Walmart and Best Buy Both Sell Refurbished Electronics—But One is Clearly Better, Experts Say
Experts weigh in on whether it's worth it to save your cash.
Whether you're in the market for something simple like a new set of earbuds or a bigger purchase like a big-screen TV, Walmart and Best Buy stand as go-to options for many shoppers on the hunt for electronics. The two retailers' competitive prices and wide selections can make the whole process of getting what you need quick, easy, and relatively affordable. But what many shoppers may not realize is that Walmart and Best Buy sell refurbished electronics that could save you some money on your purchase, too. Read on for expert opinions on whether or not you should buy them.
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Both Walmart and Best Buy offer returned and fixed items for a reduced price.
Getting a great deal on a new gadget or electronic device doesn't always have to involve waiting for a Black Friday or semi-annual sale. Walmart and Best Buy both offer customers the opportunity to buy refurbished electronics at a reduced price compared to fresh-out-of-the-box items.
In both cases, the stores say the selection is made up of products that were returned to the store, cleaned, and repaired to look as close to new as possible. The retailers also verify that the items are in working order before they're put up for sale, offering a somewhat limited return policy as a safety net.
Shopping in the refurbished section isn't just food for saving some cash, though. The stores also point out that the practice is sustainable, helping to reduce waste and extend a product's life by keeping it from a landfill.
Experts say some issues stick out with Walmart's refurbished policy.
Picking up refurbished electronics from either Best Buy or Walmart offers an opportunity to get a decent discount from a relatively reputable source. But according to Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com, it's essential to do a little research about where the products are coming from first.
"On Walmart's Restored page, it notes that their refurbished products are 'inspected, tested, and cleaned by Restored program sellers, with performance measured by Walmart.' But that doesn't really say much," she points out.
Ramhold tells Best Life that it seems like Walmart's Restored items could be sold by third parties that may or may not be well-known brands. "While Walmart offers a 90-day free return or replacement on these items, the details of the program are still kind of vague. The program is described as having products that are 'professionally inspected & tested to work & look like new' and have 'no visible imperfections when held 12 inches away,'" she says.
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Best Buy offers a more robust program for purchasing refurbished or pre-owned products.
By comparison, Best Buy offers a broader range of options for buying products that aren't brand new. Ramhold says the retailer has an Outlet that offers clearance, open-box, and pre-owned products on top of refurbished items, meaning you'll be getting more choices than shopping with Walmart.
"But even if you want to stick to refurbished electronics there, Best Buy is much more forthcoming with its information," she says. "The company notes that its refurbished items are 'repaired and restored to a like-new state.' And many of the product listings also include that they're Geek Squad-certified, which indicates that these items are refurbished in-house."
Ramhold does point out Best Buy's caveat that some refurbished items are handled by "in-house repair centers, the manufacturer, or a third-party refurbishment company." But even if you're trying to avoid outside repairs, the retailer has a wider range of options available. "Best Buy also notes that refurbished items may have 'minor scratches' but are verified to work properly and include all essential parts and accessories—though that could mean originals or comparable substitutes," she adds.
Regardless, the store tends to offer some customer safeguards. "Most products offer a minimum 90-day warranty in case something arises after your purchase," Ramhold says.
There appears to be a stand-out option between the two stores when it comes to picking up refurbished electronics.
Turning to a major retailer like Walmart or Best Buy for refurbished electronics can be an excellent way to save money with minimal risk. But if you're trying to maximize your shopping experience and item availability, one might be a superior option.
"While there are some comparisons between the two programs, Best Buy honestly seems like a better way to go for shopping refurbished due to the fact that many of the products could be refurbished in-house," says Ramhold.
Part of this is because Best Buy also provides more options in general. "So even if you don't find a refurbished product that meets your needs, you may be able to opt for open-box or pre-owned and still get it cheaper than buying brand new," she explains.