Your laptop went caput, you've been lusting after an iPad, or your digital camera is struggling to keep up with current technology. Sure, there are lots of cheap replacement options, but it’s better to  go with a trusted brand.

Is there any way to get a deal on quality electronics?

Buying refurbished could be the answer. Items are sold as refurbished for a long list of reasons: it could have been returned, previously defective, damaged during transport, or in some cases, the box was simply opened and the item could not be sold as new. Unfortunately, since there's no industry standard for the word refurbished, every retailer may have a different interpretation. Refurbished generally means the product has been approved for sale after undergoing inspection by the manufacturer. A manufacturer does not want to put their stamp of approval on an item that's going to break or malfunction, so oftentimes these inspections are very rigorous. So when considering buying a refurbished item, try to purchase directly from the manufacturer if possible.

Here are some other things to consider about refurbished products:

Compare new and refurbished prices

Sometimes a brand-new product isn't much more expensive than the refurbished version. Or compare prices between a refurbished product that was recently released and an older model. Are you really saving that much? You might be able to get a better new price on the older model. Or you could benefit from a rebate on a new item that will bring the price down significantly.

Verify it’s really a refurbished item

Since these products have a good reputation, people selling used or occasionally even stolen items sometimes try to advertise them as refurbished. Ebay is a good place to watch out for this. Check the seller's ratings and see if they have positive reviews. Contact the seller before purchasing to ask some of the questions listed below. Few eBay sellers allow returns, so know exactly what you are getting into before bidding. Check out this guide for more tips on buying refurbished products on eBay.

Ask about warranty and return policy

If something is wrong with it, are you stuck with it? Find out if the warranty covers repairs or replacements. Depending on how long or how frequently you intend to use the item, an extended and more thorough warranty that covers a new item might provide better peace of mind than the warranty that comes with a refurbished item. Even if you don't purchase an extended warranty with a refurbished item, check to see if one is available. If a retailer is willing to offer an extended warranty, that's a sign that they're willing to stand behind their refurbished products and that they’re good quality.

Learn what makes the product refurbished

An online customer service or in-store salesperson might not know all the details. Contact the manufacturer directly to find out where the original products come from. Was it once a defective product? Was it an overstock item or a return that could not be resold as new? Does it function properly but may have an exterior defect such as a dent or ding?

Remember extra parts, attachments, and accessories

Electronics are a good bet to buy refurbished. Make sure all those cords and extra pieces are included. And don't forget the manual! If it's not included, a free downloadable version is likely available online.

Popular refurbished products

  1. Apple: Head straight to the Apple Store to buy refurbished Mac computers, iPads, and iPods and save up to $300. Apple certifies and tests all refurbished items to meet their own quality standards. Refurbished products come with a one-year warranty and ship free. Optional: Apple Care, an extended warranty for up to two or three years, includes complimentary repairs and support. Refurbished Apple products are in high demand, so if you see something available that you want, don't wait too long!
  2. Nikon products: Nikon sells refurbished cameras, cases, flashes, and lenses in the Nikon Outlet Store. These products have been reconditioned by Nikon to meet factory specifications, contain all original cables, batteries, manuals and other accessories, and are protected by a 90-day limited warranty. Note: Unless otherwise stated, reconditioned products are not eligible for rebates.
  3. Dyson vacuum cleaners: Dyson strips down and cleans out their remanufactured vacuums, then replaces necessary parts and tests them thoroughly to restore them to a nearly new standard. A remanufactured Dyson vacuum includes a 30-day money back guarantee and a 6-month limited warranty that covers parts and labor. Purchases from the online Dyson Store ship free. Look for refurbished Dyson vacuums (as well as other vacuum cleaner brands) on Overstock.com.
  4. KitchenAid stand mixers: If online reviews are any evidence, a reconditioned KitchenAid Stand Mixer is as good as new. Purchase one from an Amazon approved seller (which might not include shipping). According to Amazon, a reconditioned appliance is one that has been returned and restored by the manufacturer to like-new condition (some reconditioned appliances may contain cosmetic blemishes). An Amazon reconditioned mixer comes with a 6-month warranty. Overstock also sells refurbished KitchenAid Stand Mixers (with a 180-day warranty).
  5. Video game consoles: Check the selection on Best Buy, Gamestop, and the Sony Store to see what models are available refurbished.
  6. Laptops: Best Buy and Sears sell refurbished laptops in a variety of price ranges.
  7. Ebook readers: Sign up to be notified when the next batch of certified refurbished Amazon Kindle readers is available. It includes a one-year warranty, just like a new Kindle. Check periodically on Barnes & Noble to see when more certified pre-owned NOOKs might become available.
Five Tips for Buying Refurbished Products