Is shopping for a refurbished iPad OK?

Is buying a refurbished iPad OK?

Scott Stein/CNET

There’s an enormous marketplace for refurbished iPads and with a brand new basic iPad out now, in addition to a brand new iPad Mini, that market’s solely going to get greater.

Typically talking, one thing that is refurbished — a refurb for brief — is a used product that is been examined or in any other case reconditioned by the producer or a 3rd get together for resale. It may very well be one thing that was returned beneath guarantee for a defect, or possibly its field was broken in transport, or it was a retail ground mannequin used for demonstrations.

Going the refurb route cannot solely prevent cash in contrast with new fashions, however you may also get low cost older iPads that may not be obtainable, however nonetheless meet your wants. Plus, it retains completely good tech out of landfills.

Nonetheless, shopping for one thing stamped “refurbished” could be a dicey proposition as a result of the phrase can imply various things to totally different retailers. What good is saving cash when you’re simply shopping for another person’s issues?

The important thing to getting an ideal refurbished iPad is to purchase from a good retailer that clearly particulars not solely what situation the refurb is in, however its personal return and guarantee insurance policies. On this case, the most effective place to start out is with the producer.

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Check Apple first

There is a whole section of the Apple Store dedicated to its certified refurbished products. It’s a bit hidden. Just scroll down to the site navigation at the bottom of any page and look for Refurbished and Clearance under the Apple Store heading.

Getting a refurbished iPad direct from Apple is the safest and best option. Not only do its prices tend to be the best (around 20% off list price), but Apple puts in a new battery, gives each a new outer shell and fully tests them. They’re put in fresh boxes with Apple’s own accessories and a one-year warranty is included, as are free shipping and returns. You’re essentially getting a new iPad at a discount and that is awesome.

What’s not awesome is that you’re at the mercy of what Apple has in stock. Because supplies are limited and it doesn’t offer many older models, the exact iPad you want might not be available immediately — or ever again. More current models are your best bet, but even those can be hard to come by. 


The basic seventh-gen iPad is currently the least expensive option from Apple.

Apple/Screenshot by Josh Goldman/CNET

Then check everyone else

Here’s where things can get confusing. If you search for “refurbished iPads” you’ll turn up a lot of options — from big retailers Best Buy, Amazon and Walmart, to smaller sites that specialize in selling used products like Gazelle and BackMarket — and then there’s the shopping minefield that is eBay. They all have different standards for refurbished gear and have a range of return guarantees and warranties available for the refurbs they sell. Also, while you might be buying it on Walmart or Amazon, that’s not necessarily who’s selling you the iPad.

Best Buy is the second-best buy

If you can’t find the iPad you want from Apple (and you’re in the US), check Best Buy. Look for models listed as “Open-box Excellent Certified.” It’s basically Best Buy’s version of what Apple offers, minus the new battery and shell. It includes a one-year warranty and is eligible for Apple’s extended AppleCare coverage. The discounts aren’t huge, but it’s something.

For deeper discounts, Best Buy also offers older refurbished iPads that are “repaired and restored to a like-new state.” A 90-day warranty is included and the refurb is also covered by the store’s return and exchange promise. The benefit here is that, should something go wrong, you can actually go into a store instead of trying to handle things online or on the phone.


Best Buy’s Excellent Certified iPads are like-new and save you a little.

Best Buy/Screenshot by Josh Goldman/CNET

Best Buy also sells second-hand iPads, which are typically the result of the store’s trade-in program, so they’ve been opened and used. They’ve been inspected and verified to ensure they function properly, and they’ll be cleaned and restored to original factory specifications. But don’t expect original packaging or accessories. Confused? Here’s all the details on Best Buy’s site. 

Go with Gazelle or Back Market for better selection 

Gazelle buys and sells all manner of used mobile devices including iPads. Its products are “certified pre-owned,” which means they receive light refurbishment, including a 30-point functional and cosmetic inspection and a factory reset. The return period is a scant 30 days. Device protection for one year can be purchased when you buy, however.

The nice part of shopping on Gazelle is that it grades its devices — excellent, good and fair — so if you don’t mind a cosmetically imperfect device, you can save yourself some extra cash.

While Gazelle handles refurbing devices for its site, Back Market works with third-party refurbishers it vets as well as directly with manufacturers for the devices it sells. All of the devices include a one-year warranty from the refurbisher and the site also has a 30-day money-back guarantee. Like Gazelle, Back Market has a rating system so you can pay more or less depending on the device’s condition.

Be careful with marketplace sellers

Walmart and Newegg sell refurbished iPads. They also have third-party sellers, as does Amazon, using their sites to do the same. The problem here is that warranties and return policies can differ between the two.

For Amazon, stick with iPads sold under its Amazon Renewed label. To get this designation, they have to be “inspected and tested to work and look like new by an Amazon-qualified and performance-managed supplier who is either the seller of record, when that is not, or a third-party vendor, when sells products that it sources from third-party vendors.” Amazon Renewed products include at least a 90-day warranty and are backed by Amazon’s return policy.

Finding this information for Walmart’s marketplace sellers requires a bit more effort: You’ll have to click on the seller’s name. But frankly, you’re better off sticking with products sold and shipped by Walmart, simply because you can walk right into a store if you want to return it within your paltry 15-day window.

First published in 2017.

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