A guide to buying refurbished tech

What does refurbished actually mean?

Did you know, there is actually no formal definition of the term refurbished?!

Perhaps the marketing gurus of the refurbishment world should think up a better term to use, because for many people the very word ‘refurbishment’ conjures up images of broken products that have been patched up by amateur technicians – a kind of Frankenstein’s monster of tech. The reality is usually far more professional than that, however, and in some instances, you could even call it a production line.

There are a whole host of product categories that can be labelled as refurbished, especially when it comes to technological goods

These range from products with minor damage (to the casing or packaging), shop demo products (still in perfect working order), new items that were identified as faulty pre-sale and repaired, or unused returned items (where a customer has simply changed their mind).

Let’s look at each case in a bit more detail:

Minor Damage: Sometimes a product, or even just the packaging, suffers some cosmetic damage in transit. This could be anything from a scratch on the casing of a tablet through to a squashed box. Either way the product will still be fully functioning.

Shop demo refurbishments: Specialist retail outlets such as the Apple Stores and other tech giants employ experts to demonstrate products to customers in the hope of increasing sales. In smaller or more generalist technology stores, these shop display products might be secured to the shelf by a security cord, and browsers are free to ‘have a play’. In the case of tablets, for example, ex-demo products have things like the touchscreens and batteries replaced before being sold through outlets such as online auction sites. In some cases, original parts will be used to refurb these products, but often it will be third party parts – it is worth checking if you are concerned, but either option still gives you a fully-working product.

Repaired products: Occasionally, a technology product, such as a phone, laptop or tablet, is identified as faulty during a quality check process or at the point of sale. These can often be repaired in-house or sent away to a specialist and have replacement parts fitted. Having become a product that has been changed post-manufacture, this is no longer considered new and must be sold as a refurbishment.

Returned items: Most retailers have a returns policy, usually in the region of 28 days. During that time, as long as the product has not been damaged, a consumer should be able to return an item without any trouble. Regardless of the reason or whether it was returned the next day or two weeks in, that item can no longer be sold as new, and a significant mark-down will apply.

Obviously, the major attraction of refurbished tech goods is the price, but where is the best place to find them?

Technically, only the middle two items in the list above are what most would consider true refurbishments – but all of them fall into this category. Companies such as online auctioneers, specialising in selling surplus and discontinued stock to trade buyers, are often a good place to source good quality refurbished goods. Some sellers will have their own grading system (check the descriptions on their website) and will have set quality standards that they aim to meet with their stock.

You can find a range of good-quality refurbished technology in many of our auctions each week. Why not take a look and see how much you could save?


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