High-quality AV receivers can be rather expensive and risky if you are unfamiliar with the technology. However, second hand shopping can be a great way to snag a quality AV receiver. A refurbished model is a cheaper alternative, but will it give you more trouble than it’s worth?
Refurbished AV receivers are worth the risk as long as you research your purchase. Usually, refurbished products are used, which means you are sacrificing lifespan for affordability. But if you can buy the product from an authorized retailer that provides a warranty, it is highly likely you will get your money’s worth.
Read on to learn about refurbished electronics. We will go over what ‘refurbished’ means and what to consider when buying refurbished. If this article sparks your interest, check out some of the authorized retailer suggestions at the end.
What Does a ‘Refurbished’ Classification Mean?
If you have seen a product marked ‘refurbished’ before, you may have assumed heavy usage and repairs. While this may be true for some products, the definition of ‘refurbished’ in the electronics world is vast. ‘Refurbished’ could mean ‘used.’ However, ‘refurbished’ could also mean ‘repackaged’ or ‘overstocked.’ Here are some reasons that the electronic device you are eyeing is ‘refurbished:’
- Returned: It’s standard for retailers to have a 30-day return policy. And as long as the consumer meets the terms of the policy, they can return their product without reason. This occurrence happens quite often. But in some circumstances, a consumer returns a product because it is damaged (by no fault of the consumer). In this case, a retailer may send the product to the manufacturer to be repaired and resell it.
- Damaged in shipping: Shipping damages have a slew of causes. Blemishes can occur from shipper mishandling, weather elements, and other factors. Sometimes, the damage affects the product’s packaging rather than the actual product itself. However, suppose a retailer feels that a model is not presentable in-box. In that case, they send it back to the manufacturer to repackage. Still, the retailer can only sell the item as ‘refurbished.’
- Damaged cosmetically: When damage occurs to a product’s cosmetic features, the manufacturer can take multiple courses of action. If the scratch or blemish is somewhat passable, they may decide to sell it anyway. However, they may decide to replace the product’s casing altogether. Either way, these products require an inspection to ensure their damages do not affect their function. That inspection makes them ‘refurbished.’
- Demo/display unit: It is relatively common for retailers to sell their demonstration units off the sales floor. However, sometimes manufacturers will take these units back, inspect and repair them, and send them back to retailers as ‘refurbished’ units. This practice includes units displayed at trade shows and products sent back after reviewing by a publication.
- Previously defective: Manufacturers include quality checks throughout product assembly. These checks indicate if the product suffers from a defect like a defunct processing chip, disc-loading mechanism, or power supply, among other things. However, sometimes batches of defunct products make it past assembly and have to be recalled. Manufacturers may try to fix the faulty products and resell them ‘refurbished.’
- Repackaged: A product can be sold ‘refurbished’ merely for being opened. Products lose their ‘new’ designation once the retailer or the manufacturer has repackaged them. This rule even applies to non-refurbished products.
- Overstocked: You have probably seen overstocked products go on sale at any retail store. However, when a manufacturer releases a new product model, they can choose to collect the old models from retailers to be sold as ‘refurbished’ models. Retailers usually mark these items as either ‘refurbished’ or a ‘special purchase.’
Note: Law prohibits selling electronics ‘new’ once they get returned to and inspected by the manufacturer. The reason for refurbishing the product is not relevant in this case.
Refurbished vs. Reconditioned
There is a caveat when it comes to refurbished products. Suppose you see a ‘reconditioned’ product. That term does not mean ‘refurbished.’ Both get cleaned, inspected, repaired, and tested to meet manufacturer specifications. The two terms get used interchangeably. However, there is one significant difference between them: usage.
‘Reconditioned’ products have a lot more usage under their belt than ‘refurbished.’ Refurbished products get returned after light use. What’s more, some have never even made it to the sales floor yet. On the contrary, reconditioned products often come from recyclers, government sales/auctions, or electronics whose leases have expired. That means reconditioned products will have a shorter lifespan.
What Is the Risk?
So now you understand that refurbished and reconditioned products are used, albeit to various degrees, does that make them too risky? Not exactly. There are plenty of factors to consider when buying refurbished products, which I will address in the next section. However, product lifespan is the most common concern. After all, is paying less money worth losing years on your receiver’s life? Well, it depends.
