Refurbished Products: A Primer for the Paranoid


The growing popularity of refurbished products should not come as a surprise. Think about it: what’s surprising about people constantly being on the lookout for used products, certified to be as good as new, for cheaper than they’d normally cost? We’re lucky people aren’t trampling over each other in our storefront to get these refurbished products. But, for as many feral, rabid customers we get looking for refurbished products, we get just as many asking about the similarities and differences between new and refurbished products. Read on to find out more.

What are refurbished products?

Put simply, refurbished products are those that have been repaired or otherwise modified by the original manufacturer, after having been used, and then sold at a lower price. That may sound bad, but what the companies are really doing is cleaning, fixing, or otherwise spiffing up used products to give them second life. Consumers get the benefit of being able to buy those products for sometimes ridiculously low prices.

This might be a little bit more than what you'll really save, but you get the idea. It's a wheelbarrow full of money. Don't complain.

A useful analogy for this process is a car dealership. Say you have an awful, crappy car. The brake pads are worn down to dust, you haven’t changed the oil for a year, and the AC doesn’t work. You go to a dealership and trade that car for a new one. The dealership, now stuck with your jalopy on their hands, will try to find value in it so they can re-sell it. If they deem it to be in the right condition, they’ll change the oil, put in a new AC, replace the brake pads, wash it, wax it, slap a comically large price tag on it, and hope that they can make some money from your former misfortune.

"We can rebuild him. We have the technology."

This is almost exactly  what happens in the refurbishment process. Companies will take almost any used product, from processors to routers to entire computer systems, and fix the problems with it in hopes of being able to sell it again to make a little more money.

Refurbished products cannot legally be sold or advertised as “new,” and are often clearly labeled with their condition. However, refurbished products are, more often than not, as good as new. The difference usually lies in the age of the part or its cosmetic condition. Some refurbished products are sold with dents or scratches that don’t affect the operation of the product itself.

Some refurbished items have not been used at all. There are a number of other things that can classify a product as “refurbished,” such as damaged packaging, overstocks, or even rebranded items. Rebranded items, or “newfurbs,” are simply brand new products that companies push on daily deals sites, or just swap the sticker on the product itself to diversify it from the original. Sometimes, customers will return products, having opened the box but not actually used the item. These products are often labeled “refurbished” when re-sold.

Why should I buy refurbished products?

The most universal and obvious benefit of refurbished products is their price point. For a much lower price than retail, sometimes as little as half the price, a customer will receive the same product, either new or as good as new. Depending on your level of trust for the companies who refurbish products, this is often the more economical solution. For example, this Gateway desktop computer that we sell at OutletPC has specifications similar to computers that run in the $600-$1000 price range. The computer itself is not very old and has contemporary hardware. However, because it is refurbished, it can be sold for much less than it would be brand new.

Just in case it didn't hit home the first time.

Because of their low price points, refurbished products are great for temporary solutions to hardware failure, but also a great choice for upgrading your system on the cheap. Refurbished items like memory, hard drives, and fans are almost always totally reliable and as good as new. If you’re looking for some more computing power in a pinch, refurbished products might be the right way to avoid breaking the bank and may give you a little more bang for your buck.

Refurbished products also follow a more global trend of reuse and recycling. These days, less often means more. Most people do their best to reuse things like plastic bags, water bottles, and other things most would just toss out. This notion applies to computer hardware as well.

As opposed to buying a brand new product, buying a refurbished product is the only way to guarantee that you’re doing your part to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing process, and giving new life to not-so-old, still totally useful tech that would have otherwise been forgotten or discarded. If you discard computer hardware improperly, Mother Nature is going to hate you. Might as well find a way to reuse it!

Pictured: Mother Nature. She'll kill you twice before you hit the ground.

Are there any dangers associated with buying refurbished products?

Though we at OutletPC do our best to make sure refurbished products are in full working order, others may not be kind enough to look after you.

Sometimes, the “newfurbs” that I mentioned above are poor-selling, potentially defective products that the market of consumers knows not to buy. The companies who manufacture them sometimes choose to rebrand their products to give them another chance at selling. Be wary of rebranding and make sure to inform yourself on the product you’re looking for and how it’s been reviewed.

The refurbishment of a product is also dependent on the pair of hands that actually fix the item itself. Big-name manufacturers like Dell, HP, Intel, Apple and whatnot are often easily trusted with refurbished products, as they tend to have massive refurbishing staffs and place a large focus on quality. However, smaller, less-known companies deserve a little more investigation. It is difficult to be sure of a company’s commitment to quality refurbished products, or what their refurbishment process entails.

As well, refurbished products carry with them the possibility of further defect. You may never know what about that product has been changed or fixed, and thus can’t predict which components are at risk for failure. This is also an issue that can be remedied with a little Googling and reading.

The most general problem with refurbished products is that their lifetimes have been shortened by use. The used nature of refurbished products almost always means that its warranty will be shorter than a new product and that the manufacturer’s support options may be limited. If the item you’re purchasing is a component with a short lifetime, you may end up spending more in repairs. Be smart about how you spend your money. Computer parts are less purchases and more so investments, so always be sure to purchase with an eye on the long term. That way, you can save even more money.

Once more, with feeling!

If you have any questions about refurbished products or anything else, or have an idea for a blog post topic, email us at Happy shopping!

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