Personal Finance 

Should I Buy Refurbished or Preowned?

Email  Print Print  

About a month ago I was playing Halo with a few friends on XBox Live. About ten minutes in, the image on the screen starts looking strange. There are odd lines and dots throughout, bizarre contrast in certain regions, and eventually the game became unplayable. I figured perhaps, like every other Microsoft product in the world, a restart was in order. When I turned it back on, I was greeted with an Error E74 and a red ring. Since I was outside the three year warranty, I was out of luck.

Now I had the option of buying a brand new XBox 360, buying a refurbished XBox 360, or simply going with a preowned unit. The price points for the refurbished (~$130) and preowned (~$160) were similar, but a brand new XBox 360 cost somewhere north of $300. I could’ve sent my XBox back to Microsoft for repairs for $99 plus shipping, so I figured I could make use of a Best Buy gift card and buy a refurbished XBox for $130 (which is what I eventually did).

The question I have is something I’ve thought about for a while – is it better to buy something that was preowned and suffered no problems or buy something that was refurbished?
Refurbished simply means that a component or a part within the item had failed or was broken and was repaired or replaced. In XBoxes, which have had known hardware problems, there are various causes for “red rings of death” but in the end Microsoft just replaces some parts and sends back the unit. There are a litany of things that can go wrong and many of the earlier units were ticking time bombs just waiting to have catastrophic failures. That said, refurbished means that any faulty parts have been replaced (hopefully).

I look at it this way – if every part within the device has a useful lifespan, before it fails, a refurbished unit contains a few parts that have had their clocks reset. All things being equal, it should be hardier than the same device without refurbishment. That’s why I thought going with refurbished was better than preowned.

Do you prefer refurbished or preowned?

{ 31 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

Related Posts

RSS Subscribe Like this article? Get all the latest articles sent to your email for free every day. Enter your email address and click "Subscribe." Your email will only be used for this daily subscription and you can unsubscribe anytime.

31 Responses to “Should I Buy Refurbished or Preowned?”

  1. Traciatim says:

    You forgot the third option, buy a good video card for a PC and play good games 😉

    I usually liked refurbished, since the device has to be reviewed for faults and then can be resold. I’ve bought tons of gear this way and rarely run in to problems with it. Though I haven’t been keeping stats on it I think even less error prone than new.

    • MikeZ says:

      I believe the problem with your refurbished theory is that an actual problem was found and fixed.

      For a refurb that was reliably a red ring of death and then fixed by microsoft, I think I would prefer that over a used machine. Most likely the cost of debugging individual components in an XBox is higher than the labor rate of a repair tech (it doesn’t make any sense for a tech spend an hour and fix the real problem of a bad $0.10 capacitor) if replacing the board costs $2.00.

      However my fear with a refurb is some intermittant problem that makes it back to Microsoft, the tech turns on the machine runs a diagnostic and reports “No Trouble Found” boxes it back up and ships it out the door. Its this machine that seems like a potential timebomb that fails when the humidity level is above X% or it gets 5 degrees warmer next to your TV than it does on the tech’s lab bench. I worked as an engineer for an electronics company and our #1 reported failure for units returned from the field was “No Trouble Found”. And this was a piece of computer equipment with a $2K price tag.

  2. Matt K says:

    I would’ve thought harder about getting it fixed, depending on what kind of warranty they have on their fixes.
    Refurb usually gets you some sort of warranty (though it’s usually something like 90 days) where pre-owned gets you none. Also, some credit cards will extend that warranty, even on refurb products.

    If it’s something like a 360 that’s going to fail sooner or later, i’d go with whichever would have the longest warranty (which may be just getting it fixed – those last usually 1 year).

  3. Hannah says:

    I agree with Matt K, the first thing I would look at would be which has a longer warranty. All other things being equal, I would go for whatever was cheapest (which you did). I think you made the right choice with the XBox, but it probably also depends on the item in question. As long as the pre owned item was in good condition, I would probably value the fact that it has been functioning well so far in its lifespan over a refurb that has failed in the past.

  4. cubiclegeoff says:

    I think the refurb can be a better option since it could come with a new warranty or some other guarantee. On some things though, you have to be careful. Some cars do “Certified Pre-owned”, which you would guess that it went through a process to make sure it’s in great running order, but every system is different, and some are worthless.

