Report: Consumer Protection

Fixed for the Holidays

A holiday guide to buying repaired or refurbished electronics with confidence they will last.
Released by: TexPIRG

Why Shop Refurbished?

Black Friday prices year-round: You can usually find great deals on used electronics, getting something that’s like-new, but for a sizable discount. Technically, the minute you open a new device, it becomes used, so the difference between a used and new item can be negligible. You can get an item that’s close to new at prices lower than Black Friday deals.

Buying used is a greener choice: Buying used gifts is better for the environment. Most of the environmental damage from our electronics comes from the manufacturing process.

4 tips on what makes a good refurbished gift

1) High-quality items tend to make better refurbished gifts. Unfortunately, not all electronics are made to last very long -- and while you should always look for durable items to avoid waste, this is especially true when shopping refurbished. Things designed  to last usually cost a little more upfront, but provide big savings over time.

2) The manufacturer has a track record of durability and repairability. It’s hard to know how long an item will last if it’s a relatively new product. One way is to check the track record of the brand. Consumer Reports tracks this data for electronics and appliances, and members can look up information there. You should also check iFixit’s repairability scores for phones, laptops and tablets. The easier an item is to repair, the more likely it will last.

3) Know what you want before your shop. When you’ve done a little homework, and you know the make and model of the item you want, it takes a lot of the guesswork out of buying refurbished. Otherwise, the number of similar items can be overwhelming.  

4) Be wary of these items:

  • Televisions and computer monitors have a track record of problems, given their bulk and fragility. This is especially true if you need the item  delivered to you.

  • Wearable devices such as smart watches and headphones tend to wear down where they touch your skin. If you do choose one of these items, check to see if they replace the part of the product that touches the body.

  • Printers. Typically, printers wear down as they use ink and toner, which builds up inside. Refurbishers rarely  clean out all that ink.

  • Items with impossible to replace batteries. Manufacturers sometimes glue batteries into devices such as tablets, making replacing those batteries nearly impossible.

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