Is It Safe to Buy Refurbished or Used Electronics?

Everyone wants to save money. As tempting as it is to save a bundle on refurbished electronics, people do worry that they’re setting themselves up for major disappointment. If you look at the price of an iPhone 8, a refurbished or used phone is more than 50% off the MSRP. The savings make it extremely enticing, but how do they know the item isn’t going to break down a day from now? How do they know that the device is clean and not putting them at risk of data or identity theft? Is it ever safe to buy used or refurbished electronics?

If you own a company that wants to upgrade, it’s probably important to you that you recapture some of the value on the items you’re replacing. By partnering with an ITAD expert, you’ll gain some cash back from allowing items to be refurbished and resold. It’s a safe, effective way to extend the life of any electronic device.

Yes, buying refurbished or used electronics is completely safe providing you do your homework. Don’t buy from some no-name person who has no idea what steps were taken during the refurbishing process. Aim for resellers that have a strong asset recovery program that values, sanitizes, tests, refurbishes, and resells electronics. You want a company like ERI who specializes in data wiping.

Five of the Common Misconceptions People Have About Refurbished Electronics

The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that most households have an average of two dozen electronic products ranging from computers to smartphones and TVs to printers. More than 2 million tons of these electronics were disposed of in 2009 and that number continues to soar. To keep these electronics from reaching landfills, many states enacted recycling policies to ensure the metals, glass, and plastics used to create each electronic product. Many of these items can be refurbished and resold, but people have a lot of misconceptions regarding refurbished electronics. Here are some of the most common.

#1 – You’ll Constantly Be Sending Them Back for Repairs

People see new electronics as better than refurbished items because they’ve never been used. Refurbished items are carefully restored to like-new condition. While they’ve been used, they are repaired and then restored with new installations of operating systems and software. Plus, purchasing from an authorized refurbisher ensures you have a warranty. Warranties on refurbished electronics are often better than the warranties on new items because the refurbishers know they can stand by the product they’re selling.

#2 – Refurbished Devices Need Replacing Within Months

The refurbished electronic item that someone buys has already been used, so whoever buys it won’t get as much life from it. There’s no guarantee. You can have a brand new phone stop working after a year. You could purchase a refurbished phone that lasts three years. Even with warranties, there’s no guarantee on how long a new or refurbished item will last. Much of it comes down to how well a person cares for their electronic item. Regular updates, cleaning/dust removal, and scans keep the system working properly.

#3 – Refurbished Computers Were Ditched Because They Didn’t Work

A large percentage of refurbished computers were leased by large corporations. When the lease is up, the company sends back the systems they were leasing to get the newest models. Just like leased cars, there is still a lot of life left in these young systems. They’ve been properly maintained by IT teams, but large corporations often lease and update to have the most current technology. They weren’t someone else’s problem, leases simply end. Those computers are still in excellent condition and could be a home computer that fits a family’s needs for years and years.

#4 – Refurbished Electronics are Old and Run Poorly

When an authorized refurbisher tests the electronic product, they’re looking at speed and functionality. They’re fully tested to see how well they work and what could be improved to extend the item’s life. If a refurbished system is slower, it can be upgraded with a faster processor. If the memory is low, it could be replaced with more memory. Many refurbished electronics have some upgrades that make them just as powerful as a new device.

#5 – They Contain Viruses, Malware, and Other Threats

One of the biggest fears people have regarding refurbished items is the risk of viruses, malware, and other threats. It’s a reasonable concern. Experts can tell you that it’s often an unfounded fear when you carefully select the retailer you purchase refurbished electronics from.

If you’re purchasing a used computer from someone down the street, you might be purchasing a system that has malware and viruses. You don’t know for sure as all you have to go on is the seller’s word and the scans you run. It could be safe, but it’s hard to tell. Purchase from an authorized reseller and that changes.

How a company processes used electronics is important. You do not want to get a device that has malware, spyware, viruses, or other threats clinging to the hardware or software on the device. When you purchase from an authorized refurbisher, this won’t happen. The refurbishers take steps to wipe data, install a new BIOS, and update everything before it’s listed for sale.

The Data Wiping Process at ERI

ERI guarantees their data destruction. Several steps go into this process. First, the electronic item is assessed by experts to see if it’s truly obsolete or still has value either for parts or by refurbishing it. If there is still value, the data is wiped multiple times either by using data wiping software or degaussing. With these data wiping steps, data is destroyed and follows the regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It’s not a quick process. Strict steps are followed and video proof of data destruction is provided to those who request it.

Parts that still have life are collected and can be used to help refurbish other items. They can also be sold, which returns some money to the company that’s recycling their electronics. Refurbished items are sold, which also helps companies make some money when upgrading office equipment.

Carefully Select Your Refurbisher

Look for a certified refurbisher when you’re shopping for used electronics or looking to capture some return on your unused electronics. ERI is the nation’s largest ITAD provider. We hold the highest certifications for e-recycling and data destruction and are certified by e-Stewards, NAID, and R2. We are also members of the Microsoft Registered Refurbisher Program, meaning we are approved by Microsoft to refurbish electronics that require software like Windows.

That’s what’s important. Seek an electronics refurbisher who uses strict processes to ensure all old data is removed. Ensure electronic items are repaired and tested to ensure they function like new ones. When possible, look for refurbished electronics that have a warranty or that allow you to see proof that the electronics you’ve sent have had their data wiped. Call us to learn more about data wiping and refurbishing at ERI.