Buying completely new, untouched products is always the best choice when it comes to quality. However, in several cases, people are forced to buy renewed, or refurbished items, due to financial or availability reasons.
This article covers the difference between renewed or refurbished items, specifically when buying from Amazon. It also highlights tips and tricks for telling whether an item is refurbished or renewed and whether it is safe or unsafe to buy it.
When Do These Two Terms Have the Same Meaning?
Actually, the two terms mean the same thing in most cases.
When a store displays certain items as renewed or refurbished, it means that they are not brand new – they have been used by someone else who later sold the item to the store.
The store has then fixed the item by either replacing the defunct parts with new ones or fixing them to render the product useful again.
The word “refurbished” is most commonly used for buildings and apartments, and typically indicates that this structure has been renovated or redecorated. In our context for comparison in this article, the word “refurbish” has a slightly different meaning.
While it can involve upgrades in the prior definition, refurbishment, as used in this article’s context, does not involve making something better than it was, only as good as it was when it was brand new.
Refurbished and renewed items do not have to be material things: a company’s operating system or other software can be refurbished or renewed too.
The meaning stays the same though: fixing or replacing some parts of a whole to make it function as a brand-new version of it would.
When Do These Two Terms Differ in Meaning?
When it comes to devices such as laptops, computers, phones, smartwatches, and so on, the term “refurbished” is not equivalent to the term “renewed”.
In fact, the performance of a used device is strongly affected by whether it is refurbished or renewed. The difference lies mainly in the process that the device goes through to become “fixed”.
Renewed devices are those in which obsolete or bugged parts have been replaced by brand new ones i.e., the device retains several of its original parts but also contains certain elements that are brand-new.
That is usually preferable to refurbished devices, where the malfunctioning parts are not thrown away but are fixed by a machine or a knowledgeable person in the field.
While this fix may even enhance the device’s performance than how it was initially, the piece is worn-down, and the older the age of an object (or human), the lower its remaining lifetime.
Aside from that, however, refurbishment usually involves thorough testing that validates the goodness of the item’s quality and its functionality.
Sometimes, an object’s lifetime is already longer than you will ever need it for, so enhancing its duration is not necessarily worth the higher cost that comes with it.
Renewed vs Refurbished on Amazon
According to Statista, and to common sense really, Amazon is the most used online shopping site in the world. A portion of the products sold on this platform is labeled “renewed” or “refurbished”.
The difference between the two is mainly that “renewed” is equivalent to “an item in a condition like new condition”. Refurbished means that the used item was revived into functioning like it would in its new condition. But it might have some physical signs of wear.
According to Amazon’s own “Help & Customer Service” page, Amazon’s “renewed” signifies that the product is “professionally inspected and tested to work and look like new by an Amazon-qualified and performance managed supplier”.
It also claims that any third-party pieces are also checked and tested by that third party. The following is a list of specifications one should expect to find in some renewed items.
- Minimal scratches or dents
- Generic boxing
- Possibly unoriginal accessories, guaranteed to be compatible and fully-functional
- Wireless devices that come without headphones
- > 80% battery capacity
Fun fact: Amazon has an entire section called “Amazon Renewed” that sells renewed products in good shape for lower prices.
What Are the Red Flags When Buying a Renewed or Refurbished Item?
There are certain dangers to buying renewed or refurbished items.
First of all, sometimes this refurbishment or renovation is not done by a qualified technician, but by the prior owner himself/herself. While that is not necessarily a bad thing, it has valid grounds for worry.
The replaced parts in the item might not be trustable. They could be cheaper copies of the original. The true problem arises when some parts are missing completely, but their absence is unnoticeable.
An example of that would be the GPS receiver in a laptop; people use the location services on their phones frequently, but rarely do they need location services from their laptop.
Therefore, a malfunctioning GPS receiver in a used laptop might be removed altogether by the user (or even the vendor)! While the new buyer might never need it or even notice its absence, there is the small possibility that he or she would. Or that the missing piece is necessary for the new owner’s needs.
Hence, upon buying a renewed or refurbished appliance, make sure to follow the following steps.
- Ask the salesman if the device is guaranteed to have all its pieces. An even better alternative would be to know all the pieces and check for their presence yourself.
- Look for any scratches or cracks in the device; if any are found and you would rather not have them, ask for the part to be replaced free of extra charge.
- Ask for insurance. If the device has no warrantee whatsoever, it probably has some hidden problem.
- In case it is an electronic device, check for any abnormal heating upon use. If the device heats up fast, its pieces were probably changed with cheaper ones.
- Test your device. Try out all the possible actions you would take using that item and make sure that everything works well.
So many products are bought, used over a short period of time. And then become unwanted, even if they are sometimes still in good condition. The easiest course of action would be to throw them away.
However, a more profitable action for all parties is to sell the product for less than its original price. That would be its salvage value, and another person can make use of this product.
It is when this item has a deficit or problem somewhere that renewal or refurbishment comes in.
While it is sometimes better to throw the item away and buy a new one, it is often the case that only specific parts of the item being destroyed. In this case, one can replace those parts with new ones instead of buying a new appliance altogether.
What’s most important is that the final result is 1) economically better and 2) well-functioning. Otherwise, buying a new appliance would be the better choice.