What Are the Pros & Cons of Buying a Refurbished Laptop?

by Contributor

Evaluating the potential advantages of purchasing a refurbished laptop as opposed to a brand new one is really a matter of cost avoidance versus risk acceptance. With the price of new laptops approaching parity with similarly equipped desktop systems, and refurbished laptops only providing a small pricing differential over new units, the amount of money saved by purchasing a refurbished laptop is becoming negligible. In scenarios where very high end or specialty laptops are being compared, the savings can be significant, and may suggest that the potential risk of buying these specific types of laptops might be indicated.

Understanding Refurbished

The term refurbished is not standardized in the computing industry, but rather left to the individual vendor to define. In most cases, as usually defined by a factory refurbished laptop provided by a brand name manufacturer, the unit is extensively tested and may have a new outside shell provided to enhance the appearance. Conversely, many of the second hand laptop vendors define refurbished as taking a used laptop, quickly cleaning it and simply reloading the operating system on the system as the only diagnostic test that will be carried out on the unit. Certainly, there is a difference in confidence levels between the two methods, as well as the underlying business model. The brand name company has its reputation at risk, while the second hand laptop provider is more concerned with selling these laptops, and if there is a warranty issue, fixing it as cheaply as possible so as to maximize profits.

Warranty Periods

A quick check of Lenovo, Sony and Apple shows that a full one year warranty is provided with the purchase of a new unit. Sony provides a 90 day warranty for the refurbished products that they sell, while Dell, Lenovo, and Apple offer a one year warranty standard on their refurbished systems. An important detail to consider is that even the batteries are covered by a full, one-year warranty when a new laptop is purchased, whereas many of the non-name brand refurbished laptops on the market will not guarantee the charge time or longevity for laptop batteries.

Out of Warranty Repairs

Laptop computers are more expensive to repair than their desktop counterparts. While most desktop computers can draw on an almost unlimited supply of replacement parts that are largely interchangeable, laptop computers are made up almost entirely of proprietary parts, with the exception of RAM, hard drives and to a lesser extent, the LCD screen. Additionally, laptops are more difficult to disassemble than a typical desktop system, which increases the labor cost associated with any out of warranty service. It is important to note that the majority of laptop repairs will cost in excess of $100, and this reality must be factored into the savings one would realize when purchasing a refurbished laptop.