How and where to buy refurbished tech online


In good news for our wallets and the environment at large, many electronic devices like phones and tablets last longer now than they once did. If you’re considering buying refurbished, the gadget you get will likely have a good amount of life left in it. There are no laws governing the terms, but refurbished or renewed devices tend to be a level above just plain “used.” At minimum, refurbished tech should have undergone cleaning and diagnostics, and some sellers also replace components like batteries and screens. Once ready for sale, these devices should operate as if they were new, with only minor scuffs indicating their history.

Refurbished devices not only save you a bit of cash, they have a drastically lower carbon footprint since most of the environmental impact comes from manufacturing. It’s more efficient than recycling and helps keep e-waste out of landfills. But there are better places to shop refurbished tech than others. We’ve pointed out a few recommendations below, along with our advice on what to look for when you start shopping for refurbished gear.

What to consider when buying refurbished devices

Refurbished vs used

Refurbished is not the same as used. Used items tend to be sold “as-is,” which means you’re simply inheriting whatever mileage and quirks a device had when the previous owner said goodbye to it. It’s true that most refurbished items were previously owned, and many are a result of the growing trend of trading in your old device when you upgrade. But others were hardly used at all and are one of the millions of returns generated each year. Either way, a properly refurbished item has undergone testing to verify that it works, along with cleaning, repairs and parts replacement as needed.

Since there are no government regulations for renewed items, it’s up to the sellers to define what steps they take to ready a device for sale. And it’s up to the buyer to find out what those steps are before taking the plunge. The processes for refurbishing devices from Apple, Bose, Microsoft and Samsung, for example, include cleaning, inspection, parts replacement as needed and shipment in a new box with the originally supplied accessories. They also all provide a one-year warranty.

Warranties and returns

A refurbished device should perform as well as its new counterpart, but the only way to guarantee that’s the case is to make sure it comes with a warranty. All of the sites we recommend below include a warranty with the products they sell. If you see something labeled as refurbished, but doesn’t include some sort of guarantee as to its reliability – shop elsewhere.

Also, a good return policy will let you send the item back (preferably with the same free shipping a new item gets) for any reason — including that you just changed your mind. That way if a refurbished product doesn’t look as good as you thought it would, you can send it back without having to prove there’s something wrong with it.

Sanitation

Most refurbished tech was used before it made its way back on the market. And while renewed items are cleaned, you’ll still need to consider your comfort with sanitation issues when buying things like headphones and earbuds.

Laptop and smartphone on round wooden table in cozy interior.

Polina Lebed via Getty Images

Where to buy refurbished tech

We recommend going directly to the manufacturer whenever possible, especially for more technical items like smartphones and laptops. If you need a new MacBook, check out Apple’s refurbished stock first; if you want a new Galaxy phone, hit up Samsung before anyone else. Repairs will be handled using genuine parts and you’re far more likely to get items that were properly unpaired from the original owner and all data wiped.

Retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy are decent options if you’re on a tighter budget or if you’re looking for gadgets from a manufacturer that may not have its own refurbished outlet. Refurbished marketplaces like Decluttr and BackMarket can be useful if you’re looking for older, more specific items, or if price is the number one factor for your purchase.

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Apple

They may offer less than they once did for trade-ins but Apple is still pulling in a decent inventory of refurbished MacBooks, iPads and other devices. Each refurbished piece undergoes an inspection and repairs using original Apple parts, with refurbished iPhones and iPads getting new batteries and outer shells. In addition to phones and tablets, Apple sells refurbished MacBooks, Watches, Apple TVs and accessories like the Apple Pencil. Everything is shipped in a new box with whatever cables, accessories and operating systems a new item would get. Items get the same one-year warranty and 14-day returns window that Apple offers on new products as well.

Shop refurbished at Apple

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Samsung

While they accept just about any device as a trade-in, Samsung only regularly offers refurbished smartphones on its site – you’ll have to look elsewhere for a renewed Samsung tablet or smartwatch. That said, a refurbished Galaxy phone can sell for as much as 30 percent off the standard price. The phones come with a new battery, are tested and repaired with Samsung parts and get new packaging, cables and the latest software. One-year warranties come standard, too.

