Many people associate refurbished equipment with older hardware, possibly of a lower quality. As newer, presumably better devices get released, it can be hard to distinguish what a company means by “refurbished.” It could be the lightly used trial device of a consumer, or it could mean a computer that was on its last leg before a business’s technology lease ended.
Without proper knowledge of exactly where refurbished devices come from, how they are refurbished and what to keep in mind when buying, it can be easy to take a chance on a model and end up disappointed. But that doesn’t mean it’s automatically not a good choice. If you’re considering refurbished laptops, desktops or other forms of technology for your business, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Most refurbished models are revamped tech that has been returned by consumers or has been acquired by the manufacturer at the end of a business technology lease. The process for repairing and refurbishing technology can vary.
If it was returned to the manufacturer by the consumer, such companies as Apple and Dell have in-house refurbishment protocols to ensure that the renewed model will function well.
In terms of business leases, most manufacturers have agreements with corporations ranging from two to four years. When the lease ends (and isn’t renewed with the same technology), the laptops and computers are given back to the company. Based on general business wear and tear, the manufacturer can refurbish the laptops and resell them.
Regardless of where it comes from, it’s essential to purchase hardware directly through the manufacturer to ensure reliability.
For computers, manufacturers usually begin revamping old technology after assessing any damage and determining what needs to be added and replaced. This process can include repairing the keyboard, replacing the screen, adjusting the hard drive and RAM, and cleaning the product.
Manufacturers will also disassemble certain components of the laptop and run tests to ensure that things like battery function, the optical drive and the screen are all in working order. As a buyer, it is crucial that once you receive your business laptop, desktop, monitor or other piece of equipment, you inspect everything with a critical eye.
The product should look like it’s in like-new condition, with no visible signs of damage or heavy wear and tear. Your device should also come with the most up-to-date software, including antivirus software, and should run smoothly. The appearance and functionality of the refurbished device is all part of the manufacturer’s pledge that it’s not reselling bad equipment.
[Read related article: Laptop Buying Guide for Small Business]
Manufacturers typically refurbish their own products. To do so, they usually look at any current damage, figure out what to add and replace, disassemble the product, and run tests. After reassembly, your product should work like new.
The biggest advantage to buying refurbished technology is price. Bob Herman, co-founder and president of IT Tropolis, said that he helps his customers save by pairing them with refurbished technology.
“I often give my customers the option of refurbished equipment versus new,” he said, “and approximately 75 percent of the time, customers will choose refurbished for the cost savings as long as they feel comfortable they’ll receive the same level of warranty support.”
Dell offers its Latitude E6420 with a 2.5 GHz Core i5 processor for only $269. While this is an older model, the reduced price and guarantee from the Dell team could be ideal for businesses needing to purchase multiple computers. When it originally went up for sale six years ago, it would have cost you $1,788.
One more perk of purchasing refurbished technology is helping the environment and improving your business sustainability. By using a refurbished laptop or desktop, you’re keeping technology out of landfills or other recycling centers. Herman said that he and his customers enjoy the small impact they can have on the environment by using refurbished technology.
“I love providing refurbished equipment, as I think it’s the environmentally conscious choice, in addition to the savings that I can bring to my customers,” Herman said.
The major con that business owners face when buying technology is the question of reliability. It’s crucial to get a warranty when purchasing refurbished technology in case the manufacturer’s guarantee doesn’t hold up. Reliability problems are something that business owners could have to deal with if they buy preowned technology.
Jennifer Poole, director of marketing for Nadrich & Cohen, LLP, said her company stopped purchasing refurbished computers because of reliability issues.
“When we have purchased refurbished equipment, we have found that the life of the device is much less than that of its new equivalent,” Poole said. “The time spent repairing, troubleshooting and upgrading refurbished PCs erodes any initial savings. There have been multiple times when we have actually lost money via our purchase of refurbished devices.”
While Poole faced some issues, she also said that she purchased the computers through a third-party seller on eBay and not directly from the manufacturer.
Many assume that refurbished laptops and desktops won’t last as long as new ones. This assumption, though not always true, is generally fair. Much reporting on the lifespans of refurbished laptops, for example, cites a life cycle of two to four years. New laptops, on the other hand, often last for seven years, if not a full decade.
Variable device reliability and life cycles are the two major drawbacks that might come with buying refurbished technology.
The best thing you can do when buying refurbished technology is going through the manufacturer of the product. The laptops or smartphones may be a bit more expensive, but you’re usually paying for a reliable warranty and a product that you can depend on. No one knows the desktops or laptops you’re interested in purchasing better than the company that produced them, so buying a refurbished model directly from the manufacturer means you’re getting a product that has been analyzed and repaired by experts.
If you don’t want to purchase refurbished technology directly from a manufacturer, do your research on the outlet you are going to buy from. Microsoft Authorized Refurbishers (MARS), for example, is a group of IT professionals who have taken an extensive course and are certified in restoring and repairing PCs.
If you’re purchasing other types of technology, like network equipment, there are several third-party companies that buy, restore and then resell technology. Cisco even provides some guidelines on researching and understanding which companies can be trusted.
Buying technology from an online service like eBay or Amazon can be risky. If you go this route, it’s very important to research the seller to ensure that you’re not just receiving a used product.
Regardless of where you buy refurbished technology from, it’s important that a warranty is included. Most of the major computer manufacturers provide a warranty either for 90 days or one year. Apple, for example, offers a one-year limited warranty and a 14-day return policy, while Dell offers a standard 100-day warranty and the option to extend the warranty to one year for an additional $50.
Doing some prior research on the refurbished model you wish to buy can go a long way in terms of reliability. As with any purchase, it’s important to understand what desktops or laptops are the most reliable and best performing.
For example, let’s say a certain model of computer is known to be saddled with problems, even if you were to buy it new. In that case, you should avoid buying that laptop refurbished. Although a computer repair expert may feel capable of making repairs that bolster the device’s quality, its initial construction will still be weak. In this case, refurbishing can at most make a poor build last just a bit longer.
Buying used technology and refurbishing it yourself will likely save your company the most money. But if you don’t have someone on your team with extensive tech knowledge, it could pose a challenge. Look to someone on your IT team – or perhaps another IT professional in your network – for these repairs. You’ll know you can trust the refurbished item’s quality, and you’ll pay little to no money for the labor involved.
Refurbished technology is a good way to save money if you choose a reliable product from a proven manufacturer or authorized seller. You can further reduce risk by adding a warranty. This way, even if your desktop or laptop does have problems, you can take it in for repairs.
That said, refurbished technology isn’t always the right choice. New technology is more likely to be high quality than refurbished equipment, and new products leave no questions about the extent of repairs. Additionally, some refurbished models might not be as reliable as you want. When choosing between refurbished and new, listen to what your gut is telling you. The option that makes you more comfortable might be the one.