We all love a good deal, especially when it comes to tech. Unfortunately, with so many devices out there—and so many ways to transform your house into a smart home—the expenses can add up fast. But they don’t have to.
Buying refurbished technology is a great solution. These preowned devices have been returned, revamped, and tested to make sure they’re reliable. Whether you're looking to buy a computer for your college-bound teenager or tablets for your twin 8-year-olds, refurbished devices are less expensive than new ones.
Still skeptical? We get it. Here at Asurion, we’ve been working with refurbished smartphones and other tech for decades. And we’ve heard it all, from “Is refurbished technology good or bad?” to “If I buy a device at a discounted rate, will it really work?”
So we’re uniquely qualified to walk you through everything you need to know about refurbished tech, including what to avoid so your devices last—and work the way you want them to.
What does "refurbished" mean?
Refurbished tech refers to used devices that have been tuned up and resold at a discounted rate. A properly refurbished device has been tested, thoroughly cleaned, and had its parts repaired or replaced if needed.
Refurbished isn’t the same as “used” or “open-box.” Used devices are typically sold as-is, meaning you get what you get. Open-box refers to an item that someone else bought, opened, and then returned before using, say if the packaging was damaged or they ordered it by mistake.
Always pay attention to a seller's refurbishing practices to be sure you’re getting a device that works properly—whether it’s a refurbished phone, a refurbished computer, a refurbished gaming system, or something else.
Why buy refurbished tech?
There are two main benefits to choosing refurbished tech over new devices.
Refurbished tech is less expensive
Refurbished tech generally costs less than its brand-new counterparts, so it’s a good way to save money, especially if you don’t need the latest model.
Refurbished tech helps the environment
Buying refurbished reduces our carbon footprint and our impact on the environment. The tech we use every day is critical for the way we live. But it also contains hazardous chemicals that can harm people—and our planet—if we don’t dispose of them properly.
In 2019 alone, humans generated 53.6 million metric tons of electronic waste around the world, and we only collected and recycled 17% of it, according to the 2020 Global E-Waste Monitor report, which was produced by various United Nations agencies. To put that statistic into perspective, e-waste in 2019 weighed more than all the adults in Europe combined.
The same report estimates that global e-waste—including tablets, toasters, and washing machines—will grow to 75 million metric tons. The reasons for that astronomical increase include limited repair options, short tech life cycles, and people’s desire for new devices.
By buying refurbished, however, you can help make a difference in the world we all share.
Do you need a protection plan and return policy on a refurbished device?
We highly recommend you buy a refurbished device from a seller that offers a warranty and a fair return policy. Look for at least a 90-day limited warranty, and if you don’t see one listed, keep shopping. Some credit card companies will also extend coverage to certain refurbished items, assuming they have a preexisting warranty.
In addition to a seller’s warranty, protection plans can offer peace of mind. “Protection plans are great for covering accidental damage that happens during the normal use of a device,” says Asurion procurement manager James Finney Sr. “I would always recommend a protection plan for any eligible consumer electronic device.”
At Asurion, we use high-quality refurbished phones in our mobile protection plans. These devices go through a multipoint refurbishment process that includes stringent quality checks. Our testing includes:
- Removing personally identifiable information.
- Updating to the latest software at time of repair.
- Inspecting devices visually for scratches, scuffs, gaps, discoloration, and other defects.
- Ensuring that Bluetooth®, touchscreen, and other features work properly.
- Confirming that 4G, LTE, 5G, etc. all work as they should.
What devices can you buy refurbished?
Lots of tech is available refurbished, including the following devices:
- Smart watches
- Game consoles
- Coffee grinders
- Washers and dryers
Whatever device you’re considering, do your homework. “Checking warranty, return policy, and cosmetic condition should provide enough comfort buying any refurbished consumer electronic device,” Finney says.
Some people do, however, avoid buying refurbished hard disk drives or solid-state drives because they can’t be fully restored to their factory condition.
Where to buy a refurbished device?
To help get you started, here are some trusted resources for refurbished tech:
- Amazon™ Renewed and Amazon Warehouse
- AT&T® Certified Pre-Owned
- Back Market®
- Best Buy® Outlet
- Walmart Restored™
If you’re considering buying refurbished tech from an unfamiliar seller, be sure to research the company online and read reviews on social media and across multiple websites. While you may see refurbished devices for sale on Craigslist® or similar sites online, we recommend you buy one from a company that backs their tech with a warranty and has an easily understood return policy.
Is it better to buy refurbished or new?
Only you can decide whether it’s worth paying full price for a new device. Shopping for refurbished tech can certainly save you money and help the planet, and it can be a safe, trusted route when you choose a reliable vendor.