For bargain deals on electronics, shop refurbished. The naysayers will tell you that “new” and “just like new” aren’t the same thing — but in many cases, they are. A lot of refurbished gadgets haven’t even been used by their previous owners, so they are effectively new. And as Kyle Wiens, CEO of the tech-repair site iFixit, explained to Consumer Reports, all refurbished electronics need to be inspected by real-life technicians before they can be sold again. That’s an extra bit of reassurance when navigating the wide world of refurbished products.
Of course, there’s a reason people are skeptical of these products, and you’re right to assume that shopping in the “refurbished” section comes with a few extra guidelines. You need to do more research before pulling the trigger, basically, but if researched diligently, steals can be had on MacBook Pros, Amazon Echoes, Bose QC35 wireless headphones, new 4K televisions — the possibilities are huge. Here’s what you need to know.
Open-box versus refurbished — what’s the difference?
Both terms essentially mean that the product has been returned. Open-box means that the product was most likely an unused return that’s in perfect condition. Refurbished means that the product was preowned and returned, and then inspected or repaired by a professional. These products might show minor wear, but otherwise they work as good as new.
Buy from well-known brands.
The more established the company you’re buying from, the better your chances of getting a quality refurbished electronic (meaning it’s been properly tested and comes with a long warranty). Apple, Dell, HP, Amazon and Nikon all have designated places on their sites for selling refurbished products.
Big retailers can be trusted, as well.
Best Buy is a good option because it has the manufacturer or an authorized repair center look at all the refurbished products it sells. If you’re looking for Apple devices, JemJem is a trusted online reseller that includes a 90-day warranty with all of its refurbished products. NewEgg is an authorized refurbisher of Microsoft electronics. For video games and consoles, GameStop is another solid retailer.
Warranties are key.
After purchasing, you want ample time to test the device to make sure it works properly. Certain companies, like Apple, offer year-long warranties on any refurbished products you buy directly from them — in Apple’s case, it’s the same-length warranty as Cupertino’s new products. The lowest warranty you should consider is 30 days; otherwise, you won’t have a long enough period to feel out any defects.
Check the return policy.
You should be cautious of websites and outlets that don’t accept returns or only have a short window for them. This gives you less time to realize if the product you just bought has a defect. A lot of places will lower prices exorbitantly, but also eliminate returns altogether. (eBay is notorious for this.)
(Reminder: A warranty and a return policy are two different things. A warranty ensures that if anything happens to the device in a given window of time, the company is required to fix and/or replace it. A return policy simply means that if you return the item within that window, the company will refund you.)