A great secret: buy refurbished!

I am the ultimate cheapskate; nothing pleases me more than saving a few pennies.  I’m one of those guys who never buys the extra warranty, and if it breaks– oh well.  Three of the last laptops I’ve purchased have been bought direct from the manufacturer, have full warranty, include all original software, but they’ve been refurbished.  I’ve found that you can save anywhere from $100 to $300 and sometimes more!  It is important to read the terms on each manufacturer’s site as each company may have different definitions and terms regarding their refurbished units.

  • Refurbished: This typically means that the computer had some faulty component and was returned by the consumer, or a problem was detected and it was never shipped.  This is a thorough process and all new parts are used repair the machine and restore it to full functionality.  The computer is usually given a new identification number that indicates it is a refurbished unit and then offered to the public.

Example: Consumer buys a computer but believes the screen is too dim.  Consumer returns unit, unit is inspected by company, repairs are made if necessary, and item is reclassified as refurbished unit.

  • Scratch-and-Dent:  These are units that might have only cosmetic blemishes unless otherwise stated.  Make sure to read the item description closely as the damage to these items is often different from unit to unit.  Typical scratch-and-dent units might literally have small scratches or marks on the outside of the case but nothing that would impact functionality or performance.

Example: Several units are scratched due to poor packaging.  The scratches occur before the units are available for sale to the public.  Because they are still fully functional and only have cosmetic scratches, they are classified as scratch-and-dent models.


  • Open Box:  I’m least excited about this deal than buying refurbished or scratch-and-dent.  An open box system typically means the computer for sale was a display unit in the store.  Think about all the display models you’ve seen in the store– missing buttons, greasy fingerprints, and lots of uptime.  These systems usually see a lot of abuse, but they should be cleaned and put through the same rigorous tests as refurbished and scratch-and-dent models.  In the end, you can still save some big bucks.

Where to shop:

Apple: Apple has three different sites for their Refurbished Macs, Refurbished iPods, and Refurbished iPhones. You can also access other offers and clearance deals from the tabs on these three pages.  I’ve bought a refurbished iBook G4, 1st generation MacBook, and current current generation MacBook.  I’ve also purchased three refurbished iPods (2nd generation, current shuffle, and 8G iTouch).

HP: I’ve purchased one laptop several years ago and had a good experience.  I kept that laptop for several years and never had a problem with it or the purchasing transaction.



Dell: I’ve read successful reviews of individuals buying scratch and dent models.



Lenovo:  This is a great place to look for ThinkPad deals.  They have many different options including shopping for new units that had their orders canceled and never shipped.

And don’t forget:

  • This is not a definitive list of companies that offer refurbished deals.  There are many other places to purchase units and save.  Do your research and make sure your purchasing from a reputable company.
  • Sometimes these units have different return policies or higher restocking fees. 
  • It is best to talk to someone who has had a positive experience. 
  • Each company offers different deals, so it is important to read their terms closely.
  • If you see an item that you like, add it to your on-line shopping cart.  Often there is only one unit available, and they go fast.  Adding it to your cart usually places a 10-15 minute hold while you investigate the unit.
  • Check these sites hourly or daily as the units posted often change at a rapid pace.
  • Don’t forget that K-12 and university students and faculty are often able to purchase new units with a substantial discount.
  • Scour their entire site and you might find other great deals as well.  If you’re like me and want to save some bucks, it is possible to get a great deal.

Have you purchased refurbished?  Share your experience or links to great deals.


Photo credit: Joshua Davis.

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