Refurbished tech 101: How to get the best deals

(NEW YORK) — As summer break draws to a close, parents are hitting the ground running with back-to-school shopping.

Back-to-school essentials traditionally ranged from notebooks and pens to t-shirts and gym socks — but now these lists have grown to include pricey technology like cell phones, tablets, laptops and more. All of those things can really add up.

Refurbished tech is one way to help combat elevated costs. “Refurbished” in this case typically means items that were returned for repairs or were no longer wanted. Deals on refurbished tech are available on websites like Back Market (not the black market!), eBay Certified Refurbished, Apple, Bose, Microsoft, Samsung and Amazon.

ABC News’ Becky Worley shared tips with Good Morning America recently for parents looking to buy refurbished — and save a few dollars — this back-to-school season.

What should you buy refurbished and how much can you save?

Savings from purchasing refurbished items can range from 15% to 50% off retail prices.

Worley found a refurbished Apple Watch with cellular connection for calls and texts can be purchased from Apple for about $80 to $190 off, depending on the model. A Samsung Galaxy S20 sells for $499 new, but $299 on Back Market, while an iPhone 11 sells for $549 new, but costs $80 less if bought refurbished.

When buying refurbished through Apple, you typically can get a “new outer shell, new battery, new box, and you can get Apple Care insurance for it,” she said.

When it comes to buying cell phones, Worley recommends buying them no older than two years to ensure the hardware can handle the newer operating systems.

What about laptops?

Worley found a refurbished Chromebook for $356, 15% off its original price of $429. Despite this, she said there were not ample options for laptops if you are looking for something specific.

“It can be tough to find the exact specification you want because of limited quantities of refurbished [items],” Worley said.

What should you be cautious about when buying refurbished?

Make sure you are purchasing certified refurbished products and not items from resellers. Buyers should also look for a good warranty and return policy.

Worley does not recommend purchasing refurbished TVs due to the high possibility of the item getting damaged during shipping.

“It’s really difficult to protect TVs in packaging during shipping, so if it’s been shipped to the original consumer, shipped back to the vendor on the return, then shipped to the manufacturer for refurbishing and then shipped out to you. That’s four opportunities for the thing to get damaged,” Worley said.

Other items she does not recommend buying refurbished are printers and hard drives.

“People don’t return them for cosmetic defects or worn-out batteries. They were more likely to have a mechanical issue that caused them to be returned. I say buy those new or make sure they have really long warranties,” Worley said.

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