We are always looking profitable deals . It’s hard to resist post-holiday, year-end and spring sales . However, another way to save money throughout the year is to buy restored products.

A man looks at musical equipment through the windows of an electronic store
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What is considered a repaired item

When most of us think about restored subject, we think of something that has been opened up, torn apart and rebuilt, like an automatic transmission restoration. However, in the world of electronics, it’s not obvious what the term «refurbished» means to the consumer.

An audio or video component can be classified as restored, if it meets ANY of the following criteria:

Customer return

Most major retailers have a 30 day return policy for their items and many consumers return items within this time period for whatever reason. In most cases, if the product is okay, the stores will simply lower the price and resell it as a special open box. However, if an item is found to be defective, many stores have agreements to return the item to the manufacturer where it is inspected and/or repaired and then repackaged for sale as a refurbished item.

Shipping Damage

In many cases, packages may be damaged in transit due to mishandling, items, or other factors. In most cases, the item in the package can be perfectly fine, but the seller has the option to return damaged boxes (who wants to put a damaged box on the shelf?) to the manufacturer for full credit. The manufacturer is obliged to inspect the goods and pack them in new boxes for sale. However, they cannot be sold as new products, which is why they are labeled as refurbished units.

cosmetic damage

Occasionally, for various reasons, a product may have a scratch, dent, or other form of cosmetic damage that does not affect the performance of the device. The manufacturer has two options; sell the device with visible cosmetic damage, or repair it by placing the internal components in a new cabinet or enclosure. In any case, the product is considered refurbished, as the internal mechanisms, which may not be affected by damaged cosmetics, are still being tested.

Demo Blocks

While at the store level, most retailers sell their old floorboard displays, some manufacturers pick them up, inspect and/or repair them if necessary, and ship them as refurbished units. This may also apply to display units used by a manufacturer at trade shows, returned by product reviewers, and for internal office use.

Defect during production

In any assembly line production process, a specific component can show up as defective because of a faulty processing chip, power supply, disc loading mechanism, or another factor. This is usually caught before the product leaves the factory, but defects may show up after the product hits store shelves. As a result of customer returns, inoperative demos, and excessive product breakdowns within the warranty period of a specific element in the product, a manufacturer may «recall» a product from a specific batch or production run that exhibits the same defect. The manufacturer can opt to repair all the defective units and send them back to retailers as refurbished units.

The Box Was Merely Opened

Although, technically, there is no issue here other than the box was opened and was sent back to the manufacturer for repacking (or repacked by the retailer), the product is still classified refurbished because it was repacked, even though no refurbishing has occurred.

Overstock Items

If a retailer has an overstock of a particular item they usually reduce the price and put the item on sale or clearance. However, sometimes, when a manufacturer introduces a new model, it will «collect» the remaining stock of the older models still on store shelves and redistribute them to specific retailers for a quick sale. In this case, the item can be sold either as «a special purchase» or can be labeled as refurbished.

When an electronic product is shipped back to the manufacturer, for whatever reason, where it is inspected, restored to original specification (if needed), tested and/or repackaged for resale, the item can no longer be sold as «new».

Tips on Buying Refurbished Products

It’s not always clear what the exact origin or condition of a refurbished product is. It is impossible for the consumer to know what the reason is for the «refurbished» designation for a specific product.

You must disregard any «supposed» knowledge the salesman tries to impart to you on this aspect of the product because he/she has no inside knowledge on this issue either.

Taking all of the above possibilities into consideration, here are several questions you need to ask when shopping for a refurbished product.

  • Is the refurbished unit being sold by a retailer that is also authorized to sell new products made by the same company?
  • Does the refurbished unit have a US warranty (it should have a 45 to 90-day Parts and Labor warranty)? Sometimes refurbished units are gray market — which means they may not have been originally intended for sale in the US market.
  • Does the retailer offer a return or exchange policy for the refurbished unit if you are not happy (15-days or more)?
  • Does the retailer offer an extended warranty for the item? This doesn’t mean you have to buy an extended warranty—but whether or not they offer one indicates their degree of support for the product. If the dealer is not an authorized dealer of the product, they would be hesitant to offer an extended warranty for it.

If the answers to all of the above questions are «Yes», purchasing the refurbished unit may be a safe and smart move.

Final Thoughts on Purchasing Refurbished Items

Buying a refurbished item can be a great way to get a great product at a bargain price. There is no logical reason why being merely labeled «refurbished» should attach a negative connotation to the product under consideration.

Even new products can be lemons, and all refurbished products were new at one point. However, when buying such a product, whether it be a refurbished camcorder, AV receiver, TV, DVD player, etc. from either an online or physical retailer, it’s important to make sure you can inspect the product and that the retailer backs up the product with some sort of return policy and warranty to the extent outlined in our buying tips.


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