriptions like “manufacturer refurbished.” That means the company that built the item handles the refurbishing, so you know they’re using the right parts and specs. Apple, Dell and HP, for example, all offer their own refurbished products.

Trusted retail stores are also a good place to start. Best Buy’s Outlet section, for example, has quality third-party refurbished electronics.

2. Look Out for the Details

There are no strict definitions of refurbished products, so finding out exactly what work was performed is essential.

When Apple sells you refurbished electronics, it takes the time to inspect everything and replace components that aren’t up to strict standards. Keep an eye out for descriptions of this nature when shopping as they point toward well-refurbished tech.

Third-party Apple refurbisher Mac of all Trades clearly states the refurbishing process on its website. The company visually inspects all products, performs a two-stage cleaning process, does a hardware test and reset, and then gives a final quality check.

Pro Tip

Refurbished goods should have more care than a simple cleaning. Refurbishers should also replace worn components and ensure all original accessories are present.

3. Research the Company and Read Reviews on Multiple Sites

A lot of positive reviews are a good sign, but they can also be faked. Try to find feedback on the seller through several sites, including social media, not just the company’s own website.

4. Find Out if There’s a Return Policy

There’s a good chance you’ll know if your product is a dud within days, if not minutes, of firing it up. A company that won’t take returns on its refurbished items is telling you something about the quality of those items. Stay away.

5. Look for a Warranty, and if There Isn’t One, Don’t Do It

Lastly, don’t forget about that warranty. A thoroughly refurbished product should come with a warranty similar to the original one. Make sure the refurbisher offers at least a one-year hardware warranty.

Avoid companies that offer only short-term warranties, such as those that last for only 90 days. If a company is offering a product that is as good as new, it should be willing to stand behind it with a full-length warranty.

3 Times It Makes Sense to Buy Refurbished

If you know you’ll use your laptop for multiple hours every day doing work you’re passionate about, maybe you should invest a little more and buy a new one. But there are times when it makes perfect sense to buy refurbished.

1. You Want to Try Something New

Never used a Fitbit or RoboVac? Test the waters with a refurbished one on the cheap. You can always upgrade to a new one later if you fall in love.

2. You’re Buying for Kids

What are the odds your kid’s tablet gets tossed across the room or goes for a swim in the toilet? Or, if it’s a gaming system, how long before they want the next latest and greatest thing? Consider the expected lifespan of the product, and you may find buying refurbished is a better bet.

3. It’s a Backup

You love your laptop, but you need a backup for light use when you travel. Or you have your main camera but need one to carry just in case. Keep your costs down by snagging a refurbished model.

Is Refurbished Worth the Savings?

Yes, refurbished products are worth the savings! We want to scream the answer from the rooftops so that everyone can take advantage of the savings.

Nothing is better for your budget than a refurbished item; you get a good-as-new product at a significant discount.

For example, if you step into Lenovo’s store of refurbished electronics, you can find ThinkPad T14s selling for 17% off, from $1,289.99 down to $1,070. That’s a savings of $219.

Alienware offers the X15 R1 gaming laptop with a configuration ordinarily worth $2,136. When purchased as “like new” (refurbished), it is $1,262. That’s a savings of $874!

Where to Buy Refurbished Products

If you’re on the hunt for refurbished products, start with the website of the product manufacturer. Most manufacturers will have an outlet or discount section of their website that offers both used and refurbished goods available for purchase.

We’ve compiled a list of online stores that feature refurbished products and refurbished electronics for popular online brands. Browse the list below to find great discounts on popular products.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Is the Difference Between Renewed and Refurbished Electronics?

The simple answer is that there is generally no difference between renewed and refurbished. Some manufacturers simply choose not to use the word “refurbished” to describe products that have been used then returned to like new condition.

Other terms you may hear in addition to renewed and refurbished include certified refurbished and pre-owned. However, remember that knowing the refurbishment process is more important than what the refurbisher calls its products.

Which Is Better: New or Refurbished Electronics?

We do believe that shopping refurbished is a better economic decision than buying new. When shopping refurbished, you can purchase a product that is good as new but at a significantly cheaper price. 

If you can find what you are looking for from a reliable refurbisher, such as the original manufacturer, we would recommend it.

Is Refurbished the Same As Used?

No, refurbished is not the same as used; at least, it shouldn’t be from a reputable retailer. A refurbished good is similar to one that is used, but it has been restored to its original condition from when it left the factory. 

Refurbished goods are generally cleaned and inspected, with the refurbisher replacing any potentially faulty or worn parts. A refurbished device will generally come sealed, new in box, with all of the original accessories and a hardware warranty.

Should I Buy a Used or Refurbished iPhone?

We would recommend purchasing refurbished iPhones directly from Apple if you are looking to save money. Apple’s refurbished models go through a rigorous refurbishment process, having their outer case and internal battery completely replaced. 

Refurbished phones from Apple are an excellent way to save money while receiving a product that is good as new.

Michael Archambault is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder specializing in technology. 

Tyler Omoth is a former senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. 

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