When shopping at their neighborhood electronics store or perusing online retailers, consumers will eventually come across refurbished products. Such products typically cost substantially less than similar brand new products, and such savings often ignite suspicion among consumers conditioned to assume any heavily discounted electronics must be faulty or destined to disappoint. But refurbished products can provide a great opportunity to budget-conscious consumers looking to upgrade their gadgets without breaking the bank.
Refurbished products may be more risky than brand new items fresh out of the factory. Refurbished products are often products that were purchased brand new but ultimately returned to the seller or manufacturer due to a faulty part or customer dissatisfaction. Many manufacturers now simply replace their damaged items with brand new products, but they keep the returned items and work on them with the intent of reselling them down the road. These are the products labeled as "refurbished," and they can be just as reliable and enjoyable as brand new products. But consumers should still take some precautionary measures to protect themselves before buying a refurbished product.
* Look for manufacturer-refurbished products. Before buying a refurbished product, ask the seller just who it was that did the refurbishing. When an item is returned to a manufacturer, that manufacturer is required to put the repaired product through stringent testing before it can be resold. So consumers who buy manufacturer-refurbished products can enjoy some peace of mind knowing the product passed all of the necessary tests before it could be put back on the market. But buying a refurbished product from a private seller, such as those who peddle their wares on popular online retailer or auction websites, does not necessarily offer that same sense of security. Some private sellers might be very skilled at refurbishing products, but for safety's sake it's best to choose only manufacturer-refurbished items.
* Find out what went wrong with the product in the first place. Some retailers or private sellers may be open about sharing just what the initial problem was with the product, while others might not be so forthcoming. Try to find out what this problem was prior to purchase, and then do some research online to determine if this is a recurring problem with the make and model of the product you're thinking of buying.If it seems like a problem that's likely to return, then you're probably better off spending the extra money on a brand new item. If the problem appears to be an aberration, then it might have been user-related and unlikely to recur. Finding out the initial problem might not be so easy and may ultimately prove impossible, but do your best.
* Try to get a warranty. Brand new electronics typically come with manufacturer warranties, and some electronics retailers offer extended warranties to consumers at the time of purchase. Consumers investing in refurbished products should protect those investments by ensuring the products come with a warranty. Warranties on refurbished products may not be as extensive as those that come with brand new products, but consumers also aren't making as significant a financial commitment when buying a refurbished product.
* Understand the terms of the return policy. Not all consumers who purchased refurbished products will meet with a happy ending, so buyers should know the return policy for their refurbished product, including where the product must be returned. Many stores do not accept returns on refurbished products, so confirm the return policy with the manufacturer who repaired the item prior to purchase.
* Know what you're buying. Before buying a refurbished item, determine if any software, additional programs or even the user's manual comes with the product. The savings on the sticker price might be negated if you need to buy all new software and applications for the item, so know just what's inside that box before taking it home.
* Comparison shop. Refurbished products are not the latest models, so you should expect a refurbished product to be at least last year's model if not older. Thanks to the ever-advancing nature of technology, you might be able to find a brand new version of a refurbished product on sale for a similar price, so do your homework and do some comparison shopping before buying a refurbished product.