What Is Factory Reconditioned?

By Carol Finch

A couple shops for televisions in an electronics store
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Factory-reconditioned products are returned goods that have gone back to the manufacturer to be checked or fixed before being sold again. Companies can't sell sold or opened goods as new, even if they are in mint condition, and many use a refurbishment process to prepare them for resale. You're most likely to come across these products in the electronics sector when you're shopping for items like computers, cameras, TVs, kitchen appliances and power tools. Before you buy reconditioned products, it's worth looking at the pros and cons to avoid buying a pig in a poke.

Reasons for Factory Reconditioning

Manufacturers recondition items for many different reasons. In some cases, a consumer may have returned a damaged or defective item; in other cases, nothing is wrong with the item at all. For example, someone may have purchased a new camera and then changed his mind and returned it. Retailers return items with damaged packaging, minor cosmetic issues or models used for demos. Manufacturers sometimes recall overstocks and recondition them for resale.

How Reconditioning Works

Manufacturers set their own reconditioning standards. Typically, they aim to resell products in an "as new" condition, running all returns through a series of checks and fixing any issues that they find. For example, Apple tests, cleans, repairs and inspects all products in its refurbished program to the same standards it uses to test new products. Canon runs a full quality-assurance test on returned items, checking that they operate to specification and that they meet the company's cosmetic standards.

Advantages of Factory Reconditioning

You'll see some cost savings with factory-reconditioned products; manufacturers cannot charge the same prices as they do for new items. Prices vary depending on the manufacturer and the product. Any reconditioned product should come with a warranty and a returns policy. According to Amazon's guide to factory-reconditioned products, reconditioned items are reliable and have low return rates because of the rigorous testing process they undergo.

Disadvantages of Factory Reconditioning

Manufacturers recondition returned products, so your product choice is limited to what they have in stock. You may have fewer customization options if you are buying a computer, for example. You may not be able to find out why an item was reconditioned. Some manufacturers, like Dell, give you an indication of the reason for the return by splitting products into new, certified-refurbished and scratch-and-dent categories. Others don't give this information. In some cases, you may receive only limited warranty and returns policies compared to a manufacturer's new products.

Factory Vs. Third-Party Reconditioning

Typically, the term "factory-reconditioned" means that the manufacturer or its certified representative has refurbished the product. You can expect product testing and repair to meet original standards, using official parts. Third parties also recondition products, often at a cheaper price, but these don't necessarily come with the same quality guarantees. For example, a company may not use original manufacturer parts and may not use the same levels of quality assurance in the testing and repair process.