Understanding Refurbished Electronics & How You Can Save Money

Understanding Refurbished Electronics & How You Can Save Money

Refurbished electronics can be a great way for you to save money and make the most of your technology investments. Refurbishment is the process by which products are sent back to the original manufacturer, repaired, tested for defects, and sold at a discounted price. Refurbished products are most often electronics: laptops, cell phones, televisions, and computers among them. However, there are a few things to keep in mind as you search for refurbished products.

For starters, there is a major difference between refurbished technology and used technology. Refurbished products have been properly tested, safely vetted against possible defects, and you can purchase them lower than retail value. Although they are technically “used,” they’ve undergone a thorough inspection process that puts them into a separate category.

Used Vs. Refurbished


While you can certainly purchase the same brand or similar brands as “used” via online marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist, there are some major differences. Used products should be purchased with caution, as they may have possible defects that the buyer isn’t aware of. For example, you might purchase a used iPhone that appears to be in working condition, but doesn’t last long because of water damage to the motherboard, which is naked to the untrained eye.


It’s fair to think of refurbished products in the same way you’d think of the used car market. Reputable dealerships can sell quality used cars, which are tested before they’re put out of the floor for potential buyers to see. Just because these cars aren’t coming directly from the assembly line and aren’t fresh on the market doesn’t mean they aren’t in great working condition.


Different Types of Refurbishment


Manufacturer refurbishment refers to products that are inspected and re-sold by the manufacturer, and typically follow stringent guidelines for re-selling. As the actual manufacturer of the device, there’s often no better company to test its effectiveness and usability. They understand the product better than anyone else and uphold a high standard level to maintain their brand’s reputation.


Third party refurbishing refers to products refurbished by a company other than the manufacturer. Of course, there are pros and cons to choosing a third party refurbishment service over one offered directly by the manufacturer. For starters, in many cases, a third party seller will sell a product cheaper than the manufacturer. Furthermore, some manufacturers--like Apple--will only refurbish their latest models. Because of this, if you had a tight budget and wanted to purchase an earlier version of a MacBook Pro, you wouldn’t be able to get a verified Apple-refurbished item.


On the other hand, guidelines for refurbishment may not always be as strong as those used by manufacturers. Warranty, though not always offered with refurbished products, tend to come with manufacturer refurbished items. However, on some sites like eBay, warranty is offered through third-party insurance companies like SquareTrade. As a safety precaution, always be sure to read the fine print for available tech insurance policies.


Seller refurbished is another category, and is the riskiest of all. Seller refurbished products refer to items refurbished by the individual seller themselves. The reason this is so risky is that there’s no verifiable way for consumers to gauge the quality of their services or replacement parts. Certainly, some independent refurbishers are good at what they do, but because they aren’t certified, it’s often a gamble the buyer takes.


It’s critical that you work with official refurbished companies—especially if you plan to use your refurbished tech for business. For example, if you’re on a lean startup budget, you’ll need to ensure the electronics you’re bringing on board are completely wiped and free of malware. In addition to choosing reputable sellers, you should work with a secure data storage and colocation company to protect the integrity of your personal and professional data.


Thanks to retail giant Amazon, vendors have also been added to the equation. Vendors are sellers on Amazon who ship independently of the company. Back in 2016, Amazon launched a program called “Certified Refurbished,” which qualified certain vendors to sell refurbished products with a stamp of approval.


The system was put in place to help restore confidence in buyers who are purchasing “used” goods. The criteria for passing as a “Certified Refurbished” vendor are strict. According to Amazon, “only select marketplace sellers and vendors who maintain a high quality and performance bar may offer Certified Refurbished products.”

Where do Refurbished Products Come From?


As previously mentioned, refurbished products are returned to the manufacturer, but these returns can happen from many different places. In many cases, they’re returned from the user. They could also be refurbished if the products were used in demonstrations, sales displays, and field tests, or products that were sent back to the manufacturer because the box or item was damaged during shipping. Sometimes, they also come from businesses who have downsized and returned some of their items.

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