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It can be scary to buy refurbished items, but when you know what you're looking for, it can be as good as buying brand new.
Refurbished items are generally returns, faulty open-box products, or brand new units with minor cosmetic flaws that have been returned to "like new" quality by the manufacturer. We're big fans of them here at Insider Reviews - we've even written reviews of our personal refurb purchases from Apple and Nintendo.
Buying refurbished has its benefits. For most shoppers, the most convincing benefit is the lower cost. Depending on the item and the manufacturer, a refurbished item can cost you up to 50% less than a brand new one. Another perk is that it's a bit more environmentally friendly: you're essentially buying a recycled item. In the end, both refurbished and new items will ideally deliver the same user experience, likely with some differences in packaging and cosmetics, so long as you do your research before adding to the cart.
When determining a refurb's worthiness, it comes down to two major factors to make the judgment call: who refurbished the item and who is selling it?
When shopping refurb deals, we keep an eye out for items that are discounted compared to typical refurb pricing, which is generally much less than brand new. Therefore, original prices noted are considerably less than that of items in new condition.
When it comes to buying an item refurbished, there is no source more reliable than the manufacturer. Year-round, manufacturers like Dyson, Nintendo, and Apple offer refurbished goods for considerably less money than in new condition. I, personally, bought a refurbished Dyson V6 cordless stick vacuum three years ago during Black Friday, and not only did the item arrive looking new, but it also still performs well despite daily use.
Manufacturer refurbs can also come with pretty hefty warranties. Dyson, for example, provides a 6- or 12-month warranty with every order, along with expert support and the promise of genuine Dyson parts in your item.
If you're a frequent online shopper, you've surely come across a few items marked as "seller-refurbished." Our advice: outside of a few exceptions, don't risk it. While you don't necessarily need to limit yourself to only buying from manufacturer storefronts, buying an item refurbished by anyone other than the manufacturer is dubious. Certain special cases like Geek Squad Certified Refurbished and Amazon Renewed are worth considering, but these have less specialized support and notably shorter warranty coverage (typically, only 90 days).Where can I buy refurbs from?
The easiest, most reliable places to find refurbished items for sale are from the manufacturer's storefronts. Here are a few brands that sell certified refurbs directly from their sites:
- Acer Recertified: Laptops, tablets, PCS, displays, and more
- Apple: iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, Macs, and more
- Dell Refurbished: Laptops, PCs, workstations, monitors, and more
- Dyson Outlet: Cordless stick vacuums, upright vacuums, and other home appliances
- Jabra: Headphones, earbuds, and more
- Kitchenaid: Stand mixers, blenders, and more countertop appliances
- Lenovo Outlet: Laptops
- Microsoft: Laptops, tablets, PCs, and more
- Nintendo: Nintendo consoles, controllers, and more
- Sony: Professional broadcast, production, corporate, and educational products
In addition to buying straight from the maker, many big-box retailers are also trustworthy sources to get refurbs from. Sellers like Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, and Newegg have the goods, year-round. Some manufacturers even have storefronts elsewhere, like the Jabra and Dyson storefronts on eBay.
We also highly recommend making the purchase with a credit card, no matter where you're buying it from — there are often routes to getting extended purchase protection. Depending on your card, you can get up to a year of additional coverage on items that come with a manufacturer's warranty.What items are usually good to buy refurbished?
Tech dominates the refurb market, but if you keep a lookout, you can often find small home appliances reliably refurbished. Vacuums (both cordless and upright), fans, heaters, stand mixers, blenders, and the like are pretty dependable refurbished, and they arrive in like-new condition.
Laptops, computers, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, and accessories are typical to find refurbished, and they're often worth considering. Check out our buying guides to find the best option for you.
- The best laptops
- The best budget laptops
- The best over-ear headphones
- The best noise-cancelling headphones
- The best iPhones
- The best smartphones
- The best smartwatches
- The best stand mixers
- The best tablets
- The best Android tablets
- The best vacuum cleaners
As mentioned above, don't bother with refurbs done by anyone who isn't the manufacturer. The warranties never last as long, it doesn't guarantee the use of genuine parts, and the product support you receive will never be as good — if you get any at all.
Much older generation tech is also not worth buying refurbished. It's 2021: buying a refurbished iPhone 7 is a moot investment in an item nearing obsoletion.
Finally, don't bother with anything that can't have its battery replaced, like truly wireless earbuds and headphones. It's a mixed bag getting these in any condition other than new; you'll never know the battery's remaining lifespan. With tech like tablets, smartphones, and computers, you can always bring them into a store for a battery replacement.