What Does ‘Refurbished’ Mean? Get the Most Out of it  


Despite one’s income, frugality is considered a virtue among most people, and the ability to find deals is almost a superpower. When it comes to an actual balance between a low price (say, a deal) and the quality of the product, that is when many consumers start having doubts about whether it is ‘too go to be true’. The same applies to refurbished goods. Such items could be both a way to save you money on expensive, large purchases and a disappointment unless bought from reputable retailers.    

Refurbished goods are products that were bought and returned, later to be restored and sold as brand new. However, they should not be confused with used items. When you buy anything labelled as ‘refurbished’ the item must look brand new, as if it never was bought before you. If an item was missing a part, it should be replaced, and the software restored to factory settings and completely repackaged.    

Used products, on the contrary, are sold ‘as is’, with stains, minor damages, or only a little cleanup. Those goods could have been in use for a few weeks, then returned on a store shelf. Hence, a sign of wear could be present. They are also not repaired or checked for defects. Although you could trust that a refurbished item will be in brand-new condition, used items have to be thoroughly checked before purchasing. The only factor you have to keep in mind when buying refurbished goods is reading the fine print and confirming if return policies are the same as for brand-new merchandise.   

Why Trust Us   

Nobody wants to brag about finding a good deal, and later finding out that it was either a scam or a product (electronics particularly) does not work. That is why we spent numerous hours researching all you need to know before buying refurbished items. We included essential information on store vs manufactured refurbished buying, return policies, the downside of it, and more. Besides, we analyzed what consumers had to say about buying refurbished items, and other buying guides such as The Penny Hoarder, Refurb and others.  

Buying Store Refurbished vs Manufacturer Refurbished   

To put it briefly, the manufacturer is in greater favour when buying refurbished items. The main reason for that is a complete checkup the original manufacturer provides, including assembly and repair. They also offer an extra warranty so you do not have to question your decision when buying, for instance, refurbished electronics. It is fairly easy to find refurbished items at official manufacturer stores, (think Apple and Microsoft).   

As to stores that sell refurbished items, keep in mind that some of them run inspections on returned merchandise, thus it might not be as thorough and honest as the manufacturer would do.   

Unless you are buying a certain electronic device, shopping for a refurbished product might be challenging. Not all retailers promise high-quality standards, even though they refer to every refurbished item as inspected and repaired. Whether you are buying from a manufacturer’s store or a general retailer, there are three particular terms that describe refurbished products.   

Refurbished, as described previously, means the merchandise is restored to a like-new condition. If you are looking for the best deal on price and quality aim for factory-refurbished (or manufacturer-refurbished) products.    

Certified products are those that have been tested to ensure they are working properly; however, those items are typically not repaired.   

Finally, pre-owned goods are returns that have marks of wear or damage and have been cleaned up or lightly repaired and placed back for sale.   

Reasons to Buy Refurbished  

– Buying for your kids  

Your kids might require a laptop for homework, a phone upgrade if the previous one drowned in a toilet (think of a lifespan of a product when it gets into the hands of a child) or a new video game, and that is when refurbished buying could save you some money.   

– Trying something new   

Some of those electronic devices or smart appliances are well advertised, making consumers believe that life with a new RoboVac would be much easier. If you would like to give a try to one of those gadgets, yet do not find the price as attractive as the concept, you could always test that product by buying a refurbished one.   

– A backup plan   

If a set of electronics is essential for your work, travel and home entertainment, you might want to consider splitting those few, and buying a refurbished laptop for travel, while keeping your work computer at the office.   

 An Example   

Apple promises that every refurbished device they sell undergoes inspection, has been repaired (if necessary) and comes with a new battery and outer shell. A new battery is a crucial part that has to be replaced, simply because if someone already used the device, the battery started wearing out. Other than that, every refurbished iPhone normally comes with all accessories and cables. Apple offers the same 1-year warranty every new product gets. Such a method of buying your electronics becomes rather cost-effective especially if you need to upgrade both, your phone and your MacBook.   

At the same time, refurbished Samsung Galaxy smartphones are sold as ‘certified pre-owned’. Surely, the definition of certified means the device was only inspected, not repaired, but when it comes to electronic devices, you can count on the replacement of any damaged components. Compared to Apple, Samsung does not promise a new battery or replaced outer shell. But every phone they sell is still in top condition and comes with a 1-year warranty.   

This type of warranty for electronics is as good as one could get on a refurbished device and most new ones. Meanwhile, gadgets refurbished by a third party (Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and others) will only offer a shorter warranty, (usually around 90 days). If such a difference in warranty concerns you, then shop at official manufacturer stores only, and purchase returned items with consideration.   

Return policy   

Whether you decide to buy from a manufacturer’s store or a third-party retailer, find out the return policy. A proper return policy from a reputable seller allows you to bring the item back whenever you have any issues, with a refund or exchange. Beware of any product or retailer that sells or is being sold without any return policy. Better yet, stay away from such merchandise to avoid the risk of losing money and being left with a defective gadget. Overall a return policy between seven to thirty days is a generous one a retailer can offer.   

The Downside of Refurbished Products

Yes, refurbished items are as good as new ones, and some of them might not even be in a long used (floor models, returned within a few days, damaged package, minor defects). However, these items, especially electronic devices, will never be the latest models. The best deal you could get is a few months old refurbished item, but not one from a recent stock. Overall, refurbished items hit the sales floor after a product has been on the market for a least a year.   

It might not be the case for something like vacuum cleaners, where most people do not care about the latest models. Electronics, on the other hand, are preferable to buy with the latest upgrades that perform fast and flawlessly. “When you buy refurbished, it’s a good idea to compare the refurbished model to new models. If you need the features of a newer model, either wait until it’s available in the refurbished form or shell out the cash to buy it new,” says Deal News.

Finding Refurbished Items   

First, it is best to stay away from unknown brands and retailers. Reputable retailers, especially manufacturer stores use the proper parts and specs to replace damaged parts of a device and can provide you with a warranty. It also might be useful to run some research and read reviews on the company you are buying from.   

Second, keep details in mind. Every retail defines ‘refurbished’ differently. Hence, there is no absolute standard on what type of work has to be performed on returned or floor-model merchandise. For instance, when Apple sells refurbished electronics, they state how much work has gone into inspecting and replacing components. At the same time, other retailers might not be up to such standards and simply clean up or change a package of an item. For your peace of mind look out for details and a description of the refurbished process.   

Third, stay away from companies that do not allow any returns. The same applies to warranty. If a retailer does not offer any warranty, similar to the original one, something must be wrong with an item or their confidence in its quality.  

Is refurbished worth the savings? 

No doubt, refurbished products are worth the savings, for there is no better way to get a lower price on quality items. We recommend you take advantage of the refurbished merchandise discount next time you are shopping for electronic devices, home appliances or other products.   

Which is better: new or refurbished electronics?  

Refurbished items are budget-friendly, there is no argument against it, but you would not be able to get the newest model. Although they can be just as new ones, if you are looking to buy the newest model of iPhone or a tablet, you would have to pay the full price for a brand-new device.   

Where to buy refurbished products?   

The best way to buy refurbished items is from manufacturer retailers, like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nikon, Samsung, and others. However, you could also check (with consideration and reviews’ analysis) such places as Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and other third-party resellers.   

What is the difference between refurbished and renewed electronics?  

Frankly, there is no particular reason between renewed and refurbished electronics. The difference is in the term itself. Some companies described floor models, returned and upgraded devices as ‘refurbished’ while others as ‘renewed’ or even ‘certified pre-owned.’  

Is refurbished the same as Used?  

No, it is far from it. Typically, refurbished items go through inspection and repair to restore them as close as possible to the new-like condition. Meanwhile used items are sold ‘as is’, often in an open package, and with some wear signs.   

Is it safe to buy a refurbished iPhone?  

If you are looking to save money when buying an iPhone, let’s say from last year’s edition, you should consider refurbished devices sold directly by Apple. Those gadgets go through a thorough inspection and come with a new battery and outer case, plus include the same warranty and return policy as new smartphones.    

Updated date

March 10th, 2023

About the author

Maria Kossman

Maria Kossman is an essayist, and content specialist at Rant-it.ca. Her writing appeared in a variety of fashion magazines. When she is not focused on reviewing and writing, she spends time exploring coffee shops, English literature and antique malls.
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