Refurbished laptops: Everything you need to know before buying one


Nothing beats the freedom of a laptop. Whether you’re using it for work, online shopping, or Netflix in bed, you can’t beat the versatility of a portable personal computer. But buying your first laptop or upgrading from your old one can be a daunting prospect – the market is flooded, and you can expect to spend anywhere from £200 to £2,000, depending on what you want it for.

Refurbished laptops are a great way to cut down on what can otherwise be an intimidating expense. The best refurbished laptops will actually look and operate exactly like their factory-fresh counterparts, either because they’ve been opened but unused, or because they have been sent back to the original manufacturer for professional repair work before being sold on – for hundreds of pounds less than a ‘new’ laptop. The only real difference – and the most important aspect of buying a refurbished laptop – may be the warranty. If it’s under one year then we’d advise you to look elsewhere.

In this article, we’ll highlight some of the best, most trustworthy outlets for buying a refurbished laptop. This way, you can save money and stay worry-free, safe in the knowledge that your purchase is backed up by a solid guarantee.

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Where are the best places to buy a refurbished laptop?

1. Laptops Direct

Warranty: 1 year

Laptops Direct is just one branch of the Direct conglomerate, which also sells refurbished TVs, furniture, air con units and a range of other electrical appliances. It’s a popular and trustworthy outlet for purchasing refurbished laptops, as evidenced by its Trustpilot rating and 10,000 customer reviews on the website itself. We’ve seen Dell, Acer Predator, and Apple laptops going for up to £400 less than the brand new models on Amazon or Currys PC World.

There are plenty of pros to shopping with laptops direct; it offers a one-year warranty for all laptops, delivers free of charge to the majority of the UK, and has next day delivery options too. Laptops Direct also runs a trade-in scheme that could save you up to £300 off your new refurb when you hand over your old laptop. And that’s on top of the hundreds you’ll already be saving by going the refurbished route rather than buying one brand new.

There’s also a staggered monthly payment option if you can’t afford full-whack right away – that’s another thing Amazon can’t do! Laptops Direct grades its refurbs based on quality. Grade A1 – which is what we recommend you buy – will look and run just like a brand new model. A1 laptops are either unused (but have a broken box seal) or have been refurbished by the manufacturer and are free of cosmetic damage. A2 graded laptops might have some minor blemishes, while Grade A3 laptops will have visible marks and dents. If you don’t mind your laptop looking a little rough around the edges, though, the savings can be astronomical.  

Buy a refurbished laptop now from Laptop Direct

2. Amazon (Certified Refurbished)

Warranty: 1 year

When buying a laptop on Amazon, there are three categories of condition: used, new, and certified refurbished. New laptops are, well, new, and obviously the most expensive option. Used laptops sold by third parties can range wildly in terms of condition; a seller may describe the product as ‘like new’, but that’s a subjective assessment. Used laptops on Amazon may have been given a quick wipe down with a cloth and put back in their box or could be missing key components.

Amazon’s Certified Refurbished stamp is the way to go, especially with such an expensive device. Laptops with the CR rating have been returned to the manufacturer, repaired, and shipped back out. Apart from the packaging, which is usually just a generic brown box, everything else about the laptop will match its brand new equivalents, with all accessories intact – plus it will be significantly cheaper.

Warranties last a full 12-months, so you can buy with confidence, and Prime members will benefit from the lighting fast Amazon Prime delivery. It’s easier to browse for laptops on Amazon too, as you can filter your search by price, brand, size, and internal components.

Buy a refurbished laptop now from Amazon

3. eBay Manufacturer Refurbished

Warranty: 1-2 years

While the majority of eBay merchants are lone sellers after a bit of side income, big brands also use the site as an outlet for second-hand refurbished goods. When searching for laptops on eBay you can filter by ‘Manufacturer Refurbished’, which restricts the listings to devices repaired and sold by the laptop companies. Asus, Acer, Lenovo, and HP all sell on refurbished, like-new laptops with a hefty discount, and warranties range from 12 months to two years.

