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Used vs. Refurbished

Nathan Gardner , Feb 13, 2010; 01:04 a.m.

I'm not in the market for any new equiment at the moment, but was just curious about everyone's thoughts so I can apply it to future purchases. Price being equal, would you rather buy used or refurbished equipment (assuming the used is in excellent condition)? I have bought used before, but never refurbished. I was just wondering if one tends to be more reliable than the other. Also, I know one selling point of refurbs is that it usually comes with a warranty, but it covers a very short time period, which would you feel safer with after that warranty expires?

Also, I thought about posting this in the Digital Cameras forum or a more general forum than Canon EOS, but I figured that each company does their own refurbs and Canon's quality may differ from other brands.


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Danny Low , Feb 13, 2010; 02:05 a.m.

Refurbished usually means someone cleaned the equipment and ran some tests to make sure everything works. Used means someone inspected the equipment to check for obvious flaws but nothing more.

Used can be good. I once went into my local store and saw a complete Minolta SLR system that looked brand new in the used equipment shelf. It was originally purchased at the store by someone with more dollars than sense as he traded it in for a complete Nikon system only 3 months later. OTOH I saw equipment at the store that looked like it had been used by a war correspondent who covered all of WW2 with it. It is very definitely a caveat emptor situation to buy used.

Refurbished is usually a safer bet as they are usually returned or demo equipment.

Over the last 20 years about half my lenses were bought used or refurbished and they have all been as reliable as the ones I bought new. If you are careful and buy from reliable sources, used or refurbished are both equally as good as new.


Alan Bryant , Feb 13, 2010; 02:33 a.m.

I've had some of each and generally had good luck with both. If the price was equal, I would pick refurbished - apart from packaging, the Canon refurbs I've received have been indistinguishable from new. And a refurb will almost always have things like manuals and small parts that are frequently missing with used.

JDM von Weinberg , Feb 13, 2010; 02:47 a.m.

I've bought both, but a lot more straight used. Actually I've had better luck with used, but 2 bad or short-lived refurbish items out of 2 bought is not a significant sample, but one that has influenced my own buying.

With refurbished, I always wonder what about it was wrong enough so that it was sent back, and whether a second try got all the problems resolved? I'd also want to be sure that "refurbished" was "manufacturer refurbished". I would not pay a lot more to get refurbished.

Tommy Lee , Feb 13, 2010; 03:11 a.m.

Used = Bought -> Love -> Sold

Refurbished = Bought -> Rejected -> Pass-On

Mark Kissel , Feb 13, 2010; 04:42 a.m.

As long as there is a good return policy, I have no problem buying used. My 24-70 was purchased used; looks brand new, and came with box, hood, UV filter, soft case, and manual. Price was too good to pass up.

Derek Hofmann , Feb 13, 2010; 05:11 a.m.

I've always had good luck with factory (manufacturer) refurbished equipment, but my two experiences with store refurbished equipment were both less than perfect.

David Henderson , Feb 13, 2010; 05:32 a.m.

"Used" means " doesn't work" because there's a fault, possibly intermittent, that the seller hasn't quite mentioned and any retailer hasn't quite checked and is the real reason why the seller decided to sell or upgrade now.

"refurbished" means "doesn't work" because a technician ( maybe employed by the manufacturer directly or maybe not) has messed around with a camera that might have worked fine before, or might have been returned with a problem, even exchanged under warranty. If there was a problem, quite probably no-one briefed the technician what the problem was and left him to find out by checking the camera over.

Of course both of these statements aren't necessarily true and I appreciate are kind of cynical However if it stimulates you to think

  • warranty
  • or a reasonable time to change your mind
  • A seller that you think stands a chance of acting decently if things go awry rather than you having to check out your legal rights etc.

Then they will have served their purpose.

As far as I'm concerned , "refurbished" means returned to new condition functionally. It also means that reasonable work has been carried out on the cosmetics, but I don't think you could complain if a refurb was not absolutely 100% pristine, even though some of them will be.

Howard Vrankin , Feb 13, 2010; 07:31 a.m.

Not every refurb. has had something gone wrong. Sometimes people buy and return for other reasons, and the perfectly functional item has to be run through the process before re-packaging for re-sale.

Buffdr Rasouliyan , Feb 13, 2010; 09:02 a.m.

Refurb all the way. One of my 5D is a referb and it looks and operates like new. Used can also mean "dang it, I'm selling this to let someone else have the headache". Refurb has warranty if it doesn't work. Buffdr

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