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Refurbished phones and laptops can save you a package. 5 questions to ask before you buy


Furnished devices such as phones and laptops are cheaper than buying new ones. Can you trust them?

Angela Lang / CNET

Buying a used phone or laptop can save you hundreds of dollars compared to buying expensive new electronics. There are several ways to buy a used device, including from sites like Swappa or eBay. Although both sites have buyer protection guidelines to ensure you get what you paid for, we can suggest that you go with a refurbished one instead.

Refurbished electronics follow a set of guidelines from the seller that can give you some standards and insurances beyond buying electronics used from the original owner. But can you rely on a refurbished laptop or phone? What do you get, and what can you expect in terms of warranty, accessories and customer support?

There are some important questions to ask when browsing a refurbished store, from Apple to Gazelle to Amazon. Here are the most important factors to consider.

What is a refurbished unit, exactly?

When you sell or exchange old gadgets to a company like Gazelle, Best Buy or even your wireless carrier, it will go through an evaluation process. If it is a newer unit and in order, the odds are that it will go through a refurbishment process and eventually be sold as a used or refurbished unit.

But each company has a different approach to how it is refurbished and ensures that a phone or laptop will continue to work. For example, Apple classifies all of its refurbished devices as “as new,” after each device is cleaned, any defective parts are replaced, and the device is thoroughly tested. A refurbished iPhone ($ 900 at Boost Mobile) comes with new battery and housing.

Amazon’s refurbished refurbishment program takes a similar approach by inspecting, testing and repairing damaged parts. Amazon guarantees that the battery has 80% capacity and warns that you can see any scratches on the outside of refurbished products.


There are many refurbished options available.


Is there a return policy for refurbished phones, laptops and other electronics?

Whether a unit is brand new or refurbished, lemons happen. A device may not turn on or operate as expected. Some companies like Gazelle and Amazon do not replace the device housing, so you get a phone or laptop with some cosmetic damage. Gazelle does a great job of explaining what to expect when you buy a phone in good condition and even provides examples of photos.

To be clear, the pictures of the device you want to buy are not but serve as examples of what the different levels of wear look like on devices it sells. But what if you get a phone that has more damage (even though it still works just fine) than you expected?

In most cases, you should be able to return a device you are not happy with. I suggest you read through the site’s frequently asked questions or guidelines, often linked to at the bottom of the page, to find the return policy. If you’re having a hard time finding it, a Google search that includes the site’s name and return direction (such as “Gazelle return policy”) will usually take you to the right place.


Extended warranties can be a good idea.

Josh Miller / CNET

What kind of warranty applies to refurbished units?

Just because a device has been refurbished does not mean that it should have no warranty. Things happen, components stop working, and if a company wants you to feel confident in your purchase, it should offer some sort of warranty beyond the return period.

All Apple refurbished products come with a one-year warranty. Gazelle has a 30-day right of return which is also considered the warranty, but sells an extra year of protection with an extended warranty that also covers accidental damage. Prices start at $ 55, depending on the device. By comparison, AT&T wireless costs $ 8.99 a month for a similar service.

Amazon offers 90 Satisfaction Guarantees where you can return a renewed device for a refund.

As you can see, the warranties for used appliances vary widely. Take a few extra minutes to research what a vendor policy is before clicking the checkout button.

SIM card

Does the phone work with your carrier?

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Does a refurbished phone work with my carrier?

When surfing refurbished phones, be careful about the limitations of the carrier. Refurbished websites such as Apple, Amazon or Gazelle clearly indicate which operator the device is intended to be used on, or whether it is unlocked and can be used on any operator.

This is an important step when shopping for a phone, new or used. If you buy a phone that is locked to Verizon and want to use it on T-Mobile, you are likely to encounter problems. There is a possibility that you can call an operator to unlock a phone for you, but you can save time and buy a phone that works with your operator of your choice.

Are accessories supplied with refurbished products, or do I buy them separately?

If a product listing does not show everything that comes with your purchase, such as a charger or cable, I recommend that you contact the company or seller and ask what is included.

Apple sends everything you need to use your device. The most important thing is a charger. Like Amazon, but the charger may not be the official charger that came with your phone or laptop, if it was a brand new purchase.

If you are comfortable with the idea of ​​buying a refurbished phone or laptop, remember that you can save even more money by selling the device to the companies that sell refurbished products. Can I give some personal advice? Never buy or sell these seven used technical devices.

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