What to Know Before Buying Refurbished Electronics

by Matt B

teeveeMy T.V. broke last week.  Well, not so much broke as much as nearly every color is faded so much that even the brightest of shows and movies are almost black.  It is not an old set (about 4 years), but it is on much of the time.  I’m not really sure, but it could be my fault.  I frequently watched HD channels, even though it was not a HD set.

I am not going to go out and buy a brand new TV, despite the constant urge, while I watch the 19″ baby-sized set sitting on my entertainment center.  Instead, I will save (slowly) for a new one.  It will probably take a few months to set aside what I need for a new set.  Luckily, my birthday is in August (hint hint).  So perhaps I will be surprised with a beautiful new display then…probably just wishful thinking.

Birthday wishes aside, when I do purchase a new set, I have decided to go Refurbished.  I realize the mental pictures that arise when refurbished electronics are mentioned, so I want to set the record straight.

What exactly does refurbished mean?

Refurbished products end up available to consumers any number of ways, most of which people do not realize.

  • Customer Returns:
  • Many “refurbished” products are simply unwanted products that have been returned to the store.  They are then shipped back to the manufacturer, and after inspection, they are sold at a discount as refurbished products.  Though some of these products are not in proper working condition, most of them were returned with something easily repairable by the manufacturer or in perfect condition.

  • Damages
  • The product may be a “scratch and dent” with slight cosmetic damage or maybe the box was damaged during shipping (with no evidence on the product itself).  Whatever the case, all damage is carefully inspected before the product reaches shelves again.  Open boxed items also frequently end up being sold as refurbished items.

  • Floor Models
  • The computers, televisions, video game systems, Ipods and every other piece of electronic equipment used as display models in a store are either sold by the store “as-is” or shipped back to the manufacturer.  Those shipped back to the manufacturer are often cleaned up, inspected and then sold as a refurbished item.

  • Overstock
  • Last years model or an older version of a piece of electronics equals less demand from consumers (unless it is an older version of Windows).  Even if the box has never been opened, some of these models will end up being resold as refurbished.

    Buyer Beware

    When buying refurbished, a pleasant experience is not always a guarantee.  However, there are ways to ease your risk and get the best deal.

  • Warranty availability
  • Buying refurbished items may nullify or shorten normal warranty availability.  Make sure to take warranty into consideration when shopping.

  • Return Policy
  • If there is a strict “no returns” policy, walk away from the deal.  Because there is a slightly elevated risk of error with your new toy, you must at the very least assure that you have an option to return it if it does not work properly.  Just because it is refurbished does not mean it can not be tested.

  • Repairs
  • Most companies that sell major electronics seem (in my experience) to be pretty good about repairing and replacing their products.  Some so not even require the warranty to be active, though these are few and far between.  Some companies are more than willing to service your refurbished items, and some will avoid it as if they did not even make the item.  The best way to find out if your refurbished products are serviceable is to call the manufacturer and ask how they treat repairs on refurbs.  This will work best if you are buying directly from the manufacturer.

    While there is some risk associated with buying refurbished products, there are ways to reduce risk and make the savings worthwhile.  Researching policies and asking important questions can save money and protect your purchase.  It is important to know what comes (or is excluded) with the price.

    For specific information on purchasing refurbished products, check out these articles:
    Gizmodo’s-Why you should buy a refurbished laptop
    Practical Home Theater Guide-Is buying a refurbished LCD TV worth the risk?

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    May 30, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    Sean May 18, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Great post! I agree 100% Not enough people buy refurbished items unfortunately… I have literally saved hundreds, if not thousands of dollars going the refurb route. The following are a few of my refurb items: Air filter (3m), 3g Iphone, wow I thought I had way more off the top of my head… I know there are at least 4 more that were expensive, but I can’t remember.

    Funso Agunbiade August 3, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Hello,
    I need information on how refurbish items are packed?

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