Used, Open, or Refurbished: What’s the Difference?

Used, Open, or Refurbished: What’s the Difference?

6th Feb 2020

Apple doesn’t just build products, they build products that everybody wants.

Apple products have a long history of being on the forefront of easy and safe computing. Not only are the products innovative, it's also easy to integrate across devices while aesthetically pleasing, but are equally regarded for it’s quality that will last for years to come.

Buying a new Apple computer however might strain your wallet, or you may just feel that the new price is just too much (See our article: The Rise of the Refurbished Industry: 16 Things You Should Know). A re-certified unit might just be a better fit. Many providers are offering those devices, but who can you trust?

Needing assistance to decode the different offerings? Navigate with confidence on your next Apple purchase while getting the best out of the machine you have chosen.

How are Used, Open, and Refurbished computers Different?

On first blush, those terms seem fairly similar but the meaning is rather different. Instead of ending up with a perfect refurbished machine that has been properly tested by an Apple-certified technician, you may find yourself with a liquid damage machine with no warranty.

Used items are most often devices from individuals or businesses that do not have the ability to properly test and refurbish. The most common failure of machines is liquid damage, something that can only be diagnosed by a trained technician. Sellers don’t always disclose issues the machine has had, and there’s no guarantee of how the machine was cared for. Even if a used machine has remaining Apple warranty, it is voided by Apple if accidental damage has occurred.

Ebay is one of the more popular market places for used products, and offers used items without actually checking if it's in good condition (Laptop Mag). A bargain can certainly be had at times, but given the complexity of today’s electronics, extreme caution is advised. Also be aware that stolen equipment does get sold as well on marketplaces or Craigslist. If not properly refurbished, a prior owner maybe able to remotely lock or erase the computer. Furthermore, safety recalls may not have been performed (battery recalls and the likes).

Open box refers to devices with packaging or seal that has been tampered with. The unit can be unused, such as in the case of returns or demo models, but it is also untested. Take note that Apple does not sell open box computers. You have to keep in mind that open box unit sales most times do not have technicians that were able to perform diagnostic tests.

Last but not least are refurbished items. It can range for items that have been returned as a trade-in, end of lease or project returns. Before being deemed in good condition for resale, it needs to undergo thorough diagnostics, cleaning and proper formatting of the operating system by an Apple-certified technician to ensure to have it set back to factory settings.

Refurbishing processes differ from one retailer to another. Resellers may have their own grading system. Look for businesses that only have certified Apple technicians on their team and back their product with a one year warranty. Also check out verified reviews from websites like Trustpilot or the likes (See Macs4U reviews at Trustpilot). Only verified review sites can guarantee actual feedback from real customers, and not falsified testimonials. There are refurbished retailers like Macs4U that can do the job well for you, as well as provide you lots of units for an affordable price.

Used vs. Open vs. Refurbished

Now that you’re familiar with what each term means in the tech scene, it’s time to have a quick comparison among the three to see which one is best in terms of the following categories:

1. Price

  • Used – The less amount of time the item was owned, the higher it could sell for. However, if it has visible signs of wear and tear and is outside of the Apple warranty, units can be cheap. This is always a risky proposition and you might be at a position of losing your money on an item that is not in top shape. As electronics are sensitive, rather visible signs of wear and tear should raise a flag as it might also reflect on how the unit was cared for in general (damages from being dropped etc).
  • Open – These items can be more affordable as retailers might discount the device up to 15%. Open box merchandise are either customer returns (packaging has been opened, device may or may not have been used), or computers used in the store as a display model. Apple owned stores do not offer open box specials. Clarify with the store if the unit has been used, if it has been tested and if they back their product with the store's own one year warranty, just in case that Apple voids the warranty due to prior accidental damage.
  • Refurbished – Depending on the model of the device, the price of refurbished items can be slashed up to 70% vs. the regular retail price. Refurbishers do this for a living – they buy in large lots to capture savings, have technicians test the computers and so on. They are uniquely qualified to provide you with the very best value and service.

2. Performance

  • Used – There is usually no way to guarantee the performance of a used item unless you know the previous owner of the device. Buying second-hand electronic products are always a risk, so you should ask about device use and history extensively. If at all possible, have Apple test the computer for you before committing to buy.
  • Open – Open box models can perform like new. But as mentioned before, be sure to have guarantees from the seller. It is at the retailers discretion to provide you with support if something is not performing to specifications.
  • Refurbished – Due to the rigorous testing, it’s safe to say that the performance of refurbished machines is in optimal condition. Refurbishments are only done by refurbished sellers and usually come with a guarantee from the Apple-certified technician that all systems are working as excellent as it should.

3. Quality

  • Used – There’s no quality assurance with used devices. Potential internal defects can go undetected, unless you have a way to have them professionally tested or inspected. It’s imperative to choose a credible seller before pushing through with the sale.
  • Open – Open box items are usually returned, therefore store personnel decide if they are deemed okay for resale. They did not undergo testing, so there is a possibility that you might receive a defective item.
  • Refurbished – Refurbished machines follow a quality assurance rating that clearly distinguishes the state of one device from another. For instance, those deemed Grade B could mean there are minor aesthetic defects like a small scratch, but all internal systems are functioning correctly.

4. Availability

  • Used – Most second-hand electronic products sold online are stock models that you would see in stores. If you are looking for particular specs, make sure you canvas prices before purchasing.
  • Open – Check if the open boxed item is still within Apple warranty as Apple might repair the computer if it has issues – but remember that warranty is voided by accidental damage – something you cannot tell from the appearance of the computer.
  • Refurbished – Among the three, refurbished devices are the most readily available. Refurbished retailers are also willing to customize the refurbished device for it to carry out your daily functions.

Which One Is Best for You?

For something as critical as your laptop, you’d want to make sure of the performance and quality, as well as have the freedom to choose specs at a reasonable price point. From this angle, refurbished MacBooks can be an excellent choice for your new tech purchase.

You can get high-quality refurbished laptops at Macs4U with huge discounts, depending on your preference. You’ll also be able to enjoy full-service customer support and repairs for your laptops with exclusive warranties—the same kind of service you would expect from a store when buying something brand new.There are certain brands that no matter what the condition, people will still put value to it. There’s more to merely looking at second-hand devices, too. For Apple’s case, they offer used and refurbished machines. Surely, this has gone through a series of tests and diagnostics to see if it’s performing at its optimum.

Taking the time to get to know these terms will help you navigate your way through your next tech purchases and get the best out of the machine you have chosen.