Buying Refurbished Electronics – Tips

Do Not Disturb

Why Buy Refurbished Electronics?

Thinking about refurbished electronicsWhen buying refurbished electronics, you can save money on your purchase, sometimes a lot of money. It’s that simple. Here are some examples of refurbished items pulled from the internet today (12/18/2015):

Onkyo TX-SR313 5.1 Home Theater Receiver: Retail Price $299 Refurb Price $169
Denon AVR-X3000 7.2 Networking Home Theater Receiver: Retail Price $999 Refurb Price $399
Marantz NR1605 7.1 Slim A/V Receiver: Retail Price $699 Refurb Price $329
Nikon D3300 DSLR Camera with 18-55 lens: Retail Price $649 Refurb Price $329

Yes astute readers, I used the full retail prices for the items mentioned above, and street prices, and sales will no doubt be lower. The manufacture’s suggested retail prices (MSRP) for the examples were used because those prices provide a stable base line, whereas street pricing can flex and sale pricing is temporary. That being said, in most cases (though not in all) refurb pricing will be lower, and offer a considerable savings over street and sale pricing.

Refurbished vs. Reconditioned

There is a difference between refurbished product and reconditioned product. Here are there definitions:

Refurbished electronics are new products that have been returned to a manufacture for various reasons[1]. Here are the most common reasons:

  • Cosmetic damage
  • Visible defect – something in the product failed
  • Open box – customer chose not to keep product, in-store display demonstration product, or trade show demonstration product
  • Product recall – Manufacture finds common flow in all products of a model, and are returned to be repaired.
  • Over Stock – Manufacture reduces price on current on hand inventory to make room for a newer model.

Refurbished electronics are typically cleaned, repaired, brought back to manufacture’s specifications, and tested. Then the product is repackaged and sold as “refurbished”. One key to a successful purchasing experience with a refurbished product is who is doing the refurbishing. I would only consider a refurbished product that had been refurbished by its manufacturer.

The definition between what makes up a refurbished product and a reconditioned one is not always marked with clarity, in fact, some will use the term interchangeably. Reconditioned product certainly can be cleaned, repaired, brought back to manufacture’s specification, and tested, but……., there is one denominator that refurbished product and reconditioned product do not share and that is: usage. Reconditioned product is used, whereas refurbished items usually show very little usage. Reconditioned product can come from a recycler who has bid on the item from a closed business, government sale, or electronics that have come off lease. From these sources, the products likely have been in service for a long time.

All of this being said, there certainly is an element of risk in purchasing either refurbished electronics or reconditioned ones. One concern a buyer should have is how long is this product going to last. A Las Vegas odds-maker would probably bet on the refurbished product providing longer service than its reconditioned counter part. Computer hard drives and power supplies, for example, might test OK during the reconditioning process, but would likely fail quicker due to their longer time in service than those same devices in a computer used for a week and returned by a customer. Note also that reconditioned product is usually reconditioned by someone other than the products original manufacturer.

Sometimes, the quality of the product you are buying can play into the picture, and affect your purchasing decision. For example, in the LarryTalksTech office, we have two Mac Pros. Both were bought from recyclers, and “reconditioned”. When new, the Mac Pros were intended to be an industrial/commercial product, and were way ahead of the technology curve for their time. One of the Macs, I have had for two years and was manufactured 7 years ago; the other, I have had for 4 years, and was manufactured 10 years ago. Each arrived clean as a pin, both inside their cases and out. Except for a couple of very small scuff marks they seem then, and now, to be in “as new” conditioned. The computers, have given me zero problems, and I bought them at a very good price. My point: don’t totally discount reconditioned product, especially if you are on a tight budget. Use the same criteria supplied later in this article to help you make your decision, and realize there is a greater risk factor in purchasing reconditioned product as it is not usually reconditioned by the manufacturer, and there is a greater potential for a shorter life-span of the product.  If the price of the item reflects the greater depreciated lifespan of the product, then a reconditioned product might be a good choice.

Caveat Emptor

As with any purchase,one would want to cut as much risk as possible from the purchasing decision. The first thing I do after having decided “what” item to purchase, is to research both its MSRP (manufacture’s suggested retail) and street/sale prices for the item. For cameras, as an example, look at manufacture’s web site for the retail price and current selling price, and like Nikon’s website, check the pricing on their refurb cameras. Then, check both sale and refurb pricing at B&H Photo, BuyDig, and finally, Ebay. If street/sale pricing is close to the refurb price, then it might be better to go ahead and buy a “new” item. On the other hand, if the refurb price shows a decent savings, then I will continue to explore buying the refurb. Here are some more things to consider[2]:

  1. Is it a factory-refurbished (refurbished by the manufacturer) product?
  2. Is the refurbished unit being sold by a manufacturer authorized dealer?
  3. Does the refurbished unit have a valid U.S. warranty?
  4. At least it should come with a typical 45 to 90-day Parts and Labor warranty.
  5. Has the refurbished item been originally intended for use within your market?
  6. Does the retailer offer a return policy for the refurbished unit for when you are not completely satisfied with your purchase? Expect at least 15-days return policy. This is important so that you can inspect the product yourself before a final decision.
  7. Is it possible to get an extended warranty for the refurbished item? This does not imply that you should purchase an extended warranty – rather it shows to what extent the retailer is ready to backup the refurbished product.

With the exception of the last item (#7) in the above list, if your answer to any of the questions is not “Yes”, I would consider another source for the product, or buying the “new” version of the product.


Last year, I purchased a Marantz home theater receiver from Accessories4less. The receiver was factory refurbished. Accessories4less is a factory authorized Denon/Marantz Dealer. The receiver has a valid US warranty for 1 year. Accessories4less allowed returns up to 30 days. The receiver was originally sold in the US. I don’t recall that an extended warranty was offered, – the one year manufacture warranty for me sealed the deal. I bought the Marantz at nearly 60% off its MSRP, also several hundred dollars under its street price, and received free shipping. It looked like “new” when I received it, and it works great.

Yes, there is some risk involved in buying refurbished electronics. However, by doing a little research and fact checking, you can decrease that risk substantially, and quite often, you can end up the product you want at a more affordable price. Caveat Emptor (Let the buyer beware). Do your homework.



1. Wikipedia| Refurbishment |
2. Refurbished Electronics | Practical Home Theater Guide |

By prometheus

Husband. Father. Grandfather. World class Geek.

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