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How to buy a refurbished TV: Everything you need to know

“Refurbished” is a word that often puts a strange taste in the mouths of consumers. Sure, buying a refurbished product pretty much guarantees a lower price when compared to buying new, but what are we losing out on along the way? Will a refurbished product work as effectively as something brand new? And what made a particular product a “refurb” to begin with?

When it comes to the world of TVs, you’ll often see just as many refurbished sets lining shelves as new models. Often enough, buying a refurbished TV is actually a pretty great idea, especially if you’re looking to get your mitts on a flagship model for a bargain price. But before laying down the dough, there are still a few points of interest to consider when it comes to buying a refurbished TV the right way.

A racing video game being played on the LG C2 OLED TV.
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

What does refurbished mean?

More often than not, when a television — or any other product, for that matter — is refurbished, it’s because it had some form of a defect when it started life that was unearthed by its first owner, who sent it back to the manufacturer or store in exchange for a replacement or a refund.

However, instead of trashing the troubled model, the manufacturer decided to repair it. This process would have involved it being sent to a dedicated engineering team who would have dismantled it, repaired the issue, and tested the television before shipping it to a retailer to sell on the cheap.

Interestingly, because the refurbished device has been under the knife, it’s more often than not subjected to stricter testing procedures than a new model that just rolled off the production line. This is to make sure there aren’t underlying issues elsewhere that could lead to it being returned again.

It’s for this reason that some people believe that refurbished products are actually more reliable than their new counterparts, but we digress.

What is an “open box” TV?

Wandering the aisles at Best Buy or Walmart, you may have seen a number of TVs lining shelves (often out of their boxes) with “open box” signage attached to the displays.

Similar to refurbished TVs, open box TVs are discounted sets ripe for the picking. Typically, the major difference with open box sets is that they’ve been returned by a customer within the store’s return period for myriad reasons. Maybe it was too big for the bedroom, or perhaps the original purchaser didn’t like the way the picture looked.

Either that or the store is looking to get rid of a display model and has marked down the price of said display set significantly.

While most retailers will still allow you to purchase an extended warranty for an open box TV (also at a reduced price), the TV itself has not been treated to the same white-glove treatment as a refurb set. Often, this is because there’s nothing actually wrong with an open box model in the first place.

In fact, many retailers won’t even accept a returned TV if it’s damaged or not working.

What to look for when buying a refurbished (or open box) TV

A family watching TV.

There are three main things to keep an eye out for when hunting down a refurbished TV. You’re going to want to make sure it’s factory refurbished (meaning the actual manufacturer repaired it), it’s bundled with at least a 12-month warranty, and it’s being sold by a reliable, reputable retailer.

By doing so, you’re essentially covering all your bases: It was repaired using factory parts by a company employee, so it will function as intended; if the same (or a different) issue crops up, you can have it repaired for free; and it’s being sold by a trusted retailer, so it is definitely legal stock (i.e. not stolen).

If you stumble upon something that hasn’t been reconditioned in the same factory in which it was made and therefore isn’t described as manufacturer or factory refurbished, all hope is not lost — if it is listed as certified refurbished, it has been as good as factory repaired by a professional.

Lastly, we urge you to look the TV over with a fine-tooth comb, even if it’s already been repackaged by the retailer. The last thing you’ll want is to get all the way home and realize your new TV won’t even turn on, so do as many of the following checklist items in-store as possible (if you’re shopping at a brick-and-mortar location).

  • Inspect the screen and chassis for signs of damage. Pro tip: Use your phone’s light to search for screen scratches.
  • Ensure that pedestals, feet, screws, and other assembly essentials are accounted for.
  • Make sure there’s a remote and power cord.
  • If possible, ask an employee to plug the TV in to make sure it powers on.

Where to buy a refurbished TV

So, who are these reliable retailers we speak of? Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart all sell refurbished TVs, stocking everything from HDTVs and 4K TVs to OLED TVs and QLED TVs — and they’re all either factory or certified reconditioned. There are even some refurbished 8K TVs floating around.

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