Refurbished goods: get an iPad for under £240

iPadCould buying refurbished electronics be a cheaper and safer way to get those 'must have' items?

You need a new laptop desperately; the one you have is held together with duct tape and is becoming embarrassing to use at trendy Wi-Fi hangouts. But what can you do when you have limited funds?
New top of the range electronics are pricey purchases that often require a good few months of saving. Helpful friends may suggest looking to second-hand listings to find bargains, but what about refurbished electronics?

Many consumers shy away from refurbished goods like laptops and TVs, but could we be missing out on great deals with a little added protection compared to second-hand buys?

Second hand vs. refurbished
Searching for the best deal on expensive electronic items like games consoles, TVs and laptops is tiresome and often your efforts bear no real results on price difference.
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That's why we increasingly look at second-hand listings in classified sections and auction sites like eBay to get the best deal. Not only is this option environmentally friendly, it saves us money too. But people using this option buy at their own risk; the item might stop working within a few days or you could end up with counterfeit goods if you are not careful.

Refurbished models on the other hand usually carry a one-year manufacturer warranty (if bought from the right place) and the knowledge you are dealing with a company rather than just a random person from the internet.

Plus there are savings to be had. Spokespeople from Argos Outlet and at eBay told us that shoppers can typically find savings of 10-30% on these goods.

What does refurbished mean?
When you hear the word "refurbished" what do you think? Does the word conjure images of faulty toasters, with sparks flying, being patched up and hastily sent back to the shops to be sold onto poor unsuspecting shoppers?

Many of us automatically recoil at the thought of refurbished electronics, preferring to buy new items because we trust that nothing can go wrong with them as they don't have some sort of dark past.

However, in retail refurbished (also known as reconditioned or remanufactured) could mean a number of things that aren't that bad have happened to a product:
  • Returned items – when people suffer buyer's remorse and return items back to the shop unused they are checked and put back on the shelves as refurbished.
  • Ex-display items - these are the models used at trade shows and as display models in stores. They have nothing wrong with them, they are simply out of the packaging.
  • Opened box - technically there is nothing wrong with the item, but because the seal is broken for one reason or another it goes on the refurbished pile.
  • Shipping defects - an item whose packaging has been damaged during transport, even though the item itself has not been affected at all and remains in perfect working condition.
  • Cosmetic defects - the hardware is in good order, but the item is suffering from surface wear like a scratch or wrong colour application.
  • Production defects - if a defect on any part is found (like on a circuit board) items are sent back to the manufacturers to be restored and retested.
In many cases, the items we see online or on the shelves as refurbished are in just as good working condition as the brand new ones.

To some it may feel like a game of Russian roulette picking an item that has had such a rough time. But you can be sure that whatever has happened to a product in the past, any refurbished or recertified electronic item has been given a clean bill of health before returning to the shop.

You can get discounts at Apple
Apple is notorious for seldom discounting its hugely popular products. Everybody seems to want to buy into the brand and the lifestyle but many cannot afford the hefty price tag.

For the savvy shopper there is an alternative to trawling through second-hand listings for a genuine Apple product. Apple-certified refurbished products are available on its website and offer sizeable discounts.

The technology giant maintains consumer confidence by backing up all of its refurbished goods with a one-year warranty and the option of purchasing the AppleCare Protection Plan for a further three years' reassurance. This is the same deal you get on brand new products!

Just browsing Apple's website for refurbished goods I found a first generation iPad with Wi-Fi 16GB for just £239 – a saving of £90.00 which is a massive 27% off the new price. Another great deal was on a refurbished first generation iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G 32GB, available for just £389. That's a £110 saving, the equivalent of a 22% discount on the original price.

Of course if you are only interested in the newest model (the iPad 3 came out in March this year and costs between £399 and £659) then a refurbished item may not be for you.

However, if you are a savvy shopper you will know that models have little difference between them apart from expensive marketing campaigns and mostly useless new features. You should shop around for what you need from your electronics rather than what companies tell you you need.

Reputable resellers
Of course you should be careful where you go to get these bargain electronics.

The used goods shop on your high street may not offer the same warranties as buying certified refurbished products from a reseller or direct from a manufacturer will.

Verdict
To many it may seem like a compromise to buy refurbished goods but with the added protection some resellers and manufacturers offer with warranties you could do a lot worse.

I bought a Sony Vaio two years ago using a reseller, saving around £100, and it has never given me any trouble.

These are my top tips for shopping for refurbished electronics:
  • Be quick! There is limited stock of refurbished models so deliberating for too long may mean you lose out on a bargain.
  • Look out for a generous manufacturer's warranty rather than standard 90-day policies which mean you can get the product fixed if it stops working.
  • Look for established reputable sellers and resellers.
  • Make sure you are getting a model that is right for you; don't shy away from older models as long as they have the specifications you require.
  • Check the returns policy so you can take back a product straight away if it does not work.
  • Make sure the item you are buying comes with all the relevant accessories.
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