By Tracey Dowdy
If you’re in the market for a new device, the debate over whether to buy new or used can come down to something as simple as budget. But, there is a third option – refurbished. Like used electronics, refurbished items must meet specific criteria so buyers can shop more confidently than if you were buying a used device from a random eBay or Craigslist seller.
Still, refurbished devices aren’t cheap. What kind of warranty, buyer protection, accessories, and customer support post-purchase can you expect?
Used vs. Refurb
When you trade-in for an upgrade or sell your electronics, it immediately goes through an evaluation process to determine its resale value. If it’s a newer device and in working order, chances are it will be cleaned and processed to be sold as a refurbished device.
Refurbished device sellers (Amazon Renewed, Apple Certified Refurbished, Best Buy Outlet, Overstock, Swappa, Gazelle, Walmart) each have their own process and offer different purchase protection levels. For example, all Apple’s refurbished devices are classified as “like new.” Each is cleaned, any broken or damaged parts are replaced, and the items are put through a battery – pun intended – of tests. Also of note, a refurbished iPhone comes with a new battery and housing. Similarly, Amazon inspects, tests, repairs any broken parts and guarantees that the battery has 80% capacity. However, the housing is not replaced, so you may see some wear and tear on the exterior of their Renewed devices.
Sites categorize the condition of devices in categories like Fair, Good, or Excellent. Gazelle has a section that explains what you should expect when buying a phone in fair condition and even provides example photos. The photos aren’t of the device you’re purchasing but serve as a visual guide on what kind of condition the item is in and what sort of cosmetic damage to expect on the housing.
Most sellers – at least the reputable ones like Apple, Amazon, Gazelle – will allow you to return a device if it’s not working or shows more physical wear than you expected. It’s always wise to check out the return policy before you buy, so you’re aware of what you’re responsible for if you’re unhappy with your purchase. Some may only offer a trade-in or a replacement device or expect you to pay for return shipping.
What About a Warranty?
Warranties vary across sites. Refurbished Apple devices come with a one-year guarantee. Amazon offers a 90 satisfaction guarantee during which you can return a Renewed device for a refund, and Gazelle has a 30-day return policy that’s also considered the warranty. However, buyers can purchase an extra year of protection through an extended warranty that also covers any accidental damage.
If you’re buying a phone or tablet, be aware of whether or not the device is locked to a specific carrier. That great deal on an iPhone isn’t a deal if it’s locked to TMobile, but Verizon is your carrier. Also, make sure you’re getting the accessories you need with your purchase. All Apple and Amazon refurbs come with everything you need for the device, but like warranties, what accessories are included varies across sites. However, Amazon devices may come with an after-market charger rather than the official one from the manufacturer.
One final tip, you can save even more money by selling your device to the company you’re purchasing your refurbished device from.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.