Buying a new laptop—a good one—is a costly endeavor. Even base model MacBooks costs more than a thousand dollars, and it’s much the same story for a Dell XPS.
You can save a couple of hundred dollars simply by buying refurbished. While it might not seem like a good bet for a device you’ll be relying on every day, buying refurbished from a trusted (certified) store essentially means buying an almost new product, albeit at a discount of hundreds of dollars.
But the devil is in the details. If you’re in the market for a refurbished laptop, here are the things you should know before you start shopping.
Refurbished is a safer alternative to buying used
It’s easy to buy a used laptop—you’ll find plenty of them on sites like Craigslist or eBay. But buying used is also a huge gamble. You can’t exactly judge the state of the internal electronics from an online listing.
Refurbished laptops typically go through a certification process in which the hardware and electronics are checked to make sure everything is alright, and faulty parts are replaced. Buying refurbished (or rather, certified refurbished, where the check-up and repairs are carried out by the manufacturer themselves) is a much safer alternative.
When it comes to laptops, most refurbished products are lightly used; many are new machines that were returned by their original purchaser during the return window.
Tips for buying a refurbished laptop
Before you start hunting for a refurbished laptop, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind:
Only buy from trusted sources
You’ll find many websites that sell refurbished laptops (sometimes at crazy discounts), but it’s best to stay away from these low-ballers, as there’s no good way to verify their refurbishing process. You could easily end up with a broken or heavily used laptop.
Buying from a trusted source (we’ll cover several of them below), gives you peace of mind that the device has thoroughly tested before you make a purchase.
Research what the refurbishment process entailed
There’s no clear definition of the term “refurbished,” and you’ll often encounter terms like “certified refurbished,” and “renewed” that are used interchangeably.
This is why it’s important to check the refurbishment process the laptop went through. You’ll usually find this on the product description page. Typically i it says “certified refurbished,” or “manufacturer refurbished,” you’re good to go, but it’s best if the seller has provided a checklist of the entire process.
Check for a warranty
Just because you’re buying a refurbished product doesn’t mean you can’t get a warranty. First-party websites like Apple and Dell will offer you a full year of warranty (with an option to extend it further), and third-party websites might offer anywhere from a week to a month or more.
Read the seller’s reviews
If you’re buying from a third-party refurbishing website (like Amazon or Newegg), make sure you read the reviews. You’ll encounter some really good deals for older, low-end refurbished laptops, but you’ll only know if the seller is delivering what is promised by reading the reviews. We especially recommend this if you’re buying a “Renewed” laptop on Amazon, where hundreds of sellers have listed similar products.
Don’t buy an older or super cheap model just to save money
While it might look like a great deal, you should generally stay away from buying a refurbished laptop that’s older than 2–3 years. You’ll find plenty of these deeply discounted machines on sites like Amazon, but they’re usually not worth the trouble.
Even if you’re buying a refurbished laptop, make sure it’s only a year or two old. This will mean the internals like the hard drive, battery, and screen will keep working well for years to come.
It’s a good idea to stay away from really cheap refurnished Chromebooks or low-end Celeron-based laptops in general. While the deals are tempting (they go for as low as $100), these machines won’t last for very long before their performance slows to a crawl.
Trusted sources for buying refurbished laptops
Not all laptops are refurbished equally. So how do you make sure you don’t end up with a dud? Buy from a trusted, verified source. It will cost you a bit more, but it’s worth it.
Apple’s refurbished program is renowned for offering MacBooks in near-new condition at more than a 15% discount. For instance, you can buy the latest MacBook Air for $849, compared to its $999 sticker price.
All MacBooks go through Apple’s testing and repair process (if needed), and you get one year warranty (with an option for a two-year extended warranty using Apple Care+).
If you’re looking to buy a refurbished Windows laptop, you really can’t do better than Dell’s certified refurbished program. You’ll find hundreds of laptops available directly from Dell’s website.
These machines are sorted into two categories, Scratch & Dent and Certified Refurbished. All products are checked and certified, but the Scratch & Dent models might have some visible scratches or dents that don’t affect the performance (and are generally cheaper).
Dell’s refurbished store is updated daily, and new models are coming in stock all the time, so keep checking daily to find a great deal.
Best Buy’s website and stores both have a great selection of refurbished laptops. You’ll find all kinds of models here, from open-box to certified refurbished. THe big box is a great place if you’re looking for mid-range refurbished laptops.
Newegg is one of the most popular places for buying laptops and PC peripherals. Their refurbished section offers a wide variety of refurbished laptops, from Chromebooks, to older MacBooks, and newer Windows laptops.
As Newegg is a reseller, these laptops are not certified refurbished, and you don’t get a warranty. But on the flip side, the prices are pretty cheap, the trusted Newegg name carries some weight, and there’s a generous 90-day replacement window (just make sure that you read the reviews before buying).