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What Does Refurbished or Recertified Mean?

I've been a successful manager at a college retailer for over 28 years.

Should you buy a refurbished product?

Odds are that if you've shopped at all, particularly for technology products, you've seen products identified as refurbished or refurbs. They're usually priced far below their regular counterparts, yet look identical. What are they and are they safe for you to buy?

Is Refurbished or Recertified as Good As New?

A refurbished or recertified product is virtually as good as new and consumers shouldn't worry about purchasing one, though sometimes the warranty on such a product is shorter than if it were new. Where a new product might have a 1-year warranty, a refurbished product may only have a 90 day warranty. If you've had a bad experience with a particular product, this is definitely a factor to consider when buying refurbished.

There are two basic types of "refurbished" or "recertified" products

Most of the time, all "refurbished" or "recertified" means is that the product has been opened and returned to the merchant who sold it. Some merchants turn around and sell these products as "open box" items while other return them to the manufacturer for credit. Because the manufacturer cannot sell them as new, they verify that the product is in perfect working order and repackage it as "refurbished" or "recertified".

There are many possible reasons a customer may return a product to a merchant including explanations like "I just didn't like it", "wrong color", "it was a gift", "I didn't understand the manual", "I didn't like the remote", "it didn't work right", and "it was broken".

Any product returned to a merchant under these circumstances can end up as a "refurbished" or "recertified" product. However, in the large majority of these instances, there is nothing wrong with the product at all. When the product is returned to the manufacturer, they simply test it to make sure it's working. Even though there was nothing wrong with the product in the first place, it is still sold as "refurbished" or "recertified".

Seriously, if you've ever worked in technology retail, the reason for returns run the gamut from legitimate problems to the fact that somebody can't work a remote or doesn't like the placement of the buttons. In other words, there are a lot of ridiculous reasons a product ends up as refurbished and many of them have to do with the person who bought it and nothing at all to do with the product being broken.

Refurbished computers can be a great deal. (CC-BY 1.0)

Refurbished computers can be a great deal. (CC-BY 1.0)

Why Do Products Become Refurbished or Recertified?

In some cases, there is actually something wrong with the product and it must be fixed and this represents another kind of refurbished or recertified product.

The nice thing about refurbished and recertified products is that they're good as new, come with some kind of warranty, and are usually considerably cheaper than the same product brand new. For this reason, refurbished and recertified products are an excellent way to save money.

In some cases, manufacturers do the recertification themselves and in others, they assign the refurbishment to a third-party. Although this is merely opinion, I am personally more likely to trust a refurbished product that's been recertified by the original manufacturer rather than a third party. Some manufacturers have an excellent reputation for refurbished products such as Nikon and Western Digital.

However, there are some products you should not buy refurbished. I've provided a link to an article that details those products more closely.

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But don't buy something just because it's cheap. (CC-BY-2.5)

But don't buy something just because it's cheap. (CC-BY-2.5)

Some Personal Experience

I worked in a technology store for several years and one of the things we did to bring in additional revenue and boost our bottom line was sell refurbished products. Because the margins in technology are so low, we could actually bring in refurbished and recertified products from Newegg (link below) and mark them up.

Our customers were thrilled and bought tons of hard drives and, to a lesser extent, cameras. Our experience as a retailer was fantastic. The quality was outstanding and I'm not sure there was ever a customer who returned one.

Furthermore, Newegg has a fantastic return policy on such things, so at least if you're going to purchase from them, there's nothing to worry about if something goes wrong.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Allen Donald


Diarmuid Neligan on March 25, 2016:

I work for a website that sells refurbished phones to customers who usually don't want to fork out the big money for a new-gen mobile on contact but still want a warranty (3-12months). The majority of phones that go through to the customers are in excellent condition and if not they get returned to the supplier and a changeex unit sent out. Ireland only so far though, check it out if you want

Allen Donald (author) from Colorado on February 28, 2012:

Thanks for your comments. I hope I didn't imply there was much of a difference between refurbished and recertified. They are essentially synonyms.

Maree Michael Martin from Northwest Washington on an Island on February 28, 2012:

Adding your personal experience is awesome! Good to know the difference between refurbished and re-certified. I like the information about warranties too. Thumbs up and I love your writing name Crankalicious, beautiful!

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