The fateful day finally arrived. My trusty computer bit the dust.

As a college student with limited funds, I didn’t really have the option to buy a brand-new computer. I needed a computer powerful enough to run photo and video editing software that wouldn’t completely deplete my bank account.

My only real alternative was to buy refurbished. So that’s what I did. Since then, I’ve been a big advocate of buying refurbished computers. In fact, I’m typing this on a refurbished one that has served me well for more than three years.

If you’re looking to give your grad a computer as a gift, a refurbished one is a great choice.

3 Tips on Picking Out a Refurbished Computer

Having purchased a couple of refurbished computers, I can offer a few tips to make the process a little easier.

1. New vs. Refurbished vs. Used

A new computer is just that, brand new, never been used. Though the two are commonly confused, a refurbished computer is not the same thing as a used computer.

A used computer is typically one that someone else owned and is selling directly to you. There is no warranty or certification. The computer comes as is.

A refurbished computer falls somewhere in between new and used. It commonly originates from one of the following categories:

  • Demonstration models
  • Slightly damaged computers
  • Returned computers that weren’t used
  • Overstock/unsold models that are being replaced

Computers that have been lightly used are wiped and tested to ensure complete working condition before they are sold as refurbished models.

Computers that get damaged in shipping or have any cosmetic issues are often returned to the manufacturer, then repaired, tested and sold as refurbished models.

When purchased from a reputable dealer or the original manufacturer, refurbished computers are usually certified and must pass strict testing. They also often come with a warranty. Refurbished computers are sold at a discount compared with new computers.

2. Buying from the Manufacturer vs. a Third Party

There can be some benefits to buying a refurbished computer directly from the manufacturer. Their refurbished computers are required to pass strict testing to ensure they are in complete working order. In some instances, the testing is more stringent than what a new computer must pass.

Refurbished computers purchased from the manufacturer nearly always come with a warranty. Also, the manufacturer’s technicians work on the same computer models every day. They know which issues are most common and are probably quite proficient at making all the repairs quickly and without mistake.

Third-party refurbishers and sellers can also be a great source for a refurbished computer. These are companies that buy lightly used or slightly damaged computers and get them back into working order. They typically have their own certification process and require their computers to pass testing to ensure they work as well as new computers. They also often provide a short-term warranty.

I’ve had good experience purchasing refurbished computers from the manufacturer and from third-party sellers. What it really comes down to for me is who has the computer I’m looking for in stock.

3. How Will Your Grad Use the Computer?

Before you purchase a refurbished computer for your grad, you may want to pause and consider how he or she will use the computer.

If it will be used mainly to write papers, browse the internet and send email, then you don’t need a computer with a lot of power. In this case, I think a refurbished computer is perfect.

Typically, refurbished computers aren’t the latest model. Often they are a model or two behind what’s currently on shelves, so they won’t have the latest graphics card or most powerful CPU.

However, if your grad is going into graphic design, film or engineering, look for a machine with a bit more power. This doesn’t mean you can’t purchase a refurbished computer — you just need to do more research and be more selective to ensure the computer will meet their needs.

When you’re on a budget, a refurbished computer is a great way to go. I highly recommend purchasing refurbished over new.

Of course, if you’re getting a refurbished computer to replace an old model, make sure you recycle or donate your old computer. 

By Brian Brassaw

Brian formerly managed the Earth911 Recycling Search and shared green living tips and tricks on Earth911’s Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter accounts. Brian also shares DIY projects on Little Pilots Lounge.