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Don’t snub your nose at refurbished electronics

Buying refurbished devices from reputable manufacturers and retailers can save you money while still offering peace of mind

Mac laptops are displayed at a new Apple Store in the Williamsburg section in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
Mac laptops are displayed at a new Apple Store, Thursday, July 28, 2016, in the Williamsburg section in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Refurbished electronic devices can be a way to save money and the environment, experts say.
Mark Lennihan, Associated Press

From now until Christmas, you’ll likely be shopping for some type of electronic device. Maybe you’re looking for a laptop for your college student or a new phone for your 12-year-old. But instead of paying full price with no questions asked, dig a little deeper to find great deals on refurbished electronics.

Not only can buying refurbished save you money, but it can also possibly save these items from languishing in a landfill. It’s a great way to help your bank account and the environment at the same time.

The term “refurbished” can have different definitions depending on who is trying to sell it. And since there are no hard-and-fast rules on what it means when a device is refurbished, it’s wise to stick to major retailers and manufacturers for the most part.

Reputable companies call something refurbished when someone has sent it back, the company has checked it out and made all necessary repairs to return it to “like new” condition.

When shopping for refurbished electronics, look for a good warranty and whether charging cables, earbuds and other accessories will come with it. The savings on a certain item may not be worth buying refurbished if you will still need to go out and purchase a bunch of extra things.

Manufacturers like Apple, Microsoft, Google and HP all sell their refurbished products with a one-year warranty. Apple guarantees the item will have at least a 15% discount off of a new one, always put in a new battery and shell and ship them with all original accessories.

I purchased a 13-inch MacBook Air that was originally priced at $999 for $849 refurbished. It has worked like a charm with no issues whatsoever.

EBay recently started offering what it’s calling Certified Refurbished items that come with a two-year warranty and original accessories. These electronics with that specific label were refurbished by the manufacturer or a manufacturer-approved vendor.

Amazon Warehouse also offers a full-year warranty on products with a Renewed Premium label on them.

There are a couple of consumer protection organizations that are trying to help customers be more aware of quality refurbished products. The International Organization for Standardization and Responsible Recycling has set industry standards for refurbished items. Buyers can look for the acronyms ISO and R2 for some insight to how a product was refurbished.

A WalletHub study in 2017 also found that most major credit cards may extend an original manufacturer’s warranty, even on refurbished items. In fact, their research found 66% of cards cover refurbished items that have preexisting warranties. WalletHub reports the only cards that do not offer an extended warranty policy are Wells Fargo Rewards, Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa and all Discover cards.

Still, sticking to those major retailers and manufacturers with yearlong warranties is the safest way to go when buying anything refurbished.

Never buy “as-is” or from random sellers online.

Using good judgement when buying refurbished items is a must. But doing so can be a smart way to save some cash and be kinder to our planet.