Shop refurbished at Samsung

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Bose

On a given day, you’ll find between three and 30 on the company’s site, including speakers, headphones, soundbars and bundles. Savings range from 10 percent to 45 percent and each item undergoes measures similar to Apple and Samsung, with testing, repairs and cables in a new box. Bose also includes a 90-day, free returns policy and either a one- or two-year warranty, whichever the device would get if it were new.

Shop refurbished at Bose

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Sonos

Sonos devices don’t often go on sale, which makes the brand’s refurbished program even more enticing. You’ll typically only find a handful of the company’s renewed speakers and soundbars available at one time, so it pays to check the site regularly. Each refurbished device undergoes testing and repairs, ships in new boxes and includes all accessories and the same 45-day returns policy and one-year warranty as a new device. Plus in 2023, Sonos began donating a portion of refurbished annual sales as part of 1% for the Planet.

Shop refurbished at Sonos

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Microsoft

You’ll mostly find Surface tablets and laptops on . Renewed and consoles have their own destinations. All refurbished Microsoft products get tested, repaired and cleaned and come in new packaging along with the usual accessories plus a 30-day returns policy and year-long warranty for Surface devices and a 90-day guarantee on consoles.

Shop refurbished at Microsoft

Other retailers

Some smaller manufacturers like Dyson, Vitamix, Nintendo and JBL offer their own refurbished products, but for many other brands, you may need to head to a retailer.

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Amazon

Amazon Renewed is different from Amazon Warehouse, which sells used items that have been tested and graded, but haven’t undergone any refurbishment. Items under the Renewed designation have been cleaned and professionally inspected and come with replacement accessories as needed.

Refurbishment isn’t always conducted by an in-house team, as Amazon mostly lists items sold by third-party refurbishers. The exception to that is with Amazon devices like Kindles, Ring doorbells and Echos, which are tested, shipped and sold by Amazon. Find those items on the certified refurbished Amazon device page, formerly called Kindle Refurbished.

The guarantee on all refurbished items sold on the site only extends for 90 days, but that’s a combined warranty and returns policy, which includes sending the device back because it simply wasn’t what you expected, regardless of whether there’s something wrong with it.

There’s a wider allowance for condition ratings with Amazon’s refurb program, allowing for the minor cosmetic imperfections of “premium” and “excellent” ratings, along with visible marks and scratches at the “good” and “acceptable” condition levels.

That said, Amazon Renewed offers a wide selection of products you might not be able to get directly from a manufacturer, including kitchen equipment, tools and gaming accessories.

Shop refurbished at Amazon

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Walmart

Like Amazon’s program, Walmart Restored uses third party sellers and refurbishers and also grants a 90-day combined return and warranty period. The products are rated as having no cosmetic defects when viewed from one foot away, unless otherwise noted in the listing. Products include tools, tablets, kitchen appliances, TVs and video game consoles.

Shop refurbished at Walmart

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Target

Unfortunately, the warranties for Target’s refurbished program varies by item. Depending on the listing, you’ll see warranties that extend six months, one year or have no warranty at all. However, all items we checked did include a return period ranging from 15 to 30 days – though you’ll need to bring the item back to a Target store. Obviously we don’t recommend going for any tech device (refurbished or not) without a warranty, but like Amazon and Walmart, Target’s program may offer a way to find deals on a wider selection of tech than going through a manufacturer. Just be sure to check the warranty details for the device you want. You’ll find them in the Specifications dropdown in the About This Item section on the product page.

Shop refurbished at Target

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Best Buy

Best Buy combines open box, clearance and refurbished items under the Best Buy Outlet umbrella. They even run a few brick and mortar Outlet stores that sell clearance, open-box and returned items. For the most part, however, those don’t include items that have undergone the refurbishment process. For that, you’ll want to look at items marked “Geek Squad Certified Refurbished” online. These are products that have been spruced up either by Best Buy’s own repair centers, by the manufacturers or by third-party refurbishers. The devices come with a 90-day warranty, which covers defects, in addition to Best Buy’s standard 15-day return policy.

Shop refurbished at Best Buy



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