A Guide to Buying Refurbished Electronics

When you should choose refurbished over new and how to do it without getting scammed.

Feb 28

Have you ever wondered about the benefits of buying refurbished products online?

Looking at the refurbished market, you can find tons of fantastic deals on devices and appliances that can still perform like new, ones and that could be effective for a long time to come. While buying refurbished might feel sketchy, there are marketplaces with vetted products that have years of great service left in them. 

Scouring the internet, you'll find many ways to buy a single type of product. Say you want a high-performance MacBook Pro—you could get it brand new, used, refurbished, straight from Apple, from a big box store like Best Buy, from a stranger on eBay, or elsewhere depending on your budget. 

When there’s so much to consider, why go refurbished? How do you save on a refurbished electronics sale without getting scammed? Let’s define what we are talking about first. 

What Are Refurbished Electronics?

Refurbished electronics are products that have been bought, returned, or salvaged, and then reconditioned or fixed up. Every restoration has its own story, so the details about each item are important. You could buy refurbished products online from the original manufacturer or a third party. There’s a theory that sourcing refurbs from the initial source is the safer bet, but reputable third-party distributors of refurbished electronics would debate that.

There are a lot of success stories, though there are cautionary tales as well, so it's best to educate yourself as much as possible before making a purchase. Sellers are expected to have run a quality assurance check on refurbished items before putting them up for sale, and it’s also best practice for minor scratches, marks, or blemishes to be cleared up with notes about each item's exact condition included in any listing. 

How Refurbished Differs From Open-box and Used

It’s important not to mistake used electronics or open-box ones for refurbished products. Something used is simply that—bought, used, and returned. A typical open-box product was purchased and opened, but it’s generally never actually been used. 

How Buying Refurbished Benefits the Environment

It’s no secret that electronics production is not great for the environment. According to The World Counts, we generate around 50 million tons of electronic waste every year. 

The best refurbished deals feature products that can last for years and work effectively. For most people, the capabilities of an older model of computer, smartphone, or tablet will still meet their everyday needs and then some. Buying refurbished electronics online is a way to stay connected without adding to an ever-growing waste pile. 

Refurbished vs. New

On top of the environmental impact of buying new, there are a few other disadvantages. First off, brand-new electronics continue to grow more and more expensive. The main refurbished market is filled with capable products that come at significantly lower price points than brand-new ones. The older the product, the lower the price will be.

Lower prices are a benefit for obvious reasons, but consider what would happen if your laptop or washing machine suddenly broke and you couldn't wait to save money for a new one.

There's a simple need vs. want aspect. Frequently, when you buy a new device or appliance, you don’t need all of its updated, fancy features. If the primary function of your phone is professional, for example, then a nicer camera might not benefit you (depending on your line of work, of course). But if you love the excitement of customizing and exploring the latest and greatest tech, be prepared to pay a premium for your devices

How to Find the Best Refurbished Electronics

When looking to buy refurbished electronics online, how does an everyday person tell whether or not a listing is a scam? There are a few ways to do your due diligence: 

  • Research the seller. Many third-party vendors have websites, user reviews, social media feeds, and more to help you determine their history and quality of work. 
  • Consider the return policy. It might be a little while before you figure out if there are problems with the product, so a generous return policy is a good thing.
  • Set your expectations accordingly. Decide what you want to use the device for, and then determine the level of quality you need. If you just need to email and watch Netflix, maybe you can save and go with an older computer. If you’re a programmer who needs more RAM and processing power, then opt for newer refurbished electronics or brand-new products. 

Where to Buy Refurbished Electronics 

You'll do well if you decide to try and buy refurbished electronics around long holiday weekends, new product launches, and various releases. Also keep an eye out for sales on refurbished laptops, desktop computers, phones, tablets, televisions, and other electronics that pop up in advertisements, email blasts, etc.

Suppose you don't want to wait for a special refurbished promotion. In that case, StackSocial’s Hot Tech Deals often feature new sales on refurbished electronics that are well-reviewed, affordable options for shoppers searching for a new-to-them device.

For those who are curious about the best refurbished deals online right now, we've decided to do some of the legwork for you. 

Computers & Tablets

Apple 13.3" MacBook Air 128GB (Refurbished)

This razor-thin MacBook Air makes an 8GB RAM high-performance Core i5 computer affordable. With a Grade-B refurb status, working conditions are A-OK, but light scuffing on the exterior or light scratches/dents on the body may be found. 

Get the Apple MacBook Air (Refurbished) for just $388.99 (reg. $529).

Apple iPad mini 4, 128GB (Refurbished: Wi-Fi + 4G Unlocked) & Accessories Bundle

The large screen and finger-scroll space on an iPad make it an appealing alternative to a phone or computer, even in the mini size. This grade-B refurbished model can still deliver great streaming nights with its speedy A8 processor and ability to connect via Wi-Fi or your own separate data plan. 

Get this refurbished iPad mini 4 and an accessories bundle for just $199.99 (reg. $450). 

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 Windows 10 256GB (Refurbished)

For the Windows lover looking to buy refurbished electronics online, we've got plenty of great refurbished Android devices, like this Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with Windows 10 Pro. It comes equipped with a 13.5" PixelSense touchscreen display and 11.5 hours of battery life.

Get the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 for only $425.99 (reg. $844.99) thanks to this refurbished offer.


Samsung SM Galaxy Smartwatch 46mm - Stainless Steel (Factory Refurbished)

Get a seriously high-performance fitness smartwatch for less than retail price when you opt for this refurbished Samsung Galaxy Smartwatch. Track your workouts and sleep while staying in touch with your social platforms. Water-resistant with a lengthy battery life—this smartwatch is great for fitness. 

Get the Samsung SM Galaxy Smartwatch 46mm - Stainless Steel (Factory Refurbished) for $149.99 (reg. $160).

PowerFit Elite Vibration Platform with Exercise Bands & Mat (Refurbished)

Here's a full health and fitness package at a fantastic price! With a workout guide, a meal plan booklet, an exercise mat, resistance bands, and this multidirectional vibration platform that amps up basic exercise movements, you can focus on whole-body wellness right from home.

Get the PowerFit Elite Vibration Platform with Exercise Bands & Mat (Refurbished) for $74.99 (reg. $199).

Looking for refurbished deals?

Ready to check out more refurbished deals? Check out desktop computers, smart-home appliances, and more the next time you're looking to buy refurbished electronics online.

StackSocial prices subject to change. 

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