Buying Guide: Refurbished Electronics
Updated: March 11, 2016

Buying Refurbished Electronics
What You Need to Know

Is buying a refurbish TV worth the risk?


The economy is still in a very bad state and we all want to make the most out of our hand-earned cash. It is therefore understandable that many in the market for an HDTV, Blu-ray payer, home theater system, or in that case any piece of electronic gear, are always looking for ways to strike a great deal with their purchase.

It is within this context that buying refurbs represent a possible option to knock a sizeable chunk out of the retail price. But...

Is buying refurbished electronics worth the risk of not buying something new?


Factory refurbished electronics at
buy from amazon

Buying Online: Are you looking for ways to save on your bigger purchase?

We are always looking for new ways to cut costs when planning a purchase, irrespective of whatever that purchase is.

It comes to no surprise therefore that seasonal and clearance sales are always on the agenda of bargain hunters. But sales do not take place all year round.

Is there an alternative option?

There is an even better option — and this is available all year round — especially when it comes to buying expensive electronics: Opt for a refurbished product.

You can expect savings of between 50% and 70% on refurbished products, including refurbished HDTVs. However, actual savings depend on a number of factors; in particular significant difference in pricing may result between 'factory refurbished' or factory-sealed refurbished products, and 'third-party refurbished' products.

Factory refurbished products sell at a higher price than third-party refurbished items but they still represent big savings. The irony is that despite these big savings, many newcomers to the world of refurbished electronics still find it difficult to buy a refurbished product for the first time. Why?

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Though there is no reason why the 'refurbished' tag should lead to a negative connotation, yet the reality is that few have an understanding of what actually constitutes refurbished electronics.

In this article, we explain what qualifies as 'refurbished' in the electronics world. In the process, we also present a set of guidelines to follow when buying refurbished products - guidelines that should help transform the risk into a smart buy.

Buying Refurbished Electronics: Not all refurbs are the same!

To the uninformed, buying a refurbished product may seem like a compromise; it is as if buying a car with dents and scratches on the paint-work, or unknown problems with the mechanics. However, in the electronics world, things are somewhat different. It is unfortunate that to many, it is not so obvious what the tag 'refurbished electronics' actually means.

As indicated in our introduction, a refurbished product can be either third-part refurbs or manufacturer (factory) refurbs. While third party refurbished electronics offer the biggest savings and do come with a warranty, only factory refurbished electronics come with a manufacturer warranty. However, most retailers offer an optional extended warranty on their refurb products.

For the smart shopper, buying factory-refurbished electronics—possibly with an extended warranty—is a way to enjoy considerable discounts and still have a product that is essentially 'like new'. However...

You need to exercise constant vigilance when buying refurbished electronics.

This is only possible if you have a thorough understanding of what the 'refurbished' tag, once assigned to an electronic product, implies.

What 'refurbished' products are not?

Before we delve further into what qualifies as refurbished electronics, it is important to understand what cannot be labeled as 'refurbished'. In particular, there is the misconception that the tags 'refurbished' and 'reconditioned' are one and the same thing.

A refurbished product may or may not have been installed, repaired, or slightly used, for reasons given further on in this article. On the other hand, a reconditioned item is a product that have been used over an extended period, often under lease, but was repaired/re-conditioned (not necessarily by the manufacturer) and resold by a retailer.

'Used' reconditioned products represent greater savings over refurbished units as these sell cheaper. But then such products constitute a higher risk. This risk is even more pronounced when dealing with expensive electronic products such HDTVs, home theater projectors, and the like. The major problem here is that you can never really tell what is the resultant impact on the aging of the respective electronic components inside the unit as a result of the previous use

We say: Be wary of such products. Instead, if you are after a smart buy and a great bargain, opt only for 'factory-certified' refurbished products. These still represent substantial savings over the normal retail price, and equally important, factory refurbs also come with a manufacturer's warranty.

So... what qualifies as 'Refurbished Electronics'?

In general, refurbished electronics are items that were returned for one reason or another, to the manufacturer. These items are then re-tested at the factory to make sure they are in tip-top shape. Any defective or damaged parts - if need be - will be replaced to restore the product to its original specification, and then the product is repackaged 'like new'.

However, consumer laws prevent manufacturers from selling anything considered factory refurbished electronics as 'new' since the original factory seal has been broken. Hence, these items are sold as 'refurbished products' often at deeply discounted prices.

More specifically, reasons for returns include:

Customer Return: Most major online retailers offer a 30-day money back guarantee; during this period, a customer may return the product for whatever reason and still get full refund. If there is nothing wrong with the product, most stores will simple reduce the price and resell it as an 'open box' special. However, if there is some sort of defect, the product is returned to the manufacturer were it is inspected and/or repaired, and then repackaged for sale as a refurbished item.

Shipping and Exterior Damage: These include damaged packaging due to mishandling, the elements, etc., in which case the product itself may be perfectly fine. These may also include minor damage to the product exterior casing, such as dents, scratches, etc., and any other exterior damage that would not affect product performance.

Retailers would normally return these products to the manufacturer.  The manufacturer would inspect the product, replace any damaged casing, etc., and then repackage the item just like new. However, these items cannot be sold as new; hence they are tagged as refurbished electronics.

Demonstration Units: Sometimes, demonstration units at major retail stores, trade shows, and even returned items by product reviewers, are often returned to the manufacturer where they are inspected and/or repaired if needed, and repackaged as refurbished units.

