Having once been a college student myself, I fully understand the need and want, to save as much money as possible. But in order to do so, buying attractive electronics may not be in your best interest. Most new products are rather unaffordable. So what is one to do? You see where this going. Buying refurbished items is an excellent way to get what you want without draining your bank account. Having said that, however, it is very important to educate yourself as a consumer.

What is a Refurbished Product?

To refurbish something literally means to renovate, or redecorate something. A refurbished product, in this context, is an item that has been returned for any number of reasons. It could be due to damaged packaging, effected aesthetics, or the customer may have had a change of heart. These damages could be so minute that they have no real consequences on the actual functionality of the product itself. However, once a product has been returned it cannot be sold as new anymore.

The manufacturer, or seller, checks the returned product thoroughly and makes any necessary repairs. The product is then cleaned, a full factory reset is done where appropriate, and finally the product is repackaged. More of often than not, the device is as good as new after refurbishing. You can expect the functionality of the product to be close to on par with a new device that would last you just as long.

In fact, a product that has truly been refurbished should function as a new unit. There shouldn’t be any discernible difference between a refurbished model and a new model, other than price and cosmetics.

Careful, ‘Refurbished’ Can Mean Different Things

While refurbished always refers to an item that has been inspected and repaired, the amount of work put into this can vary in important ways. Retailers may say different things when they list a product as refurbished.

Factory, or manufacturer-refurbished products are likely to be the best. But they are also the most expensive. It is best to keep in mind a few general terms used to describe refurbished products:

Refurbished: A product restored to like-new condition, though the definition of “like-new condition” varies. If an item has be refurbished by a third party, the amount work put in may not be as detailed. They may just have looked at the product quickly before putting it back up for sale.
Certified: These are products that have been tested to ensure they’re in good working condition. However, they are not usually repaired for any damages. As with refurbished, the definition of “good working order” can vary.
Pre-owned: While some refurbished products are merely returned or damaged items that have been repaired, others may have actually been used. Don’t be afraid, a used product isn’t necessarily bad so long as they have been refurbished properly. However, you can expect to see some usual cosmetic wear and tear that comes with using anything.

Examples

Below, I have given you a few examples of reputable brands and purchasing refurbished products. Several of the mega retailers like Amazon, Best buy, and Ebay, also sell items at excellent discount prices. These items are restored to like new condition, although they usually do not come with a warranty. Bear in mind, however, that not every refurbished product has gone through the same level of care that some of the larger brands ensure. Many retailers don’t actually do much to explain what repairs the product has received at all. As a consumer, the onus is on you to be an educated and careful shopper. You must know what you’re buying before you pay.

Apple: iPhone

Let’s take the Apple iPhone as an example. A refurbished iPhone is inspected, repaired, and given a new battery and outer shell. Such upgrades are crucial when you are buying refurbished electronics. A phone is especially prone to damage with use, and batteries do wear out with age.

An iPhone that has been refurbished by Apple should also come in a new box, with all of its original accessories, plus the same 1-year warranty that a new product would get. In this sense then, there should be no apparent difference between buying a brand new iPhone and a refurbished one.

Apple’s quality promise states:

Refurbished iOS devices will come with new battery and outer shell. Every device will come with all accessories, cables and operating systems. All Apple Certified Refurbished products are packaged in a brand new white box and will be sent to you with free shipping and returns.

Apple: Mac

The first thing you ought to do before buying a refurbished Mac is to check the specifications. An older model may still have all the latest components. Of course, this does depend on what you may need individually. Nonetheless, the age shouldn’t immediately be the deciding factor. Apple is known for consistent updates and renovations, which means that you can find some great older refurbished options.

Apple states the following:

Every Apple Certified Refurbished product completes a rigorous refurbishment process that includes full testing that meets the same functional standards as new Apple products. Your refurbished device is truly “like new,” with special savings of up to 15%

You will receive a “like new” device with genuine Apple replacement parts (as needed) that has been thoroughly cleaned and inspected. We back this quality commitment by including our standard one-year limited warranty with every Apple Certified Refurbished product. You also have the option of getting additional coverage by purchasing AppleCare products

Buying From Vendor

Remember that refurbished Macs, when bought from reputable vendors, often come with the same one-year warranty you would get if you were buying a new one. So, you can return a Mac bought from the Refurbished Store within 14 days. However, keep in mind that the only way to do this is through post. Apple does not actually accept refurbished returns at a physical Apple store.

If you are not buying a refurbished product by Apple, then it would be advisable to seek out a shop that’s certified as an Apple Premium Reseller. These certified resellers will try to match the quality of service you would get if you went to an Apple Store. Moreover, prices may be cheaper than buying directly from Apple itself. In fact, I got my Mac from a certified Apple store, and it is great. Works excellently.

Look out for Premium Resellers having special events and discounts. Resellers sometimes offer good discounts on older models right after a new model launches.

