Refurbished tech can save you hundreds of pounds and, in some cases, it’s much like buying brand new. However, there’s no single definition of what “refurbished” means in the tech world.(“To brighten or freshen up”. That’s how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “refurbishing”.)
You can generally break down what it means in the context of gadgets into five streams. It may be a customer return, perhaps sent back just days after the original purchase. It may be a new product with packaging damaged in storage, and “refurbished” is the label the retailer decided to use. Or part of a discontinued line, but still a “new” device”.
Refurbished tech can be flat-out second hand, just given a once over and wipe before selling on. Or it could be a repaired device, something you tend to only see in specific refurb tech categories as not many gadgets warrant a repair these days.
So, phone, laptops or audio gear, should you buy a refurb? Let’s look at the reasons why you should, why you shouldn’t, and where you can actually get a tech refurb deal.
You need to look for at least one of three things when buying refurbished tech. But preferably all three. These are a darn good price, a good returns policy and a warranty similar to what you’d get buying new. The benefit of the first is obvious: why buy refurbished if you only save a per cent or two?
Free returns are a huge benefit if you will buy from a company that sells “used” refurb tech, which is likely to have some signs of use. These companies often rely on a grading system — often denoting condition with A/B/C labels. Free returns mean not just that you can send the gadget back if you’re not happy, but that the company has clearly built this into its grading system and, if anything, the product is likely to be in better condition than described. A warranty is always important, for the same reason you want a warranty when you buy anything new. You want to know you’re covered if something goes wrong.
Second-hand goods bought from online retailers are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which allows for 14-day returns and repair or replacement if the gadget can be proved to be not “fit for purpose” within six months. This actually extends to six years, but after that the onus in on the buyer to prove any faults were there at the time of purchase. Good luck doing that. You are not covered for wear and tear, of course.