Opened Box: If a box was simply opened, the item is often returned to the manufacturer where it is re-tested and repackaged. Even though technically, there is no issue here, yet the item cannot be classified as new; instead, it will have to be sold as refurbished electronics.

Defects during Production: If a specific component is identified as defective once the product leaves the factory, a manufacturer may recollect a product from a specific batch or production run that exhibits the same defect. When this occurs, the manufacturer can decide to repair all returned defective units and send them back to retailers as refurbished units.

Overstock Items: While most retailers with an overstock of a particular item would simply reduce the price and put the item on sale for clearance, yet there are instances when a manufacturer wants to introduce a new model on the market at a time when there are still a substantial number of older models on stores shelves.

In these circumstances, the manufacturer may opt to collect any remaining stock of the older model and redistribute them to specific refurb resellers for quick clearance. Overstock items are brand new items; these can be sold either as 'special promos' for quick clearance, or can be labeled as refurbished electronics and sold at substantial discounts.


Tips for Buying Refurbished Electronics

It is clear that one can never know what was the exact origin or condition of a refurbished product; more specifically, what was the reason for that 'refurbished' tag. Therefore, do not assume anything when opting for a refurbished LCD TV, home theater systems, etc.; instead, take all the above possibilities into consideration.

At the same time, do not let this fact intimidate you from considering the option to buy refurbished. It does not take much to ensure that your refurbish electronic purchase would eventually represent as great a deal as possible. All you have to do is to ask yourself a few simple questions before committing to buy.

What to ask when buying a Refurbished Product:

  • Is it a factory-refurbished product?

  • Is the refurbished unit being sold by a manufacturer authorized dealer?

  • Does the refurbished unit have a valid U.S. warranty?
    At least it should come with a typical 45 to 90-day Parts and Labor warranty.

  • Has the refurbished item been originally intended for use within your market?

  • Does the retailer offer a return policy for the refurbished unit in case you are not completely satisfied with your purchase?
    Expect at least 15-days return policy. This is important so that you can inspect the product yourself before a final decision.

  • Is it possible to get an extended warranty for the refurbished item? This does not imply that you should purchase an extended warranty - rather it shows to what extent the retailer is ready to backup the refurbished product.


Do NOT proceed with your purchase of a refurbished electronic product unless the answers to at least the first five questions in the above list are all in the affirmative.

If the answer to all these six questions is positive, opting for a unit that has been designated as refurbished electronics may represent a smart move to enjoy a great product at a great price.

Yet there is more!

If the answers to the above suggest that the refurbished product may represents a smart buy, then

to strike the best deal, you need to act fast, but not too fast!

Fast... because with refurbished electronics, you cannot expect to simply walk into a store and pick up your favorite refurbished LCD TV or plasma unit off the shelf. Refurb retailers work with manufacturers and distributors to acquire as many products as possible, yet the quantity they acquire can vary from just a few units to a couple of hundred units.

In other words, you never really know how long will stocks last, and at the big savings associated with refurbished products, inventory levels change all the time. Additionally, you never know if a particular model will be available as refurbished item.

But... do not just jump on the first deal. Act too quick and you may equally miss on the right deal. Act only when you feel you have got the right product at the right price - provided you are completely satisfied with the retailer return policy and offered product warranty.

If the item is a factory refurbished product, comes at the right price, and carries a full manufacturer warranty, then... it is time to act!


Concluding Remarks

Up to the late 90s, buying a refurbished TV or some other electronic gear was more of a hit-and-miss affair, requiring bargain hunters to scan through mail-order catalogs and paper ads. The web had changed all this, with both small and large manufacturers and online retailers selling refurbished electronic products at an even lower price. Why?

Buying online has always been associated with an added price advantage, yet buying refurbished electronics online offers even further savings since online companies do not have the overheads of brick-and-mortar retail stores. Many are concerned that buying online may not be safe, yet to the informed, buying online is totally safe and secure.

This holds true as long as you follow through the steps detailed in this article and the guidelines on buying online expressed in our Buyer's Guide to Shopping Online.

One important thing to keep in mind when buying refurbished electronics is to ensure that you inspect the product in all its functionality within the return policy period. This is extremely important as with refurbished electronics, you are getting a bit of a hit on product warranty in that you are only getting a typical 90 days warranty against the one year or so associated with standard products.

Refurbished Electronics - Possible Online Sources

Up to no long ago, favorite with bargain hunters were Second Act and RefurbDepot.com - with their continued updated stock of clearance and refurbished products. Unfortunately, Second Act has succumbed to the bad economy and the RefurbDepot stock is no longer what it used to be. Yet there is still one more good online source - amazon.com.

Refurbished products at amazon are normally sold through third-party re-sellers rather than direct by amazon. You can search the amazon storefront for refurbs by clicking on the following link:

Search for factory refurbished electronics at amazon.com


This is all it takes to transform the slightly higher risk associated with buying refurbs, into a great buy - one which results in a big reduction in price.

And in the end... you would still get a 'like new' item.

Happy bargain hunting!










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 Article Content

Issues discussed in this article:

Blue bullet  Ways to save money: Saving on the bigger purchase

Blue bullet  Buying refurbs: Not all refurbs are the same!

Blue bullet  What qualifies as refurbs? Reasons behind the refurbished product label

Blue bullet  Refurbs buying tips for a smart buy

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