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The Top Brands for Refurbished Electronics Offer Discounts of Up to 50%

With millions of tons of electronics being thrown away each year, buying refurbished items is a greener choice. Follow our refurb advice, and you'll pick up quality tech for cheap.
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Here at DealNews, we tend to see a lot of deals on refurbished electronics. Short of finding a working 60" HDTV on the side of the road (which has only ever happened to one person that we know of), buying refurbished is the best way we know to get absolute lowest prices on good-as-new electronics.

But most shoppers tend to have a million dollars worth of questions about refurbs: What is a refurbished unit? Why buy refurbished items instead of new ones? Which brands have the best track records on refurbs? Is there anything you shouldn't buy refurbished? Curious to know the answers? Read on for our in-depth look at all-things refurb.

Why Buy Refurbished?

Lots of people shy away from refurbished items because they think "refurbished" means "used." While some disreputable third-party sellers may try to pass off used units as refurbished, a true refurb usually falls into one of four categories, according to Lifehacker: a purchased item that was opened and then returned; a unit that arrived at the store with packaging or exterior damage; a demo unit; or an item that was returned to the manufacturer because of a production defect. Regardless of why the item came back to the manufacturer, "once a product is returned, it's inspected and deemed ready for sale again ... It can't be sold as new, so it's sold as refurbished for a fraction of the cost."

Of course, the great value isn't the only reason to buy refurbished; you'll also be doing the environment a favor. "People in the United States threw away almost 3 million tons of electronics in 2006," read an article for How Stuff Works. "Those machines carry lead and other toxic materials, which are health hazards, but they can also contain gold, silver, copper, and even platinum." By always buying new electronics, we contribute to the costly and polluting processes that go into mining all those precious metals. It's a small step, but buying refurbs is a much greener way to enjoy the latest tech.

Now let's take a look at which brands offer the best refurbished items.

Apple Refurbished Items Really Are As Good As New

Apple is the gold standard of refurbished items. During its rigorous refurbishing process, Apple "replaces defective parts, replaces the outer shell of all of the devices, puts in a new battery, and even tacks on a renewed standard 1-year warranty," according to Technology Tell. Factory-refurbished Macs and iDevices are so impressive, one CNET blogger recommends always buying refurbished Apple products instead of new ones, because he "thinks most Apple hardware is overpriced — and sees refurbs as a rare opportunity to get it for less."

How much less? As of this writing, the Apple Store's refurbished section currently offers previous-generation iPads at discounts of up to 34% off, MacBook Air laptops for up to 29% off, Apple TV media players for 24% off, and iPod touch MP3 players for up to 26% off list price.

Dell and HP Refurbs Stand Out

Although several PC manufacturers sell refurbished units through their own outlet sites, only Dell's and HP's sites are recommended by Consumer Reports. Of these two manufacturers, we tend to see a ton of coupons for Dell's outlet site, taking 15% to 40% off laptops, desktops, tablets, and monitors. HP's outlet site also has a wealth of discounts on its goods. However, be aware that you probably won't be able to customize the system configuration of that refurbished PC you're looking at, and "you don't get the latest and greatest specs on a refurb, even a good one," according to CNET.

Save a Bundle on Electronics Refurbished by Sony

Another manufacturer that's recommended by Consumer Reports, Sony's refurbished items can be hard to find on its store website. In our experience, the easiest way to see the whole selection is to simply search for "refurbished." That said, as of this writing you can save up to 50% off list price on refurbished VAIO laptops, up to 48% off on cameras and camcorders, and up to 32% off on PS3 consoles, though stock is very limited.

Picture-Perfect Prices on Canon Refurbs

Although Canon wasn't specifically recommended by any one publication, the camera manufacturer does have an above-par refurbishing process, including "rigorous function and cosmetic inspections ... performed by trained Canon technicians." All factory-refurbished Canon equipment comes with a 1-year warranty and appropriate accessories, and refurbished printers include brand-new new ink tanks or cartridges. As of this writing, you can save up to 45% off list price on refurbished digital cameras, lenses, and camcorders in Canon's refurbished section.

