How to Shop for Refurbished Laptops

How to shop for refurbished laptops

Shopping for refurbished laptops seems complicated. But if you know what to look for, you can find great laptops at prices significantly lower than what you’d pay for a new model. | Source: iStock

If you’re shopping for a new laptop, you’re likely overwhelmed already by all of the choices you need to make. There are manufacturers to compare, specs to research, operating systems to choose among, and budgets to set. But if you’re looking to minimize the money you spend on a new laptop, we have some advice for you: Refurbished laptops may be the best place to look. We’re big proponents of buying refurbished gadgets to save some money and to reduce the environmental impact of your purchase. While some people aren’t so sure about trusting a pre-owned device, buying a refurbished gadget from a good brand and a reputable retailer can be just as good as buying new.

If you’re still trying to figure out whether it’s time to buy a new laptop, or whether you should stick with your old machine for longer, it may be time for an upgrade. Purchasing a new-to-you laptop, even a refurbished one, can actually save you money you’d otherwise spend maintaining an old laptop. A newer laptop (even one that’s a year or two old and refurbished) will have more current software and faster hardware than the aging laptop you’ve been using for years.

Refurbished laptops can be great buys, since many are returns that weren’t used extensively. Additionally, all of them go through a thorough inspection process, and are repaired as necessary. Most also come with great warranties. Read on for all of the things you should keep in mind when you’re considering refurbished laptops.

What are refurbished laptops?

How to shop for refurbished laptops

Refurbished laptops have been returned to the seller or manufacturer for a variety of reasons, but they’re thoroughly assessed and repaired before they make it back to the shelf. | Source: iStock

Refurbished laptops are machines that have been returned to the seller for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes, there was a cosmetic flaw. Other times, something malfunctioned. Sometimes, the buyer just changed his mind or found a better deal on a similar laptop elsewhere. And in other situations, refurbished laptops are devices that were leased by a corporation and then returned once the lease expired. In any case, refurbished laptops are assessed, repaired, and then discounted, and often sold with a good warranty.

One of the misgivings that people typically have about refurbished laptops is that they won’t be getting the latest and greatest technology when opting for a preowned machine. But most people really don’t need the latest and greatest machines, and therefore don’t need to pay a premium just to buy features they won’t use. Do you need to run resource-intensive software, or have a laptop that’s compatible with specific hardware? In that case, you should look closely at the specifications of each machine you’re considering, and figure out whether refurbished laptops can meet your needs.

But if you don’t have any specific requirements in mind, or just know that you need a new laptop for web browsing, emailing, and some Netflix watching, you should have no problem finding what you need among the refurbished laptops available. That’s not an excuse to forego researching what specifications you need or to make decisions about the operating system lightly. But if you don’t need a lightning-fast machine with all the latest features, it’ll be easy to find refurbished laptops that have adequate specifications and can save you a significant amount of money versus buying new.

Where can you find refurbished laptops?

How to shop for refurbished laptops

There are many reputable places to buy refurbished laptops, but manufacturers’ websites and big electronics stores are both great places to start looking. | Source: iStock

While you might find a tempting deal on eBay, Craigslist, or some unknown retailer that pops up on a Google search, it’s much better to stick with retailers that you already know are trustworthy. Some of the best places to look are laptop manufacturers, authorized refurbishers, and major electronics stores. Each of these outlets will offer good prices, decent warranties, and good return policies. Apple, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Sony are great manufacturers to turn to for refurbished laptops if you know that you want a machine from one of those companies, while stores like Best Buy offer a wider selection of refurbished laptops for you to compare and choose among.

When you’re shopping for refurbished laptops sold directly by the manufacturer, then you can feel pretty confident in the quality of the machine, since these machines were repaired by the manufacturer. If you’re buying a laptop that wasn’t refurbished by the manufacturer, it can be a good idea to make sure you’re getting both a warranty and a return policy, so that you can be confident that you’ll have options in the event something goes wrong. In either case, make sure you know whether you’re getting the cords, accessories, and manuals that would be bundled with a new laptop. If not, you’ll need to budget the price of those accessories into your purchase.

It can’t be stressed enough that when you’re looking at refurbished laptops, it’s always a good idea to buy from sources that you trust. You should always check out the return policy and find out whether a store guarantees its inspection process or offers an attractively long warranty period. Once you’ve narrowed down the broad field of refurbished laptops to a few models, compare your options when it comes to return policies and warranty periods, and find out as much as you can about the inspection process that a device goes through on its way to you. Double-check warranties and return policies before buying, and make sure you know whether you’re getting a machine that was refurbished by the manufacturer or by a third party.

What should you look for when shopping refurbished laptops?

How to shop for refurbished laptops

If you know what you’re looking for in a new-to-you laptop, you can easily figure out what kinds of refurbished laptops you need to compare. | Source: iStock

Electronics sold as refurbished often come from customers who have opened the packaging or used the goods, and then returned them. At that point, each item is checked by hand for its physical and functional condition and is put through an extensive inspection process. Any repairs that are necessary are made, and the repair procedures have often been extensively tested themselves to ensure the longevity of the repairs. Many websites that sell refurbished laptops assign each one a grade to explain their condition. So you should always take a look at the condition of a machine before you buy it.

There are a few tradeoffs to buying refurbished laptops. You’ll need to wait a while to buy a given model used, which means that you won’t be among the first to try out the latest technology. Additionally, refurbished laptops often have some cosmetic wear or flaws thanks to their previous lives. But your experience with the laptop will be the same as if you bought it new, and if you purchase from a reputable retailer. If you know you need something specific out of a new-to-you laptop, ensure that each model has what you need — never assume. Manufacturers like Apple can make it a little tricky to figure out which year a machine is from, so always double-check the specs and do your research.

Make sure that all of the refurbished laptops you’re considering run the right operating system and will support the software you want to run. It’s a good idea to check out what software comes with the machine, so that you can budget for the purchase of anything you’ll need that isn’t included. And always compare the price of a refurbished laptop to the price of a new one, just to make sure that the discount is worth it.

Just as important as knowing what to look for when you’re shopping for refurbished laptops is knowing what you don’t need. You’ll want to buy a laptop with some kind of warranty, so that you can be confident the seller is going to stand behind the device in the event that something goes wrong. But in most cases, you should avoid paying extra money for things like subscriptions that enable you to contact the seller for repairs if problems arise.