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Refurbished vs. Used


“Refurbished” isn’t just another word for “used,” but the two terms are related. Used goods, also known as second-hand or pre-owned goods, are products that another person has bought, used, and sold. Refurbished goods, also known as reconditioned or remanufactured goods, are products that another person has bought and then, for some reason, decided to return.


Generally, prior to resale, an item is checked by the retailer or manufacturer for functionality, and minor adjustments or fixes may be made – perhaps it is given fresh packaging, or a new battery is placed in the product.


Basically, all refurbished electronics are used – but not all used electronics are refurbished.

Just because an item was returned doesn’t necessarily mean it was damaged. Sometimes people return products because the packaging is damaged, or because of minor blemishes that only affect the product’s looks. In other cases, they simply have “buyer’s remorse,” meaning they change their minds about a product after buying it. In cases like these, buying refurbished can get you a product that hasn’t been used at all for a bargain price.


In other cases, refurbished products have been returned because of malfunctions – some minor, some major. When you buy a refurbished item, there’s no way to tell what was wrong with it before it was returned. It shouldn’t matter, though, since all problems with a returned item are supposed to be fixed before resale.

Items listed as “refurbished” have several advantages over those sold as “used” or “second-hand”:


  • Like-New Condition. Sellers of refurbished items repair everything that’s damaged, then test the item to make sure it’s working properly. They also clean it and, in many cases, replace worn exterior parts, such as the face plate or buttons. This means that when you buy a refurbished product, it should both look and run like new.

  • Warranties. Many refurbished products come with a warranty, though the length of the warranty depends on who did the refurbishing. If the original manufacturer fixes up and resells a product, the warranty is likely to be at least a full year. Products refurbished by a store, on the other hand, have shorter warranties of 30 to 90 days.

  • Support. In many cases, buying a refurbished product from the original manufacturer gives you access to the same tech support you’d get with a new product. That means if you have any problems with your new equipment, you can call the manufacturer for help. However, this feature is often available only for current models. If you buy a recently discontinued product, you shouldn’t count on getting support from the manufacturer unless that benefit is specifically mentioned in the sale listing.