Authorized Resellers Offer Bargains You Can Trust

Although you can save a ton by purchasing factory-refurbished items direct from the manufacturer, in many cases you can get an even better deal by picking up a refurb from an authorized reseller. And there's an easy way to tell if the merchant you're looking at is an authorized reseller: check the manufacturer's website, and see whether the warranty is backed by the manufacturer.

Depending on the brand, well-rated authorized resellers include Amazon, Newegg, Target, and Crutchfield. Be wary of refurbished units sold on marketplace sites like eBay and Rakuten Shopping; unless the third-party seller is listed as an authorized reseller on the manufacturer's website, you could be getting a used item, a grey market item, or even a knock-off.

refurbished items

When Shouldn't I Buy A Refurb?

Refurbished. Reconditioned. Remanufactured. We see a lot of names for refurbs, and they're generally all referring to the same class of products. At least, that's the case when you're dealing with manufacturer-refurbished items. As you may have surmised, here at DealNews we identify these items by calling them "factory-refurbished." These refurbs were inspected and/or repaired by the manufacturer and come with a manufacturer's warranty. However, not all refurbished items are created equal.

We also see deals for items that were refurbished by a third party. With these items, the old legal adage caveat emptor (meaning "let the buyer beware") is critical advice. Our editorial guarantee says we'll never list a deal from a disreputable seller, but even good merchants occasionally sell low-quality refurbs with no warranty.

To protect yourself from low-quality refurbs, consumers should only buy a third-party refurb with both a warranty and return policy; ideally, the warranty should be backed by the manufacturer as well. Furthermore, you should read the listing carefully to see whether you'll receive all the accessories, cords, and manuals that normally come with a new unit. Above all else, "avoid buying refurbished products 'as is,'" with no warranty and no chance to return it if the item turns out to be defective.

There's no reason to shun refurbished items. Many of the all-time price lows we've seen have been refurbs. Plus, buying these products keeps them from heading to landfills, where they can't be of use to anyone. While there will always be a few bad apples, buying a refurbished unit that's backed by a solid warranty from a reputable merchant will keep you from getting burned in most cases. Caveat emptor, deal-seekers, and you can enjoy the coolest gadgets at the best discounts!

Features Writer

Marcy pens consumer news stories of all sorts, in addition to adding pithy prose to many of the roundups you see every day. Her work for DealNews has appeared on sites like Lifehacker, the Huffington Post, and MSN Money. She is by far the most metal member of the DealNews staff, and you can see why by following her on Twitter @ThatBonebright.
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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13 comments
deal_me_in
I have purchased my last two all-in-one printers from Epson directly as refurbs. One I timed with a rebate (thanks DealCoupon!) and paid just $80 for a printer that was well over $200 new. Both printers have performed flawlessly.

I only buy directly from the manufacturer. I'm monitoring Canon right now for a certain refurb product.
de1337er
Newegg has seriously gone down in quality of service - they've actually been caught damaging returns and blaming it on the customer so they don't have to process the RMA - this is all online and easy to find. With their misleading warranty info and the occasional product description that's just flat out erroneous I'm expecting to see some legal action against them in the future. Anytime now really.

Some things I don't think you should ever risk buying refurbished. Hard drives for example, have an expected life so why would you risk getting one with an unknown history that's already been used for an unknown amount of time? Similarly, I would never be a refurbished SSD though it's a safer bet. They'll last for practically forever (far longer than a platter based HD) so it also makes you wonder why that specific item went back to the factory.
enerbunny
Refurbished Linksys products, routers, etc can be purchased directly from Linksys http://store.linksys.com at a high discount.
I've purchased two so far and I haven't had any problems with either one.
DVweb
Like Marcy says in the article, you have to be careful and read the details of what the selling company calls a refurb and also their return policies and reputation.

Buying from a company that specializes in refurbished and open box products might be better than a "regular" retailer that also sells a few non-new items....
miked_11
I agree with other posters that Newegg's refurbished deals are rotten. I bought a kindle fire just a few months ago and sent it to a friend in India. It stopped charging in 15 days as the micro-USB connector is loose so it won't charge now. Its hardly possible for me to have it returned from India let alone the hassle of having to argue with Newegg.

