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How to buy refurbished gadgets

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Buying a refurbished tech product will save you money compared to buying it new. It also gives a device a second life instead of sending it off to be recycled. And especially during these times when demand is high for all kinds of tech, buying refurbished is sometimes the only way to get your hands on a product when retail channels are strained or just completely out of new merchandise.

Those are all good things — yet “refurbished” is still a loaded word for a lot of people. New means new, a product that nobody else has used. On the other hand, buying something refurbished can be a gamble, despite the fact that the product is probably more affordable.

If it has been refurbished, that likely means the product was either broken or roughed up enough to warrant a repair. It could also mean that whoever bought it simply decided they didn’t want it and returned it to the store. The definition of what makes for a refurbished product varies depending on the seller, though something that may ease some worry is that there are US laws that prevent once-used tech from being sold as new. We’ve seen it in action, too. In 2019, New York City filed a lawsuit against T-Mobile alleging that it had deceived buyers by selling used phones to customers who had paid for new ones.

Still, buying refurbished brings up a lot of questions. Did the original manufacturer refurbish the product, or was it done by a third-party company? Was the product restored to a like-new state, or will it look visibly used when you receive it? Was it professionally cleaned and sanitized, and does it come with new accessories? Does it have a warranty, and who will be accountable if it breaks?

It’s easy to see why a lot of people might prefer to just pay more for something new. However, it’s possible to both save money and not get swindled when buying refurbished products. Below, we’ve laid out some tips that you can follow when buying refurbished tech as well as links to trustworthy retailers. None of this is fail-proof, but it will make the process a lot safer — and you can end up with some great devices at lower prices.

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

What to look for when you want to buy refurbished

In general, if you purchase a refurbished product from its original manufacturer, it’s far less of a gamble than buying from a third-party retailer. The manufacturer is likely to have higher standards for refreshing and repackaging the product, and — crucially — should have access to authentic materials and components. But there are also many companies that exist solely to refurbish products, and they can do a good job, too. You’ll just need to be extra vigilant, ask the right questions, and make sure all of your questions get answered.

In other words, if you’re buying a refurbished product, it helps to have criteria. This will quickly become second nature once you start making a habit of looking at refurbished tech. Here are some questions to start with:

  • What condition is it in? Is it in like-new condition or somewhat used?
  • Does it come with all original accessories and documentation?
  • What kind of warranty does it have, and who is providing it?

The answers to those questions aren’t necessarily obvious. Sometimes, the product might be visibly damaged, come in a different box, or only have a six-month warranty. That’s alright, so long as you know in advance of buying it. In fact, you can often use this info to your advantage to save some money, as resellers may sometimes lower the cost if the product isn’t in perfect condition. You’ll just have to decide what you’re willing to settle for.

What is an open-box product?

Sometimes products will be listed as “open-box.” This term can mean something different depending on the retailer, but most use it to mean that the product was opened by a customer who bought it, then it was returned to the store in its original box with all of its accessories. In other words, it didn’t need to be refurbished because the assumption is that it either wasn’t used at all or was only used once and then repackaged. Generally, it’s safe to assume that an open-box product will in good condition, though it never hurts to ask for clarification or seek the info somewhere on the webpage.

Some people might feel iffy about buying refurbished earphones or other tech products you use in or on your ears.
Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

Is there anything that I shouldn’t buy refurbished?

Ultimately, that’s your call to make. Some staffers at The Verge make a sour face at the idea of using refurbished headphones, especially in-ear headphones. I think it’s natural to have that reaction, considering how intimately you would use a product like that. Many, but not all, companies thoroughly clean refurbished products before reselling them. Though, for some people, something that has been used that way is forever unclean.

In my opinion, the most important thing to make sure of when buying a refurbished product is that the warranty is good enough to support you if the device fails. And if the retailer says that your product will arrive in a clean, well-packaged state, make sure that what you receive is representative of their claims.

Update October 23rd, 4:05PM ET: This article was originally published on May 15th, 2020. Several of the entries have been updated, and the second half has been removed to create a new article.

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Charge Your Phone Wirelessly With 50% off a Multifunctional LED Lamp

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

White Wireless Charge Lamp | $18 | Amazon | Clip coupon + code ABC88699
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When you’re ready to turn in for the night, you don’t want to forget to charge your phone— especially if your mobile device doubles as your alarm clock.

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Don’t sleep on this deal! Who knows how long stock or the coupon code will last?

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Keep That Hotdish Hot With 65% Off a Luncia Casserole Carrier, Only $11 With Promo Code

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Luncia Double-Decker Dish Carrier | $11 | Amazon | Promo code SDDU9S7F

It has been a long time since the days we could safely have a potluck or other gatherings, but we have a fantastic deal perfect for once those times return. These double-decker Luncia dish carriers can be had for 65% off when you add promo code SDDU9S7F at checkout and clip the coupon on the site (it’s just below the price). These holders fit 9″x 13″ sized baking dishes.

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Just add promo code SDDU9S7F and clip the 5% off coupon to bring the price down to $11 for the blue or the grey option.

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Grab this offer while it’s still around!


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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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