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I bought refurbished AirPods Pro for $168. Should you do the same? – CNET

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My refurbished AirPods Pro arrived in mint condition. Your mileage may vary.
Rick Broida/CNET

I work from home. Outside my window on any given day, there are lawnmowers, construction tools, barking dogs and the like, all making it hard to concentrate. I’d heard Apple’s AirPods Pro ($249 at Apple) were borderline magical in their noise-canceling capabilities, but $250? No. Nuh-uh. (For what it’s worth, the best deal right now: $220 at Verizon. Still too pricey for me.)

Then I spotted a pretty compelling sale: eBay merchant Vipoutlet was (and once again is) offering AirPods Pro for $230, with an automatically applied coupon for 15% off and then another 20% off with promo code PICKVIP. (Both of these are available for a limited time only.) Final price after all that: $168. That’s a hefty $81 off and much more palatable to my cheapskate sensibilities. The catch? The earbuds are refurbished. Grade-A, like-new refurbished, but still. The ick-factor alone is a key reason CNET’s Jason Cipriani advises against buying used earbuds.

I decided to buy them anyway, in part because I was curious — what does “like new” really look like? — and in part because I knew that the ear tips could easily be replaced. That’s the main “ick” part, after all, so if they showed up looking gross, I could buy replacement AirPods Pro ear tips for just $8 (and still be way ahead, price-wise).

Here’s what happened, and this comes with a big old “your mileage may vary” caveat: The AirPods arrived utterly indistinguishable from new. Everything appeared in mint condition: box, power cord, instructions, charging case and, most important of all, the AirPods themselves. The ear tips looked pristine, like they’d never been touched (let alone inserted).

I did have a tense moment when I thought the case wasn’t charging properly, but that’s because the charging LED turns off after a few seconds — which, ahem, makes zero sense, Apple, and isn’t noted in the manual.

As for the AirPods, I must admit the noise canceling is pretty amazing. That lawnmower droning away outside my window? I could barely hear it once I put the earbuds in. And with some music playing quietly, I felt like I was inside a soundproof bubble.

All told, I came away with good-as-new AirPods Pro for $168. The warranty is only 90 days, but I choose to be optimistic.

Read more: 6 great AirPods Pro alternatives that cost less

If you’re open to the idea of buying refurbished AirPods yourself, here’s what I recommend.

Start with eBay. Although Vipoutlet’s deal will likely sell out (or expire) again soon, there are many other sellers with refurbished AirPods Pro auctions. You should be able to find something in the same ballpark, price-wise.

Check the seller ratings. The latter deal comes from Mac.forever, which has 99.8% positive feedback from over 2,700 customers — more than ample proof this is a reputable merchant. If you’re seeing an unusually good deal on AirPods and the seller has only a handful of ratings, that’s a big red flag. Look elsewhere.

Note the warranty and return policy. I felt comfortable ordering from Vipoutlet because of its 30-day money-back guarantee, zero restocking fee and free returns via prepaid label. I already mentioned the 90-day warranty, which is to be expected for a third-party refurb. But if you’re looking at a warranty that’s only, say, 30 days, I’d steer clear.

Be prepared to buy new ear tips. As noted above, Apple proper sells a set for $8. There are third-party options as well, like these memory-foam AirPods Pro ear tips for $12. They’re black, not white, and therefore less likely to start looking yucky from ear gunk.

There are other potential sources besides eBay, of course. You could try Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, but neither one offers any kind of buyer protection — and AirPods sold there are likely to be straight-up used, not refurbished, meaning no pro-level cleaning or inspection.

You could also try a reseller service like Back Market, which currently offers refurbished AirPods Pro for $191. That’s for “mint” condition, and you get a full 12-month warranty.

Here’s my question: Would you consider buying refurbished AirPods? If you’ve already done so, hit the comments and tell me how it worked out!

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CNET’s Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on tech products and much more. For the latest deals and updates, follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and check out our CNET Coupons page for the latest promo codes from Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon and more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page.

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