A No-Credit Check Guide to Buying Used Electronics or Appliances

By Carly Rae Zent

Stay within budget and get the best-quality product for your money.

Buying used electronics is a great way to save money on expensive, but often essential products like cell phones and laptops. Just look at the price of iPhones: A certified refurbished iPhone 7 can be purchased for around $250 while a brand new iPhone 7 starts at $450 (if there isn’t an option to trade in an older device for a discount). That’s $200 you can save on a phone that will work as good as new.

Buying used is also good for the environment. It contributes less to electronic waste.

Unfortunately, there are definitely some downfalls with buying a used electronic device. Will it work for very long before you find yourself needing a new one? Will it work at all? Used electronics don’t always come with warranties or other protective measures that can ensure you aren’t wasting your money. This guide will go over some of the ways you can increase your luck when buying used electronics without having to break the bank of go into debt.

Research carefully

Buying a used electronic device or appliance can be worth the money if you’re buying an item that still has a lot of life left. Buying an item that’s on its last legs can end up being a waste of time and money.

That’s why it’s important to research the brands and item models that you have an interest in purchasing before splurging on a purchase. If a particular laptop, for example, has a reputation for not lasting much longer than a year, then it would not be a safe bet to buy it used. If a phone battery tends to stop holding a charge after a short period of time, that might not be a good buy either.

Sturdy, high-quality brands of laptops (or high-end models from other brands) might turn up some good used options. Look for reviews of durable, long-lasting choices and center your search on those items.

Have patience

If you decide you want to buy a particular brand or type of item — for example, you decide you can’t live without the latest iPhone, then have patience with finding the right item in good condition. Also wait until you have the money to pay for it. There’s no use taking out a personal  loan to make a purchase that should be saving you money.

Having patience involves another benefit — if you wait for the latest model in a lineup to come out, then likely the older versions will go down in price. A little research will often yield information on when a company plans to release the newest version of their laptop, camera, or phone.

Buy refurbished 

Refurbished electronics are one of the safest ways to buy used. “Refurbished” essentially means that a third party has ensured the item works and has fixed any problems with it, if necessary. Refurbished electronics also often come with some kind of protection. If it doesn’t work or has issues, it is usually returnable.

Places where you can shop for refurbished electronics include Best Buy and Gazelle. Sometimes manufacturer websites, such as Apple, will also offer refurbished electronics. If choosing to purchase a refurbished item, make sure to read the seller’s policies around refurbished electronics so you know what you can expect if its not functioning as expected.

One of the downsides of refurbished electronics is that they are more expensive than normal used items. The extra expense you’re paying for is the price for having an expert evaluate and fix up the item. It’s also the price of being able to return a faulty item.

Do a test run

If you choose to save even more money by buying a used item directly from the previous owner, do plenty of research into how to test the functionality in that particular model. Don’t buy the item if the seller doesn’t let you test it. For example, if purchasing a used camera, you might want to check that the sensors are clean and the zoom works as expected. If buying a used iPhone, you might want to check the condition of the battery. For any electronic, the external condition says a lot. An item that’s beat up and has scratches probably isn’t in great shape on the inside, either.

Avoid scams

If you decide to buy a used item from Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, be sure to avoid scams, such as sellers who are trying to pawn off a fake product. Before handing over the item, inspect the item and ensure that you’re buying the real thing.

You should also be sure to use payment methods that are secure. If you use cash or Venmo, you will have no protection if you discover later you were sold a bad electronic. PayPal, however, has consumer protection. If you discover you’ve been scammed, you have the ability to report the seller and fight to get your money back.

Similarly, credit cards usually have more liability protection than debit cards. You will