Advantages and Disadvantages of Buying Used and Refurbished Items Online (By Luthando)

I have managed to live quite nicely, thank you, on a middle class salary surrounded by many top notch quality items which I bought used online. For the purpose of this article, let’s define used as anything that was opened from its original packaging including refurbished items. The great thing about buying things used is that unless there’s an obvious cosmetic defect no one is going to know you bought things used unless you tell them. This article discusses the pluses and minuses of buying things used, online.

As a general rule, I won’t buy anything used unless: 1. The item is not readily available new or 2. it saves me a relatively great deal of money- the exception for me is CDs and books which are either hard to find or just save me the trouble of looking for them in a store. I will only buy a used item if the seller has good feedback from a reliable online site or the seller is a well known established company like Best Buy, Amazon or an Associate Store of Amazon. Whenever possible I try to use PayPal rather then credit cards to pay as it is an added source of protection if I have problems with the product or sale.

I will not buy anything used online unless the condition is described as very good or better- figure most people describe things one level better then they are or if the item is sold using the words “Sold as Is” which means the buyer can not return the item once they’ve received it. Let the buyer beware! This to me is an obvious sign that the product is a “lemon” or potential lemon or the seller is someone I don’t want to do business with. I also won’t buy anything from a buyer if the price is ridiculously low as that to me is a sign the seller something isn’t right. There are no free lunches- just drop the thought of buying the item and put it out of mind immediately without losing sleep. Yeah, every once in a while, we read about someone hitting pay dirt and buying a Picasso or something in a garage sale for $25, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to be you or I! Definitely do not buy anything used from someone in another country for over say $50 or your just asking for trouble as there is a pretty good chance the item could be damaged during shipment- have fun getting your money back, or you just get burned altogether and you really have no recourse against someone outside the US.

As a rule I would not buy items with a limited lifetime like DVD players, DVD recorders, anything really that uses lasers as they get worn down, television sets unless the price is so low you can afford it breaking down the next day and junking it, for example. I also wouldn’t buy anything, this is my own personal taste and bias, that was worn by someone, slept on by someone, partially swallowed by someone like a 1 gallon jar of protein power.

What I do buy used, once the above “good conditions” are in place are: 1. Stereo equipment like high quality CD players (the lasers seem to last a lot longer on those!), inexpensive computers, CDs, books, furniture, lamps, pictures & prints, sports equipment, bicycles and scooters, and hard to find items. Most of these items, you can resell either in their original state or for parts. Keep in mind for computers(laptops), that you should demand that the seller restores the computer to its original state and deletes anything that was added unless you want them to leave that on and that the seller is responsible for cleaning the computer for any viruses, spyware and adware. I also wouldn’t spend more then $375 including shipping unless you are buying it with a warranty of some kind and have the option of extending the warranty.

My record on buying used merchandise following these rules has been excellent. I only received one item that was apparently damaged internally during shipment and I got my money back immediately from the eBay seller who had excellent feedback. I bought a $1500 laptop for $700 refurbished with a 1 year warranty from a large well known computer retailer and there was a problem with the hard drive and they replaced it right away with another one which I had never had a problem with. In fact, the only time I ever got burned was when I was stupid enough 5 years ago to buy a laptop from someone I didn’t know on Craig’s List who lived out of State. I learned my lesson then and there- don’t buy anything used from someone you don’t know from a website that isn’t responsible if you get ripped off from someone who advertises on it. In fairness to Craig’s List, I believe they do warn people about getting ripped off, etc, and I only had myself to blame for what happened.

The bottom line is, you can save yourself a lot of money buying things used online but you need to carefully know what you’re doing before you buy anything. Use the tips I’ve listed as a rough starting guide.


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