Should You Buy Refurbished or Used Electronics?

With smartphones, tablets, and laptops all getting more and more expensive (with phones in particular now reaching and even exceeding $1000), you may want to buy last-generation products or even budget alternatives. However, depending on how much time you are willing to put in researching, buying refurbished or even used devices may yield superior performance for a better price than what you may have gotten if you were to buy a new model.


Pictured: Samsung Galaxy S7, which can be found on eBay for about $209 refurbished or $289 new for the T-Mobile variant, Image Source

Before looking at buying a new smartphone to replace your old one, I would recommend reading my Trends in Smartphone Technology article. Make sure that there are no features that you really want before buying an older device, since it may be a few more years until you upgrade and get those features. If nothing jumps out at you, then read the following tips I have before buying a refurbished, used, or older-generation device.

The general rule of thumb when buying a refurbished electronic device would be to make sure you are buying from a reputable seller. The main platforms for used smartphones include Swappa, eBay, and Craigslist. Out of those three, the best one is Swappa because of their tight quality control regulations. For eBay and Craigslist, it is important to always look up the seller to make sure that they have a good reputation for their product quality. Also, make sure there are no pictures of the phone’s IMEI, because if someone has that information, they can call carriers to block your device from the network.

When looking at refurbished, used, or last-generation products, I would recommend not to look at extremely old devices. Since mobile technology is one of the fastest growing technologies in terms of performance, buying a three or even two year old phone may not last as much as you think they will. When looking at Android phones, try to go for a Snapdragon 800-series processor (such as the Snapdragon 801, 808, 820, or 835 and not the 810 because of its overheating issues) and at least 3 GB of RAM. When looking at iPhones, start with the iPhone 6 or 6s and above models.

However, if you are looking at buying an Apple product in particular, make sure to check out their official refurbished store here. Although they may be a little more expensive compared to third-party sellers, the products that they do sell are almost new and may even be better than buying a new product.


Pictured: iPad 2017, which may offer a better deal compared to refurbished or used iPads if you are looking for pure performance, Image Source

Since tablets are a dying breed, make sure that you are confident that you want a tablet. Depending on what kind of tablet you want, buying refurbished or used products may not be the best option. For example, if all you are looking for is performance in an iPad, buying a new iPad (2017) may be your best option. Since it has the 3rd most powerful processor in an iPad (behind the iPad Pro), it is a great option for people who don’t mind an inferior screen, a thicker device, and inferior speakers. However, if you want a tablet based on design first and performance second, it may not be a bad idea to buy a refurbished device.

Similar to buying a smartphone, Apple’s official refurbished store offers extremely high quality iPads for only a small price increase over other refurbished iPads.


Pictured: HP Elitebook Folio 9470M, which can be found for $250 with an older-generation Core i5, 4GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, Image Source

Laptops and desktops are a shaky subject when it comes to used products. However, if you are willing to put in a lot of time in researching, you can get a very good system for the money, as shown in the online series Scrapyard Wars by YouTuber Linus Tech Tips or by YouTuber Tech YES City. In both cases, people go around and try to get the best deals on computer parts, and in the case of the latter, build computers for a fraction of the price of typical desktops.

When looking at laptops and desktops, it is important to look for devices with a decent amount of RAM, an SSD, and a Core i processor. Regarding RAM, I recommend at least 8GB because it allows for multitasking for programs. Regarding SSDs, although they are much more expensive and has less capacity compared to buying a traditional hard drive, the performance benefit over them is outstanding. Finally, regarding processors, although you can get one from AMD, only get one of their recent ones (Ryzen for desktop) because their older processors use outdated technology. I recommend getting an Intel processor, preferably a Core i5 or i7, with the very oldest generation being their third or fourth generation of processors (denoted by the first number after Core i3, i5, or i7). Your best case scenario would be to get a fifth generation or newer processor since those would potentially last longer than a third or fourth generation.

Regarding desktops, you also have to ask yourself the question of whether or not you want to buy parts to build your own computer or an entire computer from someone else who built it or a prebuilt computer from a major company such as Dell, HP, Lenovo, and ASUS. 

And again, similar to both buying smartphones and tablets, buying a refurbished device from Apple for their products can give you the best quality refurbished devices.

The Takeaway

The major thing when considering whether or not you should buy a refurbished device is to make sure there is nothing new that really entices you to want a new product. If you want something and have the funds for it, buying that new product would be best. But, if any one of those things are not true, buying refurbished and used devices can be a great option. When buying one of these such devices, though, always make sure that you are dealing with a very reputable seller to avoid problems. If you are looking for an Apple device, check the official Apple refurbished store to see if there are any deals, because they have the highest quality Apple refurbished devices. Even if you are not looking for an Apple device, doing research to see what the retail price is for a device and how much of a discount you are receiving is important to make sure that the model will yield.

Once you receive your refurbished or used device, make sure to reset it if it hasn’t already been to make sure that the previous seller did not put any tracking or malicious software on the device. It is better to waste some time waiting for your device to reset than having all of your data stolen. Remember that although your device may be refurbished, a manufactured refurbish may actually end up performing better than if you bought it new because all issues have hopefully been fixed. If you are buying a smartphone, websites like Swappa are best since it is closely regulated to make sure there are no problems with a device or at least mentioned if there are.

Leave a Reply