  5. Bill Sinclair says:

    Just before the warranty is up tear it up so they won’t know you did it and use the warranty.

  6. zapeta says:

    As others have said, I would pick the one that has the longer warranty. I’ve never had any problems with anything I buy refurbished but I usually try to get new.

  7. Pete says:

    I had my xbox 360 crap out on me just before the 3 year warranty ran out, so I was able to send it in and have it replaced with a refurbed unit free of charge. In the end the new unit that i got was actually a newer one with a HDMI port, so I made out ok on the deal. I’m still using that refurbed one a couple years later. I have a second xbox that i bought on ebay for $50. So far 6 months in it works great! We use it for watching netflix movies and streaming other video content via our home network.

    So, the moral of my story – I’ve done both – gotten a refurbed unit and a preowned unit. Both are still functioning just fine – so it’s a wash – i would just compare the warranty, price and then make an informed decision.

  8. Bill says:

    one bad thing about a refurbished unit – what if the part that failed and was replaced failed because of another part which was not. we have a brand new $900,000 piece of equipment here at work that needed the same circuit board replaced 3 times before the techs working on it realized that a faulty thermostat was causing that circuit board to overheat.

    you also may think you’re doing better with a refurb when you’re in fact getting someone else’s lemon. at least with the pre-owned unit you know (or hope) everything is working well.

    you also have no way of really knowing if a unit is refurbished or pre-owned.

    I think the fact that it costs almost as much to fix your original than it costs to buy a refurb is a real shame and one of the things most wrong with the world today. 50 years ago they built things to last the test of time, and most of them still work but technology has made them obsolete. I’ve been through 4 or 5 CD players (not even counting the ones in my computers and cars and DVD players and game systems) meanwhile my grandfather’s radio is older than I am and still works. I’ve been married 5 years and my wife is on her 3rd vacuum cleaner. It’s scary to think how many cameras and cell phones I’ve accumulated throughout the years thinking that this is the be all end all item that will last me the rest of my life only to find one with more megapixels or more features 6 months later. A lot of companies make more money selling warranties and service contracts and they knowingly use cheaper and more fragile parts.

    • MikeZ says:

      ” A lot of companies make more money selling warranties and service contracts and they knowingly use cheaper and more fragile parts.”

      This somewhat seems like a catch-22 statement. Should a company use higher quality components when you admittedly think the device will be obsolete in 2 years? or should they use cheap components and save you the dollar upfront knowing your going to want the one with more megapixels in 6 months?

  9. qixx says:

    Refurbished does not mean something was replaced. Sure there is a chance something was replaced but occasionally it means the test item in lot x of that product run failed its Quality Assurance test and the entire lot was opened and tested. Probably not the case for game systems. But refurbished does not always mean it had a problem that got fixed.

  10. Jeff says:

    Unfortunately, the nVidia graphics chipset inside the Xbox is to blame (big $$$ settlement several years ago), and there is no fix for older machines except to buy a new one that doesn’t have the same chipset issues. What happened is that RoHS compliance (no lead in electronics) requires different solder that doesn’t hold up to rapid heating/cooling well. In large desktop computers, there is ample cooling and these don’t necessarily fail because the thermal gradients are not as large; however, in embedded systems (laptops, Xbox, etc), the small form factor causes the insides to heat up to the point where the solder connecting the chip to the motherboard can fracture. The chip is a square with ~40×40 solder points underneath (so you can’t solder on the side yourself), which greatly increases the chances for fracture. The best that can happen with an older device is that the motherboard will be replaced (usually with another that has the same issue), giving between 1-4 years more life until the part fails again. You can fix it yourself if you have a stop watch, heat gun, and are willing to put the aluminum foil-covered motherboard in your oven.

  11. eric says:

    I don’t really shy away for refurbished items but that’s because I’ve never been burned before. It really depends on the item and what I’m trying to get out of it. But in general I think refurbished items are great money savers especially if they come from a reputable seller/manufactuer.

  12. Mei says:

    I go for the refurbished ones too. It’s brand new parts, they re-test and re-test, and some companies even give extended product warranty.

