Saving on Refurbished

Steep discounts on PCs

By Harold Glicken


There are a number of ways to buy a refurbished computer. The definition of “refurbished,” however, can vary widely. It can mean that it was tested and cleaned to like-new condition and comes with a generous warranty. Refurbished computers can be bought online from reputable companies that buy older computers from large companies. Or they can be bought on eBay or craigslist from sellers who refurbish their wares in their garage.

Why not just buy a new desktop PC, laptop or tablet? Money. Refurbished computers cost  far less than new ones. If you know where to shop, you can save hundreds of dollars over a new one and get the assurances that large, reputable companies provide.

Let’s start with the worst way to buy a refurbished computer.

I’d like to think that sellers on eBay and craigslist are honest about what they’re selling, but that’s not always the case.

A friend got a great deal on eBay for a MacBook Pro. The seller said it had been refurbished and was spotless, that it had 16 gigs of RAM and was loaded with office and other software. All true. He even threw in a copy of Windows so it could be used on a dual-boot system. But I’m wary of PCs than come with software you don’t have to pay extra for. It’s usually dishonest, and perhaps illegal. Sadly, after my friend spent $750 on the computer, it shut down when he was using it, and died only weeks after he received it. Turns out that the MacBook is a 2012 model, which in my book puts it well past middle age.

The seller didn’t tell him that, and the buyer didn’t ask. A new motherboard cost him $575. Add them together and he could have bought a later-model refurbished one at for less. Or even a new one for a few hundred dollars more.

Contrast that with the experiences I’ve had buying refurbished computers and iPads directly from Apple.

Apple tells consumers up-front that while some units were returned for mechanical defects, their products are tested to be fully functioning.  Their website always displays the manufacture date and a complete list of specs, such as RAM and hard drive capacity. The units are spotless. B-grade ones don’t make the grade at Apple. And they back their products with a one-year warranty, the same one that’s offered on new Apple products. That warranty can be extended with an AppleCare policy, which includes two or more years of parts and labor and access to Apple’s superlative tech support.

But not all big companies have the same idea of quality control. A refurbished Dell PC that I ordered last year arrived stone dead. I sent it back, and it was returned stone dead. Obviously, no one had bothered to turn it on. So much for Dell’s idea of quality control. It took months to get Dell to replace it. By then, any warranty that was left had expired. I was so disillusioned with the experience that when the working replacement arrived, I donated it to a school.

That takes us to companies that refurbish a variety of computers and peripherals.

The deal at was for a refurbished Dell 2-in-1 laptop/tablet for $229, complete with a stylus, wireless, webcam, 4 gigs of memory and a 320 gig hard drive. I was smitten. I’d always been curious about these 2-in-1s.

I upgraded the RAM to 8 gigs for $55 and paid $5 for a carrying bag. Refurbees offers a 90-day parts and labor warranty that can be upgraded to a year for $49. Shipping is free.


Refurbees buys used PCs in large lots from other companies, then offers steep discounts. It arrived within a week. It was spotless – no scratches on the screen or on the laptop’s body. It was hard to tell it from a new one, except it was old technology. I’d guess that it was manufactured in 2013. It was very slow and heavy and the wireless was very slow. Other than that, it worked fine. The battery held a charge, and the stylus was fun to play with. I wrote this column on the notebook part. If I have one nit to pick, it was trying to find the license key for Windows 10. There’s no documentation – you can get that online – but I finally found the key, which was in tiny characters on the bottom of the unit.

Refurbees' stock changes daily. As I’m writing this, Refurbees is offering laptops and desktops from Dell, HP and Lenovo for about $200, some more, many less. They also sell monitors, RAM and hard drives. A 500-gigabyte solid state drive is selling for $85. And when their products aren’t in pristine shape, they say so by designating them as B-grade.

Sad to say, because the laptop was so slow and heavy, I sent it back for a refund – it had been fewer than seven days since it arrived. The return process was polite and efficient. I paid return postage.

If you want the latest technology, buying new makes sense. However, if you’re willing to settle for a computer or tablet from a previous generation, refurbished ones can be a great deal. Just be careful where you shop.