The best way to quantify the risk is by calculating how much reward you receive in return. If you can catch a professional-grade product for a fraction of the price, with a manufacturer warranty no less, it is a no-brainer. But what if the circumstances are not as pristine? For starters, where you buy your refurbished receiver is just as important as what you buy. Stick with me to learn more in the next section.
What to Consider When Buying Refurbished
When shopping for a refurbished electronic, there is a lot to consider. After all, you are exchanging lifespan for a lower price as it is. Doing your research makes all the difference. If the product you are considering hits these earmarks, it is less likely to be a waste of your hard-earned money. Consider these factors before you buy:
- Authorized retailer: This is a crucial qualifier. An authorized retailer or dealer is a store that the product manufacturer authorized to sell their products, new and otherwise. This authorization ensures factory-refurbishing and support from the manufacturer to the retailer. You can research if a store is an authorized dealer through the manufacturer’s website and retailer reviews from objective reviewing services.
- Factory-refurbished: A factory-refurbished product is much more reliable. In sum, ‘factory-refurbished’ means the manufacturer rather than the retailer refurbished the product. If you want a product that works practically new, this is significant. After all, the manufacturer knows the product inside and out, ensuring it meets specifications. Also, ‘factory-refurbished’ products usually come with a manufacturer warranty.
- A valid US warranty (Parts and Labor Warranty): A Parts and Labor Warranty is a standard 45-90 day warranty that ensures the replacement and installation of parts in the occurrence of a malfunction. If the product you are purchasing does not have this warrant, that may indicate a ‘grey market’ item. Grey market products sell with no intention for the US market, meaning less product support.
- Return Policy: Buying refurbished is a risk. Any sensible retailer should respect that with a return policy of 15 days or more. This way, if the product has problems that inhibit its function, you will not eat your money. A definite return policy provides you the opportunity to inspect the product before fully committing. Return policies establish quality stores from shady retailers.
- Extended Warranty: Check to see if the retailer of your product offers an extended warranty. It provides further protection and support for your product. However, even if you decide to forego this warranty, it is an excellent diagnostic of the store’s relationship with the manufacturer. If a store is not an authorized retailer, it would be more resistant to giving you an extended warranty.
- Pricepoint: Research how much you save when ordering a specific refurbished product compared to its new counterpart. First, check the MSRP, or Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, by checking the manufacturer’s website for retail and current selling prices. Then look up sales and refurb pricing from your trusted electronics retailers. If the sales pricing is close to the refurb pricing, spring for the new product instead.
Long story short, if the refurbished product falls short on any of these tests, give it a pass. You would be better off looking for the same product from a different vendor or buying a new unit altogether. On the other hand, if it meets all of these standards, it may be worth the risk. By the way, remember when I said ‘where you buy is just as important as what you buy.’ Authorized retailers boast other healthful seller qualities like warranties and customer support.
Finding an Authorized Retailer
To be perfectly frank, customers should be discerning all year long, but especially during the holiday season. Like Amazon, Walmart, and eBay, standard outlets of online shopping are hosts to many retailers. Some of these retailers may be legit. Still, there are unauthorized retailers on these platforms who may sell you outdated, unsafe, or fake goods under the guise of stellar deals.
This issue may not be as consequential for lower priced items like clothes. Still, it can be catastrophic for investments like an AV receiver. That is why buying from an authorized retailer is always the best option! Authorized retailers often feature factory-refurbished products with reliable warranties and customer support. You will truly get your money’s worth when you choose an authorized retailer over an unauthorized one. Let’s talk about how to find one.
Check the Manufacturer’s Dealer/Retailer Locator
Becoming an authorized seller is an honor for any retailer. Manufacturers take their reputation very seriously. Therefore, they will not trust their products to anyone who could be conning potential buyers. That is why most authorized dealers proudly advertise their status. However, just because a store says they are authorized does not always mean they are. This discrepancy makes dealer/retailer locators highly useful.
Dealer/retailer locator tools are very user friendly. If you know the AV receiver you are planning to buy, visit the manufacturer’s website. The navigation bar should have a tab to click on for a dealer/retailer locator. From there, enter the location you are shopping in, and you will get results almost instantly.
A great example is Yamaha’s highly detailed locator. This locator not only lists authorized sellers of the manufacturer but the authorization status of specific products. So you can search the product model you intend to buy and find a list of authorized sellers in your area and on the internet. Yamaha’s locator also features a list of unauthorized sellers. While the company notes there is no way of tracking every unauthorized seller, the list is a welcome feature.
