How to Buy Refurbished Products

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Betting her pet photography business would rebound after the pandemic, Denver-based photographer Karen Hoglund began upgrading her tools in the spring of 2021, including cameras, a desktop computer, and software. Her budget, however, didn’t leave much room for the MacBook Pro laptop she wanted for home visits with clients. So she turned to OWC, a website she had used before, where she found a refurbished one for half the price of a new model.

Refurbished products are becoming increasingly popular among budget-conscious and environmentally conscious consumers. “Buying refurbished not only allows consumers to buy a great product at a great price, but [it’s also] a way to reduce your environmental impact by using a device that has been given a second life,” explains Serge Verdoux, commercial director of Back Market, an online marketplace for refurbished electronics.

“Our raison d’être is to create a ‘like new’ shopping experience for used goods,” says Barruch Ben-Zekry, Managing Director and Founder of Out&Back, an outdoor equipment buying platform. looks new and used. The trick to buying something refurbished is knowing what you want and who you are buying from. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Learn the lingo. A “refurbished” item – sometimes called refurbished, refurbished, recertified, or remanufactured – is a product that was either used or used as a show model, then restored to working condition and sold at a discounted price. “Open box” means someone purchased the item and returned it – barely touched – to the store or manufacturer. Typically, refurbishments are classified as being in “excellent”, “good” or “fair” condition. You’ll want to check the seller’s site for category definitions.

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Know where to look. To verify, or These companies vet and select vendors. Manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung, Dell, HP and Dyson also sell refurbished products, although some sites make it difficult to find them, as they naturally want you to buy new. To save time, search for the name of a company and “renovate”. Retailers such as Amazon (under “Amazon Renewed”), Best Buy, and Target are also worth checking out. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

You can also find specialty refurbishment marketplaces: Out&Back, for example, sticks to outdoor gear, while GoodBuy Gear focuses on baby and kids’ items. Scott Henke of Onsite Consulting in Denver advises considering reputable local businesses with brick-and-mortar storefronts. “These are places you can come back to if something goes wrong, and you know they’ll refund you if you’re not happy,” says Henke, whose company has refurbished and sold more than 2,100 computers in the world. course of the last three years.

Buy with confidence. Sure, you can get a deal on eBay or Craigslist, but buying from a professional manufacturer or restorer should ensure that the item and all accessories have been cleaned, parts replaced, and the item reconditioned. . Computers will have had their data erased and their keyboards and batteries inspected. They are often loaded with updated software. If even a component cannot be repaired, it is not offered for sale. In short: it is 100% functional.

Note whether the refurbishment is “certified”, which means the product has passed rigorous testing and meets certain standards, such as replacing batteries if their charge is less than 80% of their original capacity, says Simo Elalj, founder of RefurbMe, a clearinghouse for refurbished Apple products. Plus, you’re protected by both a warranty and a return policy.

Get the most for your money. Discounts vary, but can range from around 15-60% or more, depending on the age and cosmetic condition of the item. The newer the product, the smaller the discount. “Yet a five-year-old computer is like new for a third at half the cost,” says Henke. “It may not be as fast as the last model, but most consumers won’t notice the difference between half a second and a second to complete a task.” Back Market sets limits on the age of the products it sells, Verdoux says. The sweet spot for many electronic devices is around five years, as computers and smartphones much older than that may no longer be compatible with current apps. However, for outdoor or baby gear, older items that haven’t seen much use and are in pristine condition can earn you a lot.

Read the description carefully. As with any purchase, it’s all about combing through the details. While sites may list item highlights in an easy-to-read format, it’s essential to go through the full description and inspect each image. If an article has a specs list, read that too, as you can gather important information, such as a device’s operating system and software. “It’s okay to ask the seller questions,” Ben-Zekry says. “For example, ‘Tell me more about the condition.’ ”

Understand your return options. When you buy something that has been refurbished, make sure the product has at least a one-year warranty in case something goes wrong. No guarantee? Go away. Henke warns that some computers look great in photos, but could be damaged by water, causing them to shut down after delivery. You also want to know the seller’s return policy. Back Market has a 30 day no questions asked policy. Out&Back offers the same. Avoid products shipped from overseas, as it can be difficult to return them if something goes wrong, Elalj says.

Shop beyond electronics. Although smartphones and computers make up the bulk of the home improvement market, there are other options. You’ll find premium Bluetooth headphones and earphones (meticulously cleaned and sanitized), e-bikes and scooters, drones, GPS watches, air purifiers, security cameras and more. Out&Back offers refurbished tents, backpacks, sleeping bags and outdoor clothing such as insulated jackets, shells and ski/snow pants. GoodBuy Gear stocks strollers, nursery furniture and more. Hoglund even found factory-refurbished photography lights.

Take your time. Knowing the exact configuration and specs of that MacBook Pro she wanted allowed Hoglund to bide her time until the right one showed up. “Think exactly what you want,” she says. “You don’t have to settle for the first object you see.” Sites like RefurbMe allow you to set alerts when a specific item becomes available or a price drops. You can even set up alerts across multiple sites so you can compare products and prices.

Denver-based writer Laura Daily specializes in consumer advocacy and travel strategy. Find it on

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