The MUST read guide for buying refurbished tech
by Rasheeda Russell on Jun 07, 2022
We are all looking to reduce our carbon footprints and become more sustainable in our purchases.
Business is being challenged, not only by customers but also by their own employees, to be more purposeful. Earlier this year Amazon employees risked being fired for challenging their employer’s lack of effort on reducing climate change.
The global consulting giant McKinsey highlighted the importance of the circular economy, a key principle championed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Electronic waste is one of these growing issues. My Co-founder Asad Hamir discusses this issue in Euronews. Buying Refurbished is one of the easy ways to reduce the amount of E-waste that ends up in landfill.
But when it comes to purchasing "Refurbished Tech", such as laptops and smartphones, we want to make sure we are buying something that is going to work and is genuine (not a fake or stolen). We all have good intentions but how do we know what to buy?
One of my favourite theories during my University Economics studies was the problem of “Akerlof’s Lemons”.
The Lemons problem was put forward in a research paper, "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," written in the late 1960s by George A. Akerlof, an economist and professor at the University of California, Berkeley. The tag phrase comes from the problem of selling used cars (a bad used car in the US was called a Lemon).
It is a problem of asymmetric information. The seller has more information than the buyer. Aklerof’s uses Used Cars to display the problem. I, as the seller, know if I have driven my car badly but you, as the buyer, do not. So you do not know if I am selling a good Used Car or a bad Used car or “Lemon” as it works in my favour not to tell you the truth.
The same is true in the world of refurbished or used tech, I know if the Laptop I am selling has problems or not, but you as the buyer do not. So how do we solve this problem?
Akerlof’s solution in his “Lemons” problem works in the world of used tech. It is all about getting as much information as you can and then depending on warranties to make sure you are covered if anything goes wrong.
Before we start let’s discuss the difference between refurbished and used. Wikipedia explains this clearly.
The main difference between "refurbished" and "used" products is that refurbished products have been tested and verified to function properly, and are thus free of defects, while "used" products may or may not be defective
Refurbished items may also have had some of the parts replaced.
Different manufacturers and device types have different considerations for you to think about when considering your refurbished purchase. One of which is how to determine the cosmetic appearance of refurbished devices, this is called “Grading”.
Apple products are well made and are built to last. That means they are great devices to buy used or refurbished.
MacBooks can’t easily be opened up so when you are buying a “refurbished” MacBook you need to be aware that none of the internal parts have been replaced. This means that it’s really important to look at the condition of the battery. On a MacBook this is called the “battery cycle” count. You can find this information on the device itself and Apple gives you a good guide on what good or bad looks like.
On the whole, iPhones also are a challenge to replace parts for. So refurbished phones should go through a number of tests to make sure they are working - both testing firmware and hardware. Again the most important piece of information is the battery health which you can check here.
When it comes to spare parts, Apple restricts using 3rd party parts for its devices and therefore repairs can only be done via Apple themselves or their approved repair centres. There is a grey market of parts from China that can be used as alternatives, but its important to note these will invalidate your warranty with Apple. So its important to find out the history of your device and if its had the need for any part changes.
So as long as you know your iPhone has been thoroughly tested and the battery is robust for everyday use, you can get an Apple phone with a brand new battery for a fraction of the price of a new iPhone. This may not be for everyone but if you choose where you buy these from carefully it will save you money in the long run.
There is not much of a market for refurbished Android phones. In the main, they are not made as well as Apple devices and don’t last for a second use.
Samsung devices are the exception. It is possible to buy refurbished Samsung phones, but make sure you buy these from a reputable dealer. This means the phone has been tested and make sure it has a warranty (we will discuss the importance of warranties below).
It is possible to replace the parts in a Samsung phone to make these “as good as new”, but generally like Apple its an expensive process and typically samsung phones are a lot more difficult to take apart. This may all change soon though with the European Unions right to repair legislation.
Windows Laptops/ Desktops
These are the champions of the refurbished world.
I remember having my first desktop built from scratch by a friend of mine 20 years ago and not much has changed in terms of the ability to replace and upgrade.
HP, Lenovo and Dell laptops are the staples for refurbished IT dealers. All internal parts can be replaced if they are not working properly. Batteries are often replaced, making a refurbished windows laptop the star of the refurbished world.
The only part that really matters in a desktop or laptop is the processor. All the other parts can be replaced and/ or upgraded.
Now you know what refurbished means the next thing we need to talk about is grading.
The grade of a refurbished (or used) device tells you what it looks like on the outside and how well it works.
As good as new
This machine should look, and work as if it’s brand new. These are often end-of-line, returned or the re-manufactured devices we discussed above.
Grade A or Excellent
Small signs of use and a battery health of above 80%. This is a device that has been lightly used. Tere may be some small use marks around the ports but nothing else.
Grade B or Good
This is a device that has been used. There will some marks on the case but the screen should have no marks. Think of your phone when you have had on a good case and screen protector. Battery health 60%+.
Grade C or Fair
This is a device that’s had some use and you can see it. There will be scratches and dents. The battery would have been well used. However, it’s important to note that it will be in working condition.
Buying refurbished gives us all some great choices for various budgets. Depending on how old the device is and what condition is you can get a great device to suit any budget. It allows you to buy a trusted brand at a fraction of the cost and be carbon conscious as well.
But I have one final piece of advice.
ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A WARRANTY
This really is the most important part. We talked about Akerlof’s lemons at the beginning of this blog, and this is your major protection. If something does go wrong you need to have it replaced or repaired. The reality is that even new tech can have problems so you need to make sure you have the protection.
Buy from a reputable refurbished tech source, or through a platform like eBay or Amazon, who will help you get a refund if need be.
The final piece of advice from our new friend Akerlof is to watch out for cheap deals. If something is too cheap its probably because the person selling it knows that there is something wrong with it! Buying good quality, refurbished devices should, of course, give you a saving versus buying new but if it’s too cheap - be sure there is something wrong!
I hope this guide has been helpful to you.
Don’t be scared to buy refurbished. I am writing this blog at the moment on a refurbished HP Elite Book, not only does it work perfectly but I also saved £800 vs buying a new one!
If you ask the right questions on quality and make sure you have a warranty then you are on your way to reducing your carbon footprint and saving money at the same time!
Find more about how to buy refurbished by visiting Klyk's refurbished page.