How Reliable Is a Refurbished GPS?

By Fred Decker

A refurbished GPS can often provide late-model features at a deep discount.
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Shopping around for home electronics can save canny consumers a lot of money. One useful strategy with GPS devices and similar items is purchasing refurbished units. Refurbished models are usually contemporary or near-contemporary with other units available at retail, and often offer substantial discounts. Some shoppers are wary of purchasing refurbished GPS devices, for fear of getting a less-reliable unit. In practice, that's not usually the case.

Refurbished vs. Used

It's important to understand what "refurbished" means in the context of electronics. Such items are typically not "used," in the way you'd associate with a second-hand device purchased from a classified ad. Usually they're returned to the manufacturer either for a manufacturing defect, or because the original purchaser decided in favor of a different model. Some may never have been out of the box, but because they've left the store they can't be sold as new. Manufacturers clean the unit and repair it if necessary, test it, then repackage and sell it. Most are like-new units, perhaps with minor cosmetic flaws such as a scratch or abrasion on the back of the case.


It's also important to do your research when purchasing factory-refurbished GPSs, also referred to as "factory remanufactured" or "newly overhauled" devices. In most cases, they're precisely as reliable as new models. In fact, they've been through two full rounds of testing, and it could be argued that they're a correspondingly safer choice. However, some models are more trouble-prone than others and therefore more likely to show up as refurbished. Search consumer sites and user forums before making your purchase, and read up on any model you're considering. If it's a notorious lemon, you might want to avoid it.

Choosing Your Source

Most of the major GPS manufacturers have their own online outlet stores where refurbished GPS models are available at deep discounts. Dealers and authorized service centers often have refurbished units for sale as well, and might be open to negotiation on price. Be sure your chosen outlet is selling factory-refurbished units. Some retailers accept trade-ins and refurbish the GPS devices in-house, which is less desirable. Not only are the units more heavily used, you're relying on the retailer's in-house expertise rather than the full resources of the original manufacturer.

Warranty and Return Policy

Before you invest in a refurbished GPS, be sure to understand the company's warranty and return policies. Some offer the same warranty on new or refurbished units. Others restrict the warranty on a refurbished unit. Garmin provides full warranty on its refurbished units if they're sold at retail, but only 90 days if one is sent as a warranty exchange for defective unit. TomTom provides a full warranty on refurbished GPSs, just as if they were new. Manufacturers and retailers also vary widely in their return policies. Be sure you understand your rights before you purchase a refurbished unit.