How and where to buy refurbished tech online

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.


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.

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.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

By John Routledge

Founder and owner of - I'm an avid tech junkie, a lover of new gadgets and home automation. You will often find me reading, writing, and learning about new technologies. I've been featured in many leading technology magazines where I've written about my favorite topics.