When buying refurbished laptops on certain eBay outlets – Tesco, for example – you will find a grading system which categorises devices from ‘like-new’ to those with cosmetic damage or missing parts. Not so with the Manufacturer Refurbished stamp, which eBay states as  “an item that has been professionally restored to working order by a manufacturer-approved vendor”. This is a reliable way to get practically brand new goods on the cheap, and there are always tons of laptops to choose from.

Don’t forget to read the seller notes of a product before buying on eBay just to double check the company that’s selling it, the length of the guarantee, and any specific details about the nature of the product’s return and repairs work.

Buy a refurbished laptop now from eBay

What about buying second-hand, non-refurbished laptops?

There are numerous issues that can crop up when buying a laptop second-hand. Besides our concerns about criminals selling on stolen laptops to unwitting customers, we should also warn you about battery life. If a laptop is a year to two years old (or more) then the maximum battery life will be much shorter than it was when brand new. Across hundreds of charges, batteries run down, and if you’re not getting a refurbished laptop then you may well be purchasing a computer with a battery so knackered that you’ll never be able to stray far from a plug socket.

If you’ve resorted to getting a second-hand laptop over a new or refurbished device, then you might want to start by looking closer to home. Friends and family may well have a laptop going spare, which they might sell to you for a discount price. Heck, if they like you enough, maybe you could get one for free!

The benefit of acquiring a laptop from a trusted source is that you know where it’s been whereas, when buying online, you really don’t. But let’s imagine nobody you know has a laptop to sell; below is a list of tips to guide you through purchasing a second-hand, non-refurbished laptop on the internet.   

Buying a second-hand laptop: An essential checklist

Ask for an original receipt or proof of purchase

To make sure the item you’re buying is legitimate, ask for the physical or digital receipt.  If the device is still within warranty, then the receipt will come in handy for any claim you may need to make. Most sellers should offer this up without prompting – it’s usually shown among the photos in the product listing. If they don’t have one or refuse to hand it over, steer clear.

Check for a returns policy

You won’t find any casual sellers offering a returns policy, but some people sell goods on websites like eBay professionally and have well-established eBay Stores. Merchants like this sometimes offer a 30-day or even 90-day returns window in case you’re not satisfied with the product. Of course, 90 days is no match for a one year warranty on refurbished laptops, and you should also check to see how long the seller has been in business and read the customer reviews to make sure that they honor their policy.

Meet in a public space

When buying through a website like Gumtree, the buyer and seller typically meet in person to make the exchange. If you can avoid it, try not to go to their home or any other secluded location. Agree to make the handover in the daytime, in a busy area with plenty of people and CCTV around. Coffee shops are ideal for this purpose.

Test it works

It’s an obvious one, but it’s important nonetheless. Turn on the laptop and play around with it for a few minutes. Examine it for external faults as well, and make sure all the charging components are present and correct. If anything worries you, don’t splash your cash. That slightly dodgy power socket won’t get stronger with more use.

Factory reset

Before you agree to meet the seller to buy it, double check that the laptop has been factory reset. For numerous reasons, you really don’t want a device loaded with the personal login details, files, and internet history of a stranger.

Pay securely

Avoid bringing out large sums of cash to the sale if you’re doing it in person. PayPal is a great option because the money is held by a middleman service before going to the seller. Having a digital record of the payment means that the seller is much easier to track down, should something go awry.

Which laptop should I buy, whether second hand or refurbished?

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the range of laptops on the market? We can’t blame you. It will be much easier to make your purchase, whether it’s brand spanking new or factory refurbished, once you’ve narrowed down your search to just a few laptops really suit your personal requirements and budget.

And we’re here to help with that. If you’re after a fairly low-cost option, you may want to take a look at our list of the best laptops for students; if not, you could peruse our roundup of the best laptops for general use.

Finally, if eSports is your thing, we’ve reviewed all the best specialist gaming laptops of the year right here.

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