Is buying refurbished electronics a safe thing to do? - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Money

default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

Is buying refurbished electronics a safe thing to do?

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at Readers may send questions to

Related Stories

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012 10:49 am

Q: With all of the “special deals” being offered during the holiday shopping season, is it safe to buy electronics that have been refurbished? — Melody

A: The demand for electronics during the holiday season tends to generate the lowest prices of the year, but there are a few things that you need to keep in mind when trying to find the “best deal.”

The profit margins in the electronics business are very thin on a year-round basis because of demand and competition, so understanding this relatively thin level between the cost and selling price is very important.

It’s not uncommon for retailers to sell electronics at 8 to 10 percent above cost, so when you see a 30 or 40 percent off sale for anything electronic, you should immediately be suspicious.

Buying refurbished electronics is one way of potentially saving money, but not all refurbished products are the same.

I generally refer to refurbished electronics as “pre-broken” because you will never actually know the circumstances that led to the device being “refurbished.”

In some cases, the device was simply returned as defective, but the reality was that the user didn’t understand how to use or setup the device and there was nothing wrong with it.

In other cases, the device was exhibiting intermittent issues that the refurbishing process wouldn’t necessarily catch, which means the next owner will experience the same random, yet unrepeatable issues when they try to explain what the problem might be.

Remembering that the profit margin for brand new products is very thin, there isn’t much room for any real deep discounting.

The two primary variables that you should contemplate when considering the purchase of refurbished electronics are: Is the price substantially lower than buying new to make the gamble worth the risk and does the device have any moving parts?

If a refurbished device is 10 to 20 percent cheaper than its comparable new alternative, the only situations that I would consider are when the item has no moving parts (HDTV, solid state laptops, iPads, etc.) and is a higher ticket item.

Whenever there are moving parts involved (mechanical hard drives, power supply fans, etc.), your risk increases exponentially because moving parts have a much higher rate of failure.

And a 20 percent discount on a $200 device is much less attractive then a 20 percent discount on a $1,500 device.

Another critically important factor to consider is who is offering the refurbished product.

A manufacturer’s refurbished product is much less risky than a third-party that offers a refurbished device.

For instance, buying a refurbished iPad from Apple (one of the few scenarios that I would be comfortable with) is much less risky than buying a refurbished iPad from “Joe’s Online Emporium of Refurbished Electronics.”

Another huge consideration is the associated warranty. If a new product comes with a one-year warranty, often times the refurbished alternative only comes with a 90-day warranty.

The salespeople of refurbished devices will be fast to offer up an extended warranty, but by the time you spend the extra for the warranty, you may as well have purchased a factory-sealed version with the full warranty.

Having spent most of my life servicing consumer electronics, I can tell you that the horror stories from folks who bought refurbished devices are not uncommon, so as with any alternative purchasing scheme: Buyer beware!

• Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at Readers may send questions to

More about

More about

More about

  • Discuss

GOP’s Hispanic Outreach Could Blunt Trump Effect in Senate Races

If Donald Trump loses in November, one main factor will be the way he alienated Hispanic voters. But many of those same Hispanic voters could …

Published: October 24, 2016 - 2:31 pm @…

Suns forward P.J. Tucker appears tonight at Scottsdale charity event

In advance of the Coca-Cola & Fry’s Food Stores Home Opener, Suns forward P.J. Tucker will support local nonprofit Make-A-Wish Arizona dur…

Published: October 24, 2016 - 2:30 pm @…

Phoenix offers mini-grants for neighborhood improvement

By Anthony Marroquin | Cronkite News PHOENIX – When Becky Vining moved into her home near Grand and 15th avenues, she wasn’t looking for upsca…

Published: October 24, 2016 - 1:58 pm @…

Jordin Sparks to Sing National Anthem at Suns Home Opener

Phoenix native and award-winning recording artist Jordin Sparks will perform the national anthem at the Coca-Cola & Fry’s Food Stores Suns…

Published: October 24, 2016 - 2:00 pm @…

Phoenix’s KJZZ to launch mobile production unit that doubles as food truck

Public radio station KJZZ in Phoenix wanted to start a project related to food but hadn’t landed on quite the right concept. Station leaders c…

Published: October 24, 2016 - 1:30 pm @…

Will the Democrats take the Senate?

At the moment, this is a nail biter. There is a theory that a strong showing by one party at the top of the ticket brings along those lower do…

Published: October 24, 2016 - 1:28 pm @…

Southern Diet Danger

advertisement Find more information on Dr. Weil and integrative medicine. The premiere resource for in-depth, timely, trustworthy i…

Published: October 24, 2016 - 12:39 pm @…

Cubs Spring Training Baseball in Mesa, Arizona

Find out why Loading... Loading... Rating is available when the video has been rented. This feature is not available right now. Please try aga…

Published: October 24, 2016 - 12:39 pm @

When Mexico needed a wall to keep Americans out

When the image of the border-crossing Mexican rapist emerged from Donald Trump’s fevered imagination at the start of this election cycle, it s…

Published: October 24, 2016 - 12:28 pm @…

The Best Things to Do in Metro Phoenix, October 24 to 30

Becky Bartkowski A A Your guide to how to spend this week is here, Phoenix. Get ready for basketball, Día de los Muertos, photography, a theat…

Published: October 24, 2016 - 12:29 pm @…

Facebook on Facebook

Twitter on Twitter


Subscribe to via RSS

RSS Feeds


Most Popular

Online poll