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Refurbished laptops: What to look for when buying a second-hand laptop

By reviews / 7. April 2020
Apple MacBook Air 2018

The termrefurbished laptopis a stumbling block for many when searching for a cheap laptop deal. You could get a massive discount on a good-as-new device, or potentially end up with a shoddy second-hand system.

It can be a minefield when looking to buy a refurbished laptop then, but if youre aware of the potential risks and what wording to look out for on online retailers, then you should be reasonably confident of getting a great deal

Weve assembled this guide to help you get the best refurbished laptop deal possible, so youll be able to sniff out cons from a genuinely good-value buy

Related: Best laptop deals

What does refurbished mean?

Firstly, what doesrefurbished laptopactually mean? Its essentially an unused laptop thats been taken out of its packaging, or one thats been sent to the manufacturer for a repair and then sold on for a discount

This means a refurbished laptop should theoretically be in analmost-newcondition, but thats not always the case in practice

Refurbished Laptop

Should you buy a refurbished laptop?

Arefurbished laptopis a loose term, and so deciding whether you should buy one comes down to how much you trust whoevers selling it

Going straight to the laptop manufacturer itself is always the best option. Apple and Dell are two of many manufacturers to set up dedicated web pages to sell refurbished laptops

Apple promises full functional testing, thorough cleaning, original Operating System and a new box with all accessories and cables. You also get a one-year warranty, which is one of the most important things to look out for

Buying a MacBook indirectly through a third-party retailer will unlikely give you those same benefits, especially if youre buying from an individual on the likes of Amazon, eBay and Gumtree

Related: Best Dell laptop 2020

What to look out for when buying a refurbished laptop

Always stick to trusted retailers, and try to avoid individual sellers that cant offer a warranty, a returns policy or a guarantee for the laptops condition. Plus, its hard to be sure whether a laptop has been stolen when buying from third-party individuals

If a laptop has been used extensively before, its likely that the battery life has depleted over time. Laptops generally only have a lifespan of 3-5 years, so youll want to be sure how fresh from the factory the laptop is before committing to a purchase

When looking at a refurbished laptop through any retailer, always try and find the initial release date. Theres a good chance the laptop will be a few years old, and so might not represent good value even with a massive discount

Theres also the chance youll be misled over the configuration if youre not buying through a respected retailer, which is a serious issue since laptop prices can fluctuate drastically depending on specs. Take note of all the components (processor, graphics card, memory, storage, etc.) in the online advert and make sure it syncs up with the laptop you end up with.

Also check for any scuffs and scratches on the laptop, particularly on the screen. Aslight scratch on the monitormay not sound bad on paper, but could well become very infuriating with daily use

Related: Best Mac 2020

Refurbished Laptop

Is it safe to buy a refurbished laptop from Amazon?

Amazon has a respectable system in place for selling refurbished laptops. The Amazon Renewed Guarantee programme offers a one-year warranty and claims the device has beeninspected and tested by Amazon-qualified suppliers’. 

These refurbished laptops are not certified by the laptops manufacturer though, so have no guarantee they will be to the same high standard that the likes of Apple and Dell demand

Amazon also states there will beno visible cosmetic imperfections when held 12 inches away’, which means you can be confident there isnt a massive dent in the laptop, but not so sure about more subtle scratches and scrapes

Amazon also warns laptops may arrive in a brown or white box with generic accessories rather than official counterparts. This could be an issue for laptops that feature fast charging via dedicated cables and doesnt ensure youll get the bundled adaptors and accessories advertised by manufacturers

Theres a lot of caveats when buying laptops through the Amazon Renewed Guarantee programme then, but it could be worth it if theres a particularly good deal

However, when searching on Amazon for a refurbished laptop, make sure it has that Amazon Renewed Guarantee tag. Third-party sellers on Amazon that dont meet theAmazon-qualifiedstandard are unlikely to offer warranty and could be flogging a laptop that is a long way from achieving anearly newcondition

Refurbished Laptop

Where to buy a refurbished laptop

The best place to buy a refurbished laptop is directly from the manufacturer. The likes of Apple and Dell have excellent refurbished stores that offer laptops at discounts

Its likely youll find better deals with third-party retailers though. Theres no issue with buying through such retailers, but you need to make sure you read through theirrefurbished laptopguidelines to see what guarantees and benefits theyre offering

Laptops Direct is one of the best options, saving you up to 20% on the price. The retailer uses an expert team to classify each laptops condition into a grading system. Laptops with the A1 grade are said to beas good as new”, while the A2 and A3 represent good and average conditions respectively. If the laptop fails to meet the required standard, it will instead be classified asPre-owned”. 

Such a grading system is beneficial for potential buyers to get a better understanding of the condition of the laptop, so they can see how much value theyre getting for their money

However, Laptops Direct only offers a 3-month warranty with each laptop. You can extend that to a year, but that will cost you asmall fee”. 

Buying second-hand via individual sellers is a lot riskier. Youre unlikely to get any warranty or return policy, and even if the laptop doesnt seem to have any external scuffs, its difficult to know whether the battery or processor has been compromised by overheating or water damage

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