Laptops are a lot of things but one thing they are not is cheap, certainly not when new. They are also critical for most people’s work. There are many motivations for buying refurbished products as opposed to buying them new. One of the primary reasons for opting for a refurbished or used laptop is budgetary constraints and the need to save money while still getting a product as close to your desired specifications as possible. Another reason to opt for them may be environmental considerations. Recycling gives a used product a new life instead of a guaranteed spot in our ever-growing landfill.
The definition of refurbished is really broad but includes products that were returned by customers for one reason or another, products that failed to meet the original manufacturer’s quality tests, and products that are defective which includes everything from minor scratches and dents to more significant performance-altering defects. Refurbished devices usually go through some form of repair, cleaning or sprucing up. In some countries, pre-owned, reconditioned, and refurbished are used interchangeably as long as some form of upgrade or repair job was done on the device. Used generally just means it was pre-owned and used by somebody else.
Purchasing a laptop is a stressful undertaking without introducing this added wrinkle to it. But if your finances are tight and you are eyeing a device with certain specifications, you may have no choice. Refurbished computers can cost anywhere from 30-50% less than the retail price of a new machine so they make financial sense. Here are a few considerations as you begin your search.
1. Ensure the seller is reputable
This is the key concern when buying a refurbished computer or laptop. Most manufacturers sell refurbished products so if possible buy directly from them. If that is not an option, buy from a company with a clear return policy that you understand should anything go wrong or if you end up not satisfied with the product. The return policy should be at least a month which gives you enough time to notice any problems. Ensure that they offer some form of documented warranty. If there’s no documented warranty, walk away. Carefully read the fine print and if you have a free lawyer friend, let them take a quick look at it.
If possible even when buying online find out the actual physical location of the seller. Try and pick it up face to face or in person.
*Be very careful about buying a used laptop from a stranger. You don’t want to buy something then later find out it was stolen. Always try and buy a used laptop from somebody you know or else just buy one from a reputable dealer. It is better to be safe than sorry. Make sure there is always documentation for your transaction.
2. Always check the specs and test, test, test
This is so critical. Always check through and compare the written specs to those of the actual machine. Look at the RAM, the processor speed, the screen size, hard disk size, and the rest of the specifications. Learn how to get to the computer’s system information and see the actual specifications. If you’re running Windows, this will from the Control Panel. It’s possible to upgrade and customize the laptop later on just make sure that the specs you are paying for are the actual specs.
- Is the Operating System genuine and activated?
- Test all the ports and optical drives.
- Test the keyboard and trackpad.
- Test the webcam and note the quality.
- Play some audio to check the speakers.
- Examine the display for any dead pixels or serious bleed.
- Make sure the Wi-Fi and Ethernet are working.
- Inspect the laptop body to make sure it’s free of cracks, loose hinges, and other irregularities.
- Check the battery health and battery life from Power Management settings in Windows.
3. Do price comparisons
Only buy refurbished if the money saved is high enough. Price check against a new computer or laptop of comparable specifications and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your gut. If the seller gives you the creeps for whatever reason, just step and keep looking.
Buying refurbished products is always a gamble. Here’s hoping these tips ensure that the odds are ever in your favour.
Here’s another technology piece on ways to care for and protect your hard drive.