Save Money with Refurbished Electronics

by Ryan Guina

I’m a big fan of saving money, and I’m an even bigger fan of cool electronics! One of the ways I like to combine these two things is to shop around for great deals on electronics items. The best way I have found to do this is buying discounted or refurbished electronics – in fact, I’ve used this tip to save money on buying new computers for both business and personal use. The best part is, not only do they often come with a full warranty, they usually cost anywhere from 20-50% less than the regularly priced item!

Refurbished does not mean used

The common misconception is that refurbished items are used and will not last as long as buying a new item. The opposite is usually true. Many refurbished items are actually new items that often come with a full factory warranty (though some may not; always double check the warranty before purchase). Yes, you read that correctly – brand new, fully warranted electronics products at 20-50% off. What a deal!

What should I look for when buying refurbished electronics?

Why is the product labeled “refurbished?” The price is probably the first thing you notice, but look more carefully before you buy! There are many reasons why electronics will be sold at steep discounts, and many of them are good enough to spend your time and money. But sometimes the item is not what it appears to be. Find out why the item is being sold at a discount.

Some common reasons for big discounts on electronics include:

  • Customer returns – These cannot be resold as new, and are often fully tested and come with a complete warranty.
  • Use as a floor model – Again, these cannot be sold as new and come with the full warranty.
  • Open box / damaged box items – When a box has been opened or damaged, the stores can’t sell the item as new, even if it never left the box.
  • Factory refurbishment – Electronics that were returned to the manufacturer where they were repaired and tested.
  • Shipping damage – These usually include dents or scratches to the exterior, but nothing wrong with the unit.
  • Factory seconds – These are usually minor, often cosmetic defects that the consumer may not even notice.
  • Production defects – These are usually defects that hit an entire batch of units. They are repaired, tested, and sold as refurbished.
  • Overstock items -These are often sent to stores as refurbished units to clear way for new products.

What kind of warranty comes with the item? Many refurbs come with a full manufacturer’s warranty, but some stores or outlets will only give a reduced warranty, or no warranty at all. Many will also let you purchase the extended manufacturer’s warranty, or offer to sell a service package. Before you buy, be sure to examine the warranty!

Check the return policy. Return policies vary by store – some allow returns, while others do not. Keep in mind many electronics retailers charge a restocking fee of around 15% for returns.

Where can you find refurbished, open box, or discounted electronics?

Retailers. Retail outlets such as Fry’, Best Buy, Circuit City and other stores often have refurbished items, but sometimes they aren’t on the floor. It helps to ask the salespeople if they have any items that are discounted. They often do.

Online Outlets. I like to search for discounted electronics at discount retailers such as and I have purchased quite a few computer accessories there, and I always saved a lot of money. My most recent purchase was 2 refurbished wireless cards for my laptops. The wireless cards were normally priced at $60 each, and I paid $9.99 each. That is a savings of $100! The cards did not come in the factory box and did not come with the software CD, but I was able to download the software from the manufacturer’s website. Well worth $100!

Direct from the manufacturer. Apple and Dell are two major electronics companies who are well known for selling refurbished electronics at great discounts. Dell has a great online outlet. The inventory is often changing, so you either need to check back often, or know exactly what you are looking for. Here are more tips for saving money on a Dell computer.

Apple Store OnlineIf you are familiar with Apple products, you are aware that they are often fairly expensive, but worth the price. Because they have a monopoly on their products and set the price, they don’t always go on sale when you want them to! However, you can save big on the Apple products if you buy them from their factory outlet. I did this to save on my MacBook Pro.

Apple is currently offering big discounts on the Refurbished iPod nano. You can easily save 20-40% on the purchase of a refurbished iMacs, iPods, and MacBooks (that can be $200-600!). The best part is – all refurbished Apple products come with a one year warranty, and shipping is included. That’s a great deal!

What to look out for when buying refurbished electronics

If the deal is too good to be true, it usually is! Buy from reputable dealers and know the return policy and warranty status before purchasing anything. Ebay is a great place to find deals, but unless you know exactly what you are buying, you may not get what you thought you were getting.

Another thing to look for is the country code – some electronics are designated for different regions and may have different software or hardware than what is normally found in products designed for the US market.

Pros and Cons of Buying Refurbished Electronics

As with most things, there are pros and cons to purchasing refurbished electronics.

Pros: Save money, often full manufacturer’s warranty

Cons: Limited selection; limited supply; often without boxes, manuals, CD’s, or other accessories; sometimes different warranty or return policy

To protect yourself, be sure to understand why the product has the refurbished label, know and understand the warranty and return policy for the item you are purchasing, and make sure you are buying from an authorized dealer. And don’t just buy an item because it is on sale – buy it because you want it or need it and will get full use from it! ๐Ÿ™‚

Published or updated January 23, 2012.
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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrew

Timely. I was just looking for a region free 1080p upscaling DVD player. Found the one I want on Amazon and saw that there is a refurbished (open box) one for $30 less than the new one. Fulfilled by Amazon, so still get the free shipping! And the multiple $10 gift certs I get for completing online surveys is also helpful. I figure I’ve accrued about $250 in Amazon certs over the years.


2 Ryan

Outstanding deal, Andrew. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve bought a few items like this as well. I remember saving $50 on a $200 DVD player (when they first came out), because it had a small scratch on the side – that no one would ever see! ๐Ÿ™‚


3 Myfinancebutler

I’m typing this right now on a refurbished computer. Great deal and still going strong! Good post about the benefits (and the how-to’s) of buying cheap!



4 Alan

Yeah but you gotta be really careful when buying refurb and always know the return policy of the item. Because if someone returned it, they had a reason and it may be just your luck that they didn’t just not like the color. You always run the risk that although a problem may have been corrected by the store or company that made the product, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t another problem with the item that went unnoticed.

But hey, if your looking for the savings go for it I guess, personally I love the fresh smell and feeling of a brand new, first time touched product.


5 stngy1

Great post! We have gotten great deals on open box purchases at Best buy and Circuit City. Warantees were the same. One concern is to make sure all the parts are there. For example, we got an open box TiVo once, but had to find and purchase a remote separately. It worked out and was still cheap, but something to be aware of when shopping this way.


6 Mrs. Micah

We were looking into refurbished electronics for the new computer before we ended up going with a used/geek-made computer. The prices were a lot better, but the one we got had more memory and no Vista.


7 Trent Hamm

I looked at a refurbed Mac, but I wound up buying a new Mac Mini with every possible upgrade. It was about the same price as the comparable refurb I was looking at.


8 Ryan

Mrs. Micah, you had me at “no Vista.” ๐Ÿ˜‰

stngy1, Great point!

Trent, if the prices are comparable, I will always go with the new, in-the-box version. It’s probably just a mental thing though. I’m sure the refurbs work just as well. ๐Ÿ™‚


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