Samsung Galaxy Smartphone

Samsung sells its refurbished models as “certified pre-owned.”  While this mean that these phones have only been inspected, they are usually considered to be refurbished. This is because Samsung rebuilds the whole handset and also replaces all damaged parts.

Unlike the iPhone, they do not promise a new battery or outer shell. Nonetheless, they are usually in pretty great condition. But like Apple, Samsung gives you your refurbished product in a new box with all of the original accessories plus a 1-year warranty.

Dell

Dell sells certified refurbished items through the Dell Outlet. This is great because unlike a lot of other sites, Dell gives you details on each product. They tell you whether the product has been unopened, used and refurbished, or cosmetically damaged. In all three cases, you can expect the product to come with the same warranty that Dell offers on similar new products. You can also return your refurbished purchase within 30 days, free of shipping costs.

Hewlett-Packard & Lenovo

You can trust HP’s refurbished products. From the HP Business Outletyou can buy refurbished, as well as overstock, and closeout deals. All of these products also come with a 1-year warranty.

Lenovo is also trustworthy. Using their Outlet Deals, you should expect to find some good refurbished products here. Lenovo does do minor cosmetic damage repair, and these products are also backed by a 1-year warranty.

Buying Refurbished Smartphones in General

Although there are a ton of cheap models to choose from, it is very tempting to buy a nice expensive smartphone. But refurbished smartphones are literally everywhere when a new model is released. You can find discounts ranging anywhere between 20% to 50%, so it is definitely worth giving refurbished smartphones a shot.

You should look for phones that are between one and two years old, but nothing older than three. Older phones may not be able to run the latest versions of Android or iOS, and may not receive security updates. Having said that, legacy models are significantly cheaper.

Battery:

You also need to be wary of battery life. Lithium-ion batteries naturally wear out over time. So old phones have aged batteries, which poses problems. Some refurbished phones will get replacement batteries before they are resold, but some will not. As mentioned above, I believe Apple is the only retailer that guarantees a new battery. I would recommend doing your research on what retailers provide battery replacements for phones.

Cosmetics:

Now, while you can expect your refurbished item to look a bit worn, you must further inspect it to ensure that any scratches you see are purely cosmetic damages. In other words, look for superficial damage.

Usually, when the product has been refurbished by a third party, people complain about scratches on the camera lens. If you find significant damage, ensure that you return the product before its official return period is over.

A Guide to Buying Refurbished Product,  Everything You Need to Know About Buying Refurbished Electronics, is refurbished good or badBuying Refurbished Tablets

Discounts on tablets are not as high as smartphones, but a lot of the newer models are sold as refurbished products. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that newer tablets can be painfully expensive. So, by buying a refurbished model, you could save anywhere between 15% to 30% on both, old and new models. Patience is key when it comes to tablets.

Unlike phones, refurbished tablets don’t invade the market every time a new model is released. Instead, you have to keep your eyes peeled for refurbished tablet deals. This is because tablets simply don’t get upgraded as often as phones do, so they don’t really have a predictable schedule in this sense.

I think it goes without saying, as soon as you receive your product, always make sure you inspect it thoroughly and ensure that it works properly. If you do find faults, keep in mind that you must return the tablet within its specified return period.

Release Date/Model Number:

What you also want to do is look for the original release date/model number. This way you can judge whether or not your refurbished tablet is relatively old. However, some tablets may not be numbered, which makes it slightly harder to discern the old from the new. Take Apple for instance, all of their different iPad’s are called iPad, making it a bit confusing when you’re looking for a refurbished tablet. In some cases, you might actually find tablets labelled as being newer models. It would be wise not to trust these labels, and further conduct your own inspection by looking for the release date/model number.

Tablets do have bigger batteries than phones, so you can expect them to have better battery lives even if they are slightly older. Plus,  one is less likely to use a tablet as often as a phone, naturally. As such, I wouldn’t worry too much about a slightly worn out battery.

Things To Look Out For

If you have found a refurbished product through a third-party on eBay, Amazon or on some other part of the internet, here are the two main red flags you should look out for:

1. No Warranties or Guarantees

This one is a bad sign. If the retailer offers no option for you to return the product, it typically means that something is wrong with it. Don’t purchase any refurbished products that do not offer a warranty.

2. No Pictures

Would you rent an apartment without seeing pictures? No, obviously. No one buys anything without at least seeing some pictures.

Final Tips

Reviews: Read reviews online. This is generally a good way to get an overall picture of the product.

Research/Compare prices: Check out the difference between refurbished and brand new. If the discount is less than 10%, it may not be worth the risk to buy the refurbished product.

Warranty: Most products should come with their original warranty. Find out whether you get a new one, as in a renewed period, or whether it is an extension from the old one. Naturally, also find out how long the warranty period is.

Know Your Retailer: Buying from trusted retailers is a practical approach in order to avoid getting stuck with a terrible return policy. You can also expect to trust the quality of the product on average.

Ask About Battery Replacement: If the product you are considering is more than 3 years old, you should inquire about whether the battery has ever been replaced.

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