  13. noWhere says:

    Definitely refurb is the better option. I’ve had much success with items bought re-furbished.

  14. govenar says:

    I’m not sure which I’d choose (I’d probably choose neither and just buy new).

    But one other possible issue with refurbished items is that when they opened it up to replace a part, they may have broken something else in the process, or the pieces might fit back together exactly right. e.g., if you get something replaced in your car, you might end up with a rattle or leak that didn’t exist before; or when a person has surgery they might have complications caused by the surgery. (This might not be as big of a deal for an Xbox though.)

  15. freeby50 says:

    I’d probably buy the new one. The $130 refurbished unit is the low end model. For $200 you can get the Xbox with 4GB new. So thats only $70 difference. The used one might be heavily beat up after many long hours of use and has a limited warranty. For that price difference I’d buy new.

    • Vic says:

      I’m with you. I’ve gone through FIVE refurbs and finally had it and bought new. Best to check the date of manufacture for the most reliable when it comes to game consoles.The later the better.

  16. Eli says:

    In this case refurb is not a good option unless you’re lucky enough to get a machine with the new chipsets. I’ve had 5 red ring of death failures, and four were on refurbished 360’s sent as replacements for the previous failure. Next time I’ll just buy new.

    Also, new is 199 or less for 4 gb xbox and just plug in your old hard drive for more space.

  17. Glenn Lasher says:

    Speaking generally, I would get the refurbished device, because it would have been repaired by the OEM and would come with a warranty.

    Specific to the XBox, I couldn’t say. I’m not particularly keen on MS products, largely because of QA processes that are modest at best. A friend of mine used to work for them as a QA analyst and he pretty much confirmed my thoughts. For the most part, their products do not appear in my home . . . or his.

  18. I have had good luck with refurb items in the past. Never bought a 360 though. I guess my answer to your question depends on whether I know the seller. If so, and I think they took care of the item, I would prefer pre-owned, otherwise, I would probably prefer the refurb.

  19. Shirley says:

    If the item is from a reputable seller/manufactuer (keywords!) I would go for the refurbished item because of the better/longer warranty, the lesser price, and knowing that faulty parts had been replaced and it had been tested.

    The idea that one part might not be faulty itself, but cause another part to fail, would be possibly true regardless if the same item was new, previously owned, or refurbished.

  20. Dave says:

    I think for consumer electronics – refurb is the way to go – they are usually covered under the same manufacturers warranty as the brand new version, so if something blows up 1 week after the warranty expires, at least you aren’t out the full price.

  21. PinchaPenny says:

    I buy a lot of used items off of local classifieds. I have found that I have better luck with used vs refurbished. In many cases a part wearing out is result of several things that are not working properly causing the part to wear out. Meaning even after it is refurbished often that same part will break again.

  22. moljacks says:

    I would go with the refurbished unit because you never really know what happened to the pre-owned one. At least the refurb has been checked out by someone.

  23. jj says:

    I bet he is missing one key point, I bet his original system was modded as well hence the need for a new system rather repairing the original.

  24. R says:

    I’m disappointed that you are advocating a throw away economic theory. The long term environmental (and even personal) costs of the electronics that are discarded are high. Sure, it’s only $30 more to get a brand new machine than to fix the one you have. But then you have to dispose of the old item, and the packaging that the new item will come in. The pieces of your old item that can be recycled are toxic and that work is usually outsourced to other countries with few or no worker protections. I’ll probably continue reading your site (I just found it tonight), but I’m disappointed this “refurbed vs pre-owned” thought had to stem from A. a luxury item and B. replacing something that can be fixed.

    • Raquel says:

      Good answer, R.!! I had to read it twice because it looks exactly like something I would write (and when I saw “R” as the name, I thought I did this a couple of years ago…but I wholeheartedly agree with you. We are a throw-away society and have no conscience when it comes to using and producing less.

Please Leave a Reply
Bargaineering Comment Policy

Previous Article: «
Next Article: »
Advertising Disclosure: Bargaineering may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website.
About | Contact Me | Privacy Policy/Your California Privacy Rights | Terms of Use | Press
Copyright © 2016 by All rights reserved.