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How to buy a refurbished laptop

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PCHF Bot
Jan 10, 2015
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Introduction


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The average price of new laptops has come down, a trend accelerated by the apparition of cheap tablets and affordable Chromebooks in recent years. Refurbished laptops have followed the same trend and a lot of these can be real bargains if you know how to track them down. This article will guide you through the various things you need to consider when considering buying a refurbished laptop.

Make sure you actually WANT a refurbished laptop


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Make sure you understand what a refurbished laptop means. Refurbished laptops can be anything from a brand new device that has been returned because it was an unwanted gift to a thoroughly used one that has been in service for years before being professionally refurbished by one of the many companies that recycle electronic products in the UK after the hard drive dies. The typical boilerplate that applies to most refurbished laptops is that they:

  • usually come with some warranty (typically 30-days, often up to a year, sometimes up to three years) but not on the battery life.
  • usually come with a flexible returns policy (at the buyer's cost).
  • have been professionally restored to working order by a vendor. That means that the item has been inspected, cleaned, possibly repaired and restored to factory settings.
  • may not come in original packaging or with original accessories.
  • may or may not show signs of use; refurbishers usually have grades for their products going from like new to used; make sure you know which one yours is.
  • Should come with an operating system.
  • may have some minor scruffs, pressure marks, chips or cracks (refer to the aforementioned grades).

So if you want a brand new laptop that smells like it's just come off the factory line, complete with shrink wrap packaging, then refurbished laptops are probably not for you.

How much money do you want to spend?


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Decide how much money you want to spend on your refurbished laptop; go for your absolute limit and add an additional 10% margin (that will make sure you don't miss out on bargains that are just outside your limit). Do consider extended warranties which can sometimes be bought at the same time as the laptop; they offer additional protection should the laptop suddenly fail.

List the features you want and need


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That applies to all laptop purchases regardless of whether they are new or not. Make a list of what you need and what you want. Start with the bits you won't be able to upgrade like the screen size, the screen resolution, the processor and the graphics card.

Then follow on with system memory and the hard disk drive since these can probably be upgraded. Do you have any brand preferences? Or specific features you need to have (optical drive, wired connectivity etc)? It is always worth double checking existing reviews to make sure that you've covered all grounds. Check out whether the laptop comes with a new battery or a removable one at least, otherwise you may be left with one that have to be permanently tethered in order to work.

Shortlist your vendors and check their stock


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The best part of the process is to check the vendors' stocks since you might find, through serendipity, one hidden gem. Popular sources include eBay, vendors' outlets (Lenovo, Apple, Asus and Dell being the better known ones), retailers (Amazon, Currys) and certified refurbishers. We're compiling a list of these and will add that to the article later this year. Just make sure you're quick as stocks, by definition, fluctuate a lot and will almost always be low.

Buy your laptop


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After having compiled a list of potential buys, buy the one you think is the best for you at the time of the evaluation. Do so using a credit card because the credit card provider will be jointly responsible if something goes wrong, making it easier to claim your cash should there be any issues.

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