Revealed!! What Does “Refurbished” Really Mean?

By on April 24, 2013

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While you’ll mostly see brand-new products at Ben’s Bargains, you’ll occasionally run across the word refurbished on some of the deals that we post. What exactly does refurbished mean, and is it just a marketing term for “used” or “spit polished”?

Manufacturers and resellers are legally required to label a product as refurbished after they recondition it and sell it. This typically occurs when an opened product is returned by a customer for whatever reason or the product was damaged in shipping from the manufacturer. The process of reconditioning can be as simple as replacing the box and resealing it or as complicated as replacing a screen, swapping out a battery, and running tests. So, yeah, it may have been used, but “used” in the context of a 30-day return. It also may not have been used at all.

Refurbished, reconditioned and recertified all pretty much mean the same thing. Recertified may refer to some kind of warranty being included, but it’s not an exclusive label. If you’re buying any refurbished product, you want to first make sure there is a warranty, then check the length of the warranty and lastly whether it’s a manufacturer or store warranty.

apple-refurbishedAt Ben’s Bargains, we focus on refurb deals that are manufacturer refurbished. The Apple Store is one of the best examples of manufacturer refurbished bargains. Apple Store refurbs are nearly indistinguishable from their brand-new counterparts–new battery, new shell and same one-year warranty–except at a savings of 10% to 25% off. (It comes in a brown box instead of the retail box.) With Apple, this may be the only time you see any significant savings outside of Black Friday.

Manufacturer refurbs can also be found at online resellers like Amazon, Newegg and eBay. eBay will even distinguish between “manufacturer refurbished” and “seller refurbished” on the product page. We avoid explicitly labeled seller refurbished deals because we’re not sure if this meant some guy wiped down the screen with a bottle of Windex or Scotch-taped a bashed-in box. It’s one step closer to “pre-owned,” “used” and “ewwwsed,” and we don’t do used deals on Ben’s.

Traditionally, we’ve also avoided refurbished hard drives and small kitchen appliances (what’s that stain?). There are occasionally some great savings to be found in those categories and we could change that policy if enough of you would like to see those types of refurbs.

So, what do you think of refurbished deals? What has your experience (good or bad) been with refurbs? Would you like to see more, or are we doing too many of them? Let us know in the comments!

About Joe Warner

I'm the senior editor of The CheckOut. I am an aficionado of shiny gadgets and classic Hollywood movies and can also tell you the names of the late '80s Swedish Davis Cup team members.

5 Comments

  1. Ken M

    April 24, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    I think my wife would fall into the class of refurbished when I met her.!

    • KAAAAHHHHLLLL

      April 25, 2013 at 10:54 am

      Ouch, man…

      Hopefully she’s an Apple refurb.

  2. Derek M.

    April 25, 2013 at 1:42 am

    Manufacturer refurbs are a sure bet, IMHO. I have bought maybe ten refurbished items and not one has failed to perform well or even looked like it was previously used. Only difference is, usually the item comes in a brown box instead of the nicer retail box. Seller refurbs give me pause, but if a seller has the right return policy (seller pays return) and a good reputation. I usually go for it. These purchases have all been winners, too.

  3. Ross Ballard

    April 28, 2013 at 6:16 am

    Yeah, but I’ve never understood how electronics can be called ‘factory refurbished’ when the factories are in Asia. Assembled in the US is far from ‘Made’ in the US. I’ve been burned twice now on ‘factory’ refurbed HDTV’s.

  4. dave_c

    May 7, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Sometimes refurbished doesn’t really mean refurbished at all, instead they’re factory overruns that are put in white or brown boxes so they won’t be mistaken as retail priced products. Sandisk audio players and Logitech mice /etc come to mind.

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