Should You Buy a Refurbished Computer or Smartphone?

This post was written for Living Frugal with Erika.

Should You Buy a Refurbished Computer or Smartphone


Should You Buy a Refurbished Computer or Smartphone?

Refurbished items are sometimes a risk, but if you have the inside scoop, you can get great name-brand products at discounted prices. Why break the bank on the biggest and best, when you can get a similar device for less? Here are some otherwise expensive items you can save big on if you know what to look for and where to look for it.


Many refurbished electronic products are as good as new, while others you should steer clear from. While “refurbished computer” probably sparks an image in your head of a retailer gluing pieces of a motherboard back together, this simply isn’t the case. Refurbished computers can be floor models, which were never actually broken at all, open box hardware that was returned before a single use, or a defected product, like a CD drive for instance, that was then replaced — which doesn’t affect the performance of the computer at all.

While some consumers might feel apprehensive about a refurbished computer, many manufacturers have an in-house refurbishing division that puts the device through more strenuous tests than a brand new product, ensuring a higher standard of quality control.


Each smartphone release comes with a anticipation. But the truth is, from gen to gen, few big improvements are actually made. But when a new phone does hit the market, many retailers offer a trade-in bargain, which means that many perfectly working, tested and refurbished smartphones suddenly become available. T-Mobile sells certified pre-owned smartphones, and these aren’t old, flimsy models either. Get the likes of the Apple iPhone 6s Plus or the Google Nexus 6 at a reduced price.

Best Brands to Buy Refurbished

Refurbished devices still may scare you a bit, but certain companies have refurbish departments that are even recommended by Consumer Reports including Dell, HP, Sony and Apple. While the quality control may actually be better on refurbished items than new ones, the savings are anywhere from 15-30 percent, and sometimes as much as 50 percent.

Return policies are also a consideration. Some retailers are liberal with their return policy while others are final upon sale. Companies like Target have a 90-day return policy, while Amazon and Sony are just 30 days. Apple has a two-week policy, but also charges a 10 percent restock fee if the item is opened. Epson’s sales are final, which holds with their new items as well, but final sales are risky in case the device is faulty.

Buyer Beware

While there are many retailers that sell refurbished electronics, most buyer’s guides warn against third-party sellers. The best place to buy refurbished and pre-owned electronics is directly from the manufacturer, as they have guarantees and trustworthy return policies. Third party non-certified retailers just don’t have the resources to guarantee a like-new product. There are typically independently owned shops with deals that are actually, at times, too good to be true. When you shop refurbished, don’t become blinded by the deal. The fine print matters more here than on new products, so if you buy a used or refurbished device from a third party, make sure there is a return policy.