April 28, 2009
| by Chuck McKenney
We buy used cars, so why not buy used A/V gear? There are a lot of retailers and manufacturers selling refurbished electronics.
You can save anywhere from 25 to 50 percent off the MSRP when buying a refurbished product. It’s also your chance to own some higher-end equipment minus the higher-end price tag.
But in reality, you are buying someone’s old headache. They ditched it for a reason and that could be because it never performed up to expectation.
This article will explain the “refurbishing” process, examine the pros and cons of buying refurbished electronics, show you where to find them, and offer some advice on which products to buy and which to avoid.
Refurbished vs Reconditioned
There is an importation distinction between refurbished and reconditioned.
According to the Practical-Home-Theater-Guide.com:
A refurbished product may or may not have been installed, repaired, or slightly used. More than likely it was an item returned to a store for unknown reason.
A reconditioned product was likely used over an extended period (maybe a lease) but then was repaired (not necessarily by the manufacturer) and resold by a retailer.
While you’ll find greater savings with reconditioned products, they come with greater risk because you won’t truly know the wear-and-tear on the product.
With either classification, take note of who made the repairs. Factory Authorized or Certified Refurbishment are typically completed by the manufacturer or manufacturer-approved technician. Reseller Recondition or In House Refurbishment mean the repairs were done by the retailer.
“Refurbished is fine for A/V gear if the manufacturer does the work and offers some sort of warranty for it,” says Gene DellaSala, president of Audioholics.com. “In some cases, manufacturers fix recall issues with a particular product and offer it as a refurbished item on their web site or other authorized sales channels. When this is the case, the refurbished product is actually an improvement over the brand new item since the bugs have been worked out.”
Refurbished TV are extremely popular. Check WarehouseDeals by Amazon, RefurbDepot, and TechforLess and you’ll find a ton of them. Some manufacturers, like Sony, also sell them on their web sites.
On RefurbDepot, I found a Sharp AQUOS 46-inch 1080p LCD HDTV for $999. Sold new on Amazon, this TV is priced at $1500 (It carries a $3,499 MSRP).
The TV is sold as factory refurbished and comes in a factory sealed box with manuals and 90 day manufacturer’s warranty.
So with one example, you can see the potential for savings. However, there is still a risk.
“I’d use caution on purchasing refurbished displays because you don’t know how long they’ve been operated,” says DellaSala. “For example, the bulb life in a projector or panel life of a fixed pixel display may be greatly reduced, especially if it spent most of its time in torch mode as a showroom display.”
Loudspeakers are usually offered as B-stock items from manufacturers either because of a slight cosmetic blemish, a customer return or they simply want to clear inventory on a particular model that isn’t selling too well at that particular time, says DellaSala. “This is usually a great way to get a nearly new product at a significant discount.”
On TechforLess.com, I found a Boston Acoustics HS40MDNT bookshelf speaker available as an open box item ($49) and refurbished ($44).