I paid about $90 for this to Newegg which is not spare change.

In general, my experience of buying with Newegg has been quite mixed and I'd be careful about dealing with them.
Greg the Gruesome
I have posted a number of comments on DealNews about the refurbished IBM ThinkCentre that I bought from Newegg and that turned out had no warranty. (Newegg made an exception to their replacement-only policy for refurbished computers and would have refunded my money if I shipped the PC back to them, but I would have had to pay for shipping. ಠ_ಠ) Yes, this happened several years ago, so you might say this anecdotal evidence is too old to hold much weight, but consider that Newegg hasn't cleaned up its act in one aspect: It almost never explicitly identifies the company that backs the warranty on a refurbished product that it sells, and even worse, in the "Quick Info" box on a product page, it shows the length of the warranty directly above the manufacturer's contact info, which can mislead shoppers into thinking the manufacturer backs the (alleged) warranty when it doesn't. ಠ_ಠ
nagol68
I look for a referb all the time! I have a referb HP desktop from BestBuy and had NO issues! I also have a referb surround sound system that I saw here and it was from Newegg. I love it! It works perfect! The box is a bit beat up but the product is amazing! I would have thought it was new!
vwoom
I've been generally lucky so far with refurbs. From an issue free Dell desktop still running, in top shape (as I type this) bought in 2008, a 1st Gen Roku XD/S bought in early 2012, a highly rated Panasonic DMC LX-5 and a Motorola Xoom WiFi (both from a 2012 Black Fri spree, the LX-5 was only for a mere $148), a Netgear WNR2000 WiFi router linked with a Netgear WNA1100, etc. All are issue free. All are running great and looks virtually new, cosmetic-wise. NONE of which looks "beat-up" with scratches, dents or what have you.
carlosriosness
Agreed. Imagine, a new apple product hasn't personally gone through quality control, but a refurbished has been checked inside and out and given an "ok" but a apple technician.

Also, amazon warehouse deals are a great way to save money on new products. Ware house products usually have damaged or missing packaging but come in new or near new condition. My Seagate ultra slim external hd came in generic packaging with a couple scuff marks that I was able to clean off. But it was like $50 vs $75 for a new new one. And it is sold with the regular warranty and return policies.
Kyser_Soze
Tridealer said "They sold me a junked laptop with no legs..." I didn't know laptops have legs! Bad refurb from Newegg? Do you work for a competitor?

brer_rabbit said "...came with a 90 "warranty" and "It died just after four months."...4 months is a month beyond 90 days so it would have been out of warranty. Dealnews has allowed me to buy new routers for as low as $15 with a 1 year warranty from Newegg, so why bother with a refurb?

I generally have had good luck with refurbs. The problem refurbs came from retailers that are not well known. Right now I am writing this on a Asus refurb laptop that is an Ivy bridge i7 that works and looks like it was brand new that I got from WOOT! I put a 240 GB SSD in it and it is very fast.

Happy New Year Dealnews and thanks for all of the deals!
brer_rabbit
Years ago I bought a refurb Netgear wireless router from Newegg. It came with a 90 "warranty". According to Newegg it was Netgear that honored the warranty, but according to Netgear they did not support their refurb products, and if it was defective it had to be sent back to wherever you bought it from. Newegg would not accept returns on refurb products, so essentially the 90 "warranty" was completely useless since neither Newegg or Netgear would honor it! It died just after four months. Complete waste of money. That's why I won't buy refurb electronics. I haven't had much luck with them, and no one wants to honor a warranty on them!
dealnews-mbonebright
@Tridealer,
Yikes! Do you recall if the laptop listing said that it wouldn't include accessories? Was this a refurb sold by Newegg itself, or a 3rd party? Were you able to return it? Several sites have given Newegg fairly high praise for its refurbs, so we'd love to know how your experience turned out. Thanks for the feedback!
-M
Tridealer
Newegg is not a good place to buy refurbish. They sold me a junked laptop with no legs, not working charger and missing keyboard caps.
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