Contact the Manufacturer
Manufacturers make themselves available for contact to provide support for their customers. You should be able to contact them by visiting their website and clicking on ‘Contact Us.’ This subsection is usually part of a product page or a part of the company’s support page. From there, you will see phone numbers and email addresses you can contact for all sorts of inquiries. Use this information to call/email the manufacturer and verify that the seller you are buying from is authorized.
For further confirmation, you can also contact the seller about their authorization status. Most reputable businesses would welcome the opportunity to show off their authorized certification and gain one-on-one time with a potential buyer.
Never assume that a call to these institutions is an inconvenience. As long as you are patient and polite with your representative, they will be more than happy to help you. After all, customer service milestones like these give brands and retailers the chance to earn your business and potential brand loyalty. Research calls like these are the best way to respect the manufacturer, seller, and yourself (it is your money, after all).
Check Business Review Services
Navigating authorized and unauthorized can make one confused, frustrated, or downright cynical. Luckily, there are independent review services out there that provide oversight to businesses, helping to connect consumers to ethical sellers. Some examples include the Better Business Bureau and Authorized Store.
I am sure you are familiar with the Better Business Bureau. It has been working towards its goal of establishing marketplace trust since 1912. Hundreds of regional services coordinate the bigger bureaus system located in the US, Canada, and Mexico. This network is known as the International Association of Better Business Bureaus. The BBB is not associated with any government and does not recommend or promote any business.
However, the BBB certifies businesses that meet its accreditation standards, a massive boon for any business. BBB accreditations not only boost consumer trust; they also encourage manufacturers to work with these companies. Today, the BBB is a fantastic resource for anyone researching a new business. They have even incorporated a scam tracker that provides users an outlet to report and avoid any shady operations.
While a BBB accreditation can imply authorized seller status, maybe you need a more specific verification. In this case, you should check out the Authorized Store. Authorized Store bestows a seal of integrity upon businesses that are indeed authorized to sell their products.
While you are looking at consumer advocacy sites, take a look at the consumer tips at the FTC website. Now, this site is affiliated with the government and offers recourse if you have been taken advantage of. Take a look at their reporting/take action section for more info on this.
Furthermore, the Authorized Store has some insightful and concise consumer tips to help you with your shopping. Included on the homepage are quick rundowns of terms every shopper should know, like ‘authorized seller’ and ‘grey market.’ Plus, Authorized Store was a bountiful resource while writing this article, especially when it came to learning how to find authorized sellers in the first place.
Whenever you shop online, check the seller for a BBB accreditation, AS seal of integrity, or both. Keeping an eye out for these services will help immensely.
Checking authorized retailers by the manufacturer may be helpful if you know what you plan to buy. But what if you are only browsing? Luckily, the AV community is mightily resourceful and often spread honest reviews of the best and worst retailers. Here are some highly respected authorized online retailers, courtesy of the publication “The Poor Audiophile.”
AV forums laud Accessories4less. “Tech Guy Labs,” an AV podcast, recently featured the retailer in an episode that addressed buying refurbished AV receivers. The retailer includes closeout deals, refurbished products, and liquidated inventory. Discounts range between 30-60%. However, professional AV consumers may scoff at the site’s emphasis on low to middle-tier products.
Founded in 1981, Audio Advisor is a heavy-hitter in the home theater industry. They have plenty of professional accreditations from regional and national audio retail organizations. Plus, Audio Advisor received awards from several manufacturers, including Cambridge Audio. If you are looking for a seller with strong credibility and expert customer service, this sight makes a great pick!
Music Direct is a Chicago based retailer is known for offering high-end audio gear. “The Poor Audiophile” praises the retailer’s clearance and demo gear offerings. Furthermore, MusicDirect is known for competent shipping and reliable customer support. Customer reviews of Music Direct average at five-stars and confirm “The Poor Audiophile”’s claims.
In short, being complex machines, a refurbished AV receiver can be risky depending on where you buy it. That is why researching your options is highly important. Suppose you can get the refurbished product from an authorized seller at a significantly lower price than its new counterpart. Then, it will be worth your money. Always check independent reviewers, manufacturer dealer locators, and customer reviews to ensure reliability from the seller.