Buying a washing machine, mobile phone or computer fixed by the manufacturer or with a cosmetic defect has many environmental and financial benefits.

According to United Nations’ (UN) Global E-waste Monitor 2020, 74 million tonnes of electronic waste ("e-waste") will be produced globally by 2030. Refrigerators, washing machines, light bulbs, computers, TVs, mobile phones and other electronic devices are usually disposed of at the end of their shelf life. Recycling or processing them incorrectly can harm the environment and contribute to climate change

In recent years, a new alternative that reduces e-waste through cheaper but reliable and fully functional devices has been flourishing. We’re talking about reconditioned (or "refurbished") electronics.

What are reconditioned devices?

They’re worn down or broken electronics that manufacturers or specialized companies refurbish. They’re products that were once used in displays or testing, or returned because of buyer's remorse or some manufacturing, cosmetic or packaging defect. 

Once checked, repaired and restored to factory standards, they're put back on the market at a lower cost than new models.

What's the difference between "reconditioned" and "secondhand"?

While reconditioned and secondhand electronics might look the same, we need to know how to differentiate them. The two most important differences are:

  • Warranty. Since the manufacturer or a specialized company reconditions the product, users can enjoy a warranty period (usually one year) that covers malfunction, repair and replacement. Conversely, with a secondhand product sold privately, the buyer has no warranty.

  • Condition. A benefit of reconditioned products is their fine-tuning. Whether it's for a clean-up, touch-up or repair, the manufacturer or refurbisher will use original parts to make sure the product functions correctly. In the secondhand market, the buyer doesn’t really know the condition their product is in or if it will malfunction.

Three tips for buying a reconditioned product

Reconditioned products are an excellent way of saving money and cutting down on e-waste. However, when choosing a mobile phone, video console, robot vacuum cleaner or other products, be sure to take a look at their features and history:

  • Check the description. Finding out as much as you can about the product will give you an idea of the condition it's in. Check if its description says the reason for its reconditioning; its cosmetic defects; the year it was made; its model; and if it comes with all standard features.

  • Compare prices. The product's price should reflect the condition it's in. Even if it has the same features as a new device, a reconditioned product should still be discounted. Check how much new models sell for in different outlets.

  • Ask for a warranty. You should know how long the warranty lasts and what it covers to choose the best purchase option and avoid unpleasant surprises.

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