Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
Buying a refurbished device rather than one that’s brand-new can save you a ton of money. However, these products don’t usually get the spotlight from retailers like Best Buy, Amazon, or B&H Photo. You also won’t find them sitting on the homepage of Apple, Google, Nintendo, Sonos, or Olympus, to name a few. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find refurbs on these sites.
First, a quick description of what “refurbished” means. 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.
For more information on what defines a refurbished product, and what is the best strategy when shopping for refurbished devices and other items, check out our guide:
Meanwhile, if you’ve decided you’d like to save a bit of cash by buying refurbished, here are some places to try.
Best Buy’s Outlet, as it’s called, is the retailer’s dedicated site for refurbished tech. Here’s Best Buy’s claim for its refurbs:
Refurbished products have been repaired and restored to like-new condition. All parts and accessories that would have been included with the original product are present, and our thorough inspection process ensures that the product is clean and in working condition.
Products purchased through the Outlet are subject to Best Buy’s standard return policy. In terms of warranty coverage, it says that refurbished products sold through its Outlet “often include a limited warranty through Best Buy.” Given that it doesn’t broadly give all refurbished products a warranty, it’s worth investigating a product before you buy it.
You can also browse for the product you’re actually looking for on Best Buy’s website, then scroll down the page until you see the “Buying Options” tab. Click it to see some other, more affordable options for buying similar devices. Sometimes, what you’ll see are refurbs, but most of the time, they are simply open-box returns.
Amazon Warehouse is the section of the retailer’s site dedicated to used, refurbished products — or “renewed,” as Amazon calls it. If you shop regularly for tech on Amazon, you stand to save some money here. Here is the fine print from Amazon on its renewed devices:
[Amazon Renewed products] have been professionally inspected and tested to work and look like new by Amazon-qualified and performance-managed suppliers. The inspection and testing process typically includes a full diagnostic test, replacement of any defective parts, and a thorough cleaning process carried out by the supplier, or by Amazon. The products have no visible cosmetic imperfections when held 12 inches away. The products may be packaged in a generic box and come with the accessories expected for a new product, with exceptions, if any, mentioned on the product detail page.
You can discover renewed products for lots of tech products here. You can also find Warehouse deals by looking into the “used” options on the product page of the device you’re interested in. If Amazon offers a refurbished or used option, it will be listed right at the top. In the “condition” section listed next to the price, it will include any disclaimers you should be aware of in relation to the product’s condition.
Amazon also owns a company called Woot that often hosts appealing deals on refurbished tech. That site is usually upfront about warranty information for each device, as well as the condition that it’s in. Woot applies a 90-day limited warranty to most of its products, though you can purchase a SquareTrade protection plan at checkout.
eBay recently launched a new certified refurbished program, which provides a two-year warranty from Allstate for each product listed. The online seller promises hassle-free returns if you’re unhappy with the purchase or a money-back guarantee if your item arrives in a condition that doesn’t match the listing description. You can find Bose, Acer, iRobot, Lenovo, Razer, and other products on its refurbished page, and eBay guarantees that you’ll get new accessories, new manuals, and manufacturer-sealed packaging with each purchase.
Apple has one of the best refurbishment programs around. All of the products sold as refurbished will arrive in “like new” condition with at least 15 percent in savings compared to the cost of a brand-new device. Products will ship in a white box with all of the original accessories. In addition to having a one-year warranty, you can purchase AppleCare for your refurbished purchase. Just to give you an idea of the level of care Apple puts into its refurbs: it replaces the battery and the outer shell of all iOS devices.
Google sells a few refurbished devices (when this was written, it was just selling the Pixelbook and a three-pack of Google Wifi mesh routers) through its Google Store. It says that these products are in like-new condition and have been cleaned and repaired. They come with a one-year warranty directly through Google.
Sonos sells refurbished audio products on its site, each of which comes with a one-year warranty from the company and a 45-day money-back guarantee. Additionally, Sonos says each product has received internal and external cleaning and inspection and comes in a brand-new box with all original accessories and cables.
Nintendo usually sells refurbished Nintendo Switch consoles through a page that’s somewhat hidden. When this was written, it was sold out due to the demand spurred on by the coronavirus pandemic. In normal situations, you’d be able to save some money on a refurbished unit. Here’s what Nintendo says of its process for refurbishment:
The Nintendo Switch is now available as an Authentic Nintendo Refurbished set only from Nintendo, and it comes with our standard one year warranty. Although it may have minor cosmetic blemishes, it is guaranteed to be fully functional. We think you will find the standards for Authentic Nintendo Refurbished Products are VERY high.
Microsoft now has a part of its store dedicated to products that it refurbished. There, you’ll find the likes of the latest Surface Pro and Surface Go tablets, along with other Surface products, like its laptops, all-in-one desktops, and more. Microsoft says that people who buy refurbished products get the same kind of tech support as those who purchase new products. Importantly, all of its refurbished products include a one-year warranty with the option to extend it at a cost.
BackMarket is one of many online storefronts that sells refurbished tech at steeply discounted prices. Each product page clearly lists what condition the device is in, what kind of warranty it comes with, and exactly which refurbishment company helped to restore it. It’s one of the more transparent resellers, and it offers one-year warranties on all of its products with a 30-day money-back guarantee on purchases if you aren’t happy.
The chances are in your favor that your favorite brand sells refurbished tech. I was in the market for a desktop graphics card upgrade recently, and I found that both EVGA and Zotac had a steady flow of refurbished (sometimes referred to as B-stock) graphics cards. The odds were also in my favor when I was looking for refurbished lenses for my Olympus camera. Nikon offers its own refurbished products, too. Just search!
It’s possible that some brands don’t offer their own dedicated shop for refurbished goods. In that case, sites like Decluttr, Daily Steals, and others offer refurbs — and usually with a good warranty. If you’re just looking for secondhand products that, in most cases, haven’t been restored, check out Swappa.
Update October 23rd, 4:05PM ET: This article was originally part of an article entitled “How to buy refurbished products,” published on May 15th, 2020. Several of the entries have been updated.