How to shop for refurbished products

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Betting that her pet photography business would return after the pandemic, Denver-based photographer Karen Hoglund began upgrading her tools in the spring of 2021, including cameras, a desktop computer and software. However, her budget did not provide much space for the MacBook Pro laptop that she wanted for home visits with customers. So she turned to OWC, a website she had used before, where she found a refurbished half-price of a new model.

Refurbished products are increasingly popular with budget-minded and environmentally conscious consumers. “Buying refurbished not only allows consumers to buy a great product at a great price, but [it’s also] a way to reduce your environmental impact by using a device that gets a new life, ”says Serge Verdoux, Commercial Manager of Back Market, an online marketplace for refurbished electronics.

“Our reason for being is to create a ‘like-new’ shopping experience for second-hand goods,” said Barruch Ben-Zekry, CEO and founder of Out & Back, a shopping platform for new and used outdoor equipment. The trick to buying something refurbished is to know what you want and from whom you are buying. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Learn the language. A “refurbished” item – sometimes called refurbished, refurbished, recertified, or remanufactured – is a product that was either pre-owned or used as an exhibition model, then returned to working order and sold at a reduced price. “Open-box” means that someone has bought the item and returned it – barely touched – to the store or manufacturer. Typically, renovations are categorized as being in “excellent”, “good” or “reasonable” condition. You should check the seller’s website for category definitions.

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Know where to look. Check out, or These companies know and hand-pick sellers. Manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, Dell, HP and Dyson also sell refurbished products, though some sites make it difficult to find them because understandably they want you to buy new ones. To save time, search for a company name and “renovate”. Also worth seeing are retailers like Amazon (under “Amazon Renewed”), Best Buy and Target. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

You can also find special refurb marketplaces: Out & Back sticks to outdoor equipment, for example, while GoodBuy Gear focuses on baby and children’s items. Scott Henke of Onsite Consulting in Denver says he is considering reputable, local businesses with brick-and-mortar storefronts. “These are places you can return to if something goes wrong and you know they will refund your money if you are not satisfied,” says Henke, whose business has refurbished and sold more than 2,100 computers in the past three years. year.

Buy with confidence. Of course, you can get a deal on eBay or Craigslist, but purchases from a manufacturer or professional renovator should guarantee that the item and all accessories have been cleaned, the parts replaced and the item repackaged. Computers will have their data deleted and their keyboards and batteries inspected. They are often loaded with updated software. If even a component cannot be repaired, it is not for sale. In short: It is 100 percent functional.

Note whether the renovation is “certified”, which means that the product has passed strong tests and complies with certain standards, such as batteries that are replaced if their charge is less than 80 percent of their original capacity, says Simo Elalj, founder of RefurbMe, a clearing house for refurbished Apple products. In addition, you are protected by both a guarantee and a return policy.

Get the most for your money. Discounts vary, but they can range from about 15 to 60 percent or more, depending on the age of the item and the cosmetic condition. The newer the product, the smaller the discount. “Still, a computer that is five years old is as good as new for a third to half the price,” says Henke. “It may not be as fast as the latest model, but most consumers will not notice the difference between half a second and a second to perform a task.” Back Market sets age limits on products it sells, Verdoux says. The sweet spot for many electronics products is about five years because computers and smartphones that are much older than that may no longer be compatible with current apps. But for outdoor or baby equipment, older items that were not used much and are in top condition can give you quite a bit.

Review the description carefully. As with any purchase, it’s about finding the details. Although websites can display topic highlights in an easy-to-read format, it is important to search the full description and inspect each image. If an item has a specification list, you should also read it because you can get important information, such as a device’s operating system and software. “It’s okay to ask the seller questions,” Ben-Zekry says. “For example, ‘Tell me more about the condition.'”

Understand your return options. When you buy something that has been refurbished, confirm that the product has at least a one-year warranty if something goes wrong. No guarantee? Go away. Henke warns that some computers look good in pictures, but that they can have water damage, which causes them to solidify after delivery. You also want to know the seller’s return policy. Back Market has a 30-day no-questions-asked policy. Out & Back offers the same. Avoid products that are sent from abroad, because it can be a hassle to return them if there are problems, says Elalj.

Shop in addition to electronics. Although smartphones and computers make up the bulk of the renovation market, there are other options. You’ll find headphones and advanced Bluetooth earbuds (carefully cleaned and disinfected), electric bikes and scooters, drones, GPS watches, air purifiers, security cameras and more. Out & Back carries refurbished tents, backpacks, sleeping bags and outerwear such as insulated jackets, shells and ski / snow pants. GoodBuy Gear has strollers, nursery furniture and much more in stock. Hoglund has even found some factory-renovated photo lights.

Take your time. Knowing the exact configuration and specifications of the MacBook Pro she wanted, Hoglund was allowed to wait until the right one appeared. “Think through exactly what you want,” she says. “You do not have to settle for the first object you see.” Websites like RefurbMe allow you to set alerts when a particular item becomes available or a price drops. You may even want to create alerts on multiple sites so you can compare products and prices.

Denver-based author Laura Daily specializes in consumer advocacy and travel strategies. Find her on

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