So you want to enjoy the awesomeness that is a smart phone, or get your hands on a tablet, or maybe acquire that gaming platform that accommodates your favorite game, but you realize, much to your sadness, that your budget is not as generous as it could be. So, that’s that, then. No new electronics for you! Come back next year!
But then again, you don’t have to do without, if you’re willing to go the refurbished route. Although for some people there’s a certain stigma attached with used equipment (or if you will, “pre-owned”, “experienced”, or whatever other comforting euphemism out there), it’s something which bears looking into.
What Entails Refurbishing?
First of all, let’s get this fact out of the way: there is no set industry standard for what constitutes refurbishing. It could mean anything from a used computer that’s been upgraded and cleaned up, to a system that just needed a single part replaced, or even a brand smart phone whose packaging was somehow ruined and was just placed in a new box. Whatever the definition is, they all have one characteristic in common: the product cannot be sold as new. And that means right off the bat, the price will be cheaper!
Some consumers may be hesitant to go the pre-owned, refurbished route because it makes them look like something less than prosperous. Well, look at it this way: who’s going to know? It’s like buying a pair of name-brand jeans like Levis at a department store or big box place, as opposed to getting them at a pricier specialty store. Friends aren’t going to come up to you and say “Nice Levis you got there. Did you buy them at a department store?” (and if they do, then you may want to look into replacing those friends!).
Of course, if you prefer style and status over savings, by all means, avoid the refurbished goods. Otherwise, why not? There are many benefits to buying refurbished.
Other Thoughts On Refurbishing
If you have a genuine concern for the environment, then you should strongly consider a refurbished product. The amount of electronics that go into landfills is staggering. By getting a refurbished device, you are keeping products out of the dump, and doing a little bit to help stay Green. You can save money and earn some good karma along the way.
When considering a refurbished device, try buying it through the manufacturer themselves, since they will have repaired and reconditioned the item in question with the same components as when the device was first manufactured, as opposed to a third-party seller that is likely to replace components with the cheapest parts that work.
Also, a lot of resellers do have fair return policies and limited warranties. It may be a risk to purchase a refurbished product, but it’s mitigated somewhat if there’s some sort of consumer protection in place. After all, many used cars come with a limited warranty; why not electronics? Shop around.
There’s a downside to keep in mind as well. A refurbished product can’t be customized. What you see is what you get. If you have certain requirements and needs, then sadly, refurbished electronics may not be for you. But speaking of what you see is what you get …
Make sure that when you purchase a refurbished electronic device you know if it comes with any of the peripherals and accessories that a new model has. For instance, does that nifty refurbished smart phone come with a charger? Never assume. And if the original device came with pre-loaded software, does the reconditioned product have that same software? Things to keep in mind.
If You Want Something Done Right …
Another possible alternative to purchasing new electronics is building your own, an option usually limited to two factors: the device in question is a computer (most likely a desktop), and you know what you’re doing.
My daughter, who swears by her MacBook, recently discovered to her horror that an online game she wanted to play was best run on a Windows-based system. Her boyfriend then cannibalized a few desktop systems and created a viable PC for her to game with. And considering how desktop systems are being edged out by mobile computing, the possibility of picking up the right components at a killer price is very high.
Of course, if you don’t have the skills and you aren’t dating a computer geek, there’s always …
… The A La Carte Option
Have you considered the idea of choosing what components you want and having them assembled for you at a store? For instance, WalMart offers the iBuyPower Build Your Own program, where you can pick and choose a chassis, processor, memory, graphics card, hard drive, and operating system, then add in any options you want, such as monitor and interface devices (e.g. mouse).
Okay, so it’s not refurbished. But on the other hand, you’re getting (and paying for) only what you need and want. You’re also getting new components, so that’s another plus. Call it a nice compromise.
Consider looking into getting a refurbished product right after the latest version comes out. For instance, I know people who waited for the iPhone 5 to come out before buying a refurbished iPhone 4.
If you don’t have a burning need for the latest and greatest shiny new toy, and you’re motivated more by a sense of practicality and fiscal responsibility, or perhaps you’re more interested in spending your money on doing things rather than owning things, then taking the refurbished route is perfect for you.
Byline: John Terra has been a freelance writer since 1985. He can vouch for the reliability of refurbished products, as his luck with them has been consistently good.