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What to ask before buying refurbished electronics

If your kids love to lose their earbuds, or you're staring at a cracked phone screen, buying refurbished devices might be a way to save you money.

INDIANAPOLIS — If your kids love to lose their earbuds, or you're staring at a cracked phone screen, buying refurbished devices might be able to save you money.

Into Apple products? Swing by their refurbished section online.

Apple fixes up its own products and sells them online for a discount.

But, some buys are better than others, according to PCMag writer Chandra Steele. "Sometimes it's really not that much of a price difference. You might see, like, a markdown on the site. But first check some other sites make sure there's not a better deal on the same item new from someone else," Steele said. 

Apple accepts refurbished returns and offers a one-year warranty.

Best Buy sells used electronics, usually repaired by their Geek Squad team. To confirm who repaired it, read the descriptions section.

In this section, we found a pair of Beats by Dr. Dre earbuds retail for $90 instead of $150.

Best Buy also accepts returns, but the warranty varies according to their website.

Amazon is also in this space with its Amazon Renewed section.

The company said qualified suppliers, or third parties, inspect and test the products.

We found a Shark Vacuum listed for $240 instead of $420.

Amazon accepts returns and there is a 90-day guarantee.

If your item is a certified, refurbished Amazon device like an Echo, there's a one-year warranty.

Steele said there is also an environmental aspect to giving gadgets a second life. "It's so difficult to recycle items. And it's also dangerous to the planet, too. It's not like recycling is a process that's without, you know, any impact on the earth."

"People are turning over phones and things that are two years old, but still function. Once they have a new battery in them, you know, a cleaned-up screen, then they're certainly fine to use," Steele said.

Other places like eBay, Walmart, and Target also sell refurbished items.

Wherever you're shopping, here's what to ask:

  • Who's fixing the item?
  • Can I return it?
  • Is there warranty?
  • What accessories does it come with?
  • If it's a gift, how is it packaged?

Some refurbished items might not come in their original box.

There are also open box products, a section that Best Buy is known for. People buy a TV and bring it home to find out it's the wrong size. That TV goes back to store, many times unused. You can shop open box items both in-store and online.

If an item is not covered by a store warranty, check to see if it's still covered by the manufacturer.