Black Belt Shopper
(featured column)

Are Refurbished Items a Good Buy?

by Larry Wiener


I have on my desk my new phone and answering machine-a $99 retail value that I got for $59.  My new digital camera cost me $191, including a memory card, but would have been $199 plus tax for just the camera alone at a discount store.  



Both are refurbished items-one of the best ways to get quality electronics at bargain basement prices.

Refurbished items are products that are returned and then gone over by the factory.  They have a manufacturer's warranty, but it may not be as long or as inclusive as a warranty on a new product.

Refurbished items are different from customer returns or open box items which usually have not been gone over by trained technicians.


Where Can I Get Refurbished Items?


Many refurbished items are available online.  As mentioned before, carries a large assortment of them.  One advantage of that site is that shipping charges are very modest-sometimes even free. Many sellers on ebay carry refurbished items.


Most electronics stores carry customer returns and open box items at a discount.  Often the manufacturer's warranty applies.  Some electronics stores, such as Fry's here in the west carry refurbished items both online and in the store.

What Precautions Should I Take with Refurbished Items?

Buying refurbished items is one place where being a good shopper really will help you have a good experience.  Here are some precautions to take:

* Stick with good brands  Both the camera and the phone that I got were Panasonic, a brand name that has a good reputation for customer support and quality products.


* Stick with proven models  When buying refurbished, it is better to buy technology that has been around awhile and has a proven record.


* Try to see the item  If possible, go to a store and look at the item.  Pick it up, go through the motions you would if you were to use it (i.e. put the telephone to your ear).  It may be difficult to return a refurbished item just because you don't like it.


* Know the return policy  Sellers of new merchandise often take returns without asking questions.  Return policies for refurbished items are often more restrictive.  Look before you buy and make sure the terms are ones you can live with.


* Know the seller's reputation  Some sellers are really good about testing merchandise, being honest in descriptions, and doing everything they can to provide buyers with a positive experience.  Others aren't.  If you buy on ebay, you can look at the feedback score.


* Consider shipping and handling when you consider costs  This can be quite a bit on some electronics items, especially large bulky ones. Consider this.  Also, with private sellers, look at different shipping options if you are not in a huge hurry to receive the merchandise immediately.


* Know what is and isn't includedSometimes refurbished items won't include everything that a new item will.  Some won't have manuals.  Others may lack accessories such as camera straps.  If the item description doesn't specify, ask before you buy.


* Read and understand the warranty  Know the length and terms of the warranty.  Then use the product in a number of ways well before the warranty expires.


* Think twice before you buy extended warranties on refurbished items  Many times these warranties don't cover much and generally the times they do cover are times when little go wrong.  It makes more sense to put the money you would spend on an extended warranty in an electronics buying fund to be used for future purchases.  Exceptions may be on items that will get a lot of daily use if the warranty isn't too costly.


* Be willing to pay a little extra for quality  Many times among refurbished items, the difference in price between mediocre and high quality is not much.  The few dollars you pay for quality will be worth it.


I have enjoyed almost all of the refurbished items I have bought over the past few years.  You can too if you shop smart for them.


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Copyright 2006 by Larry Wiener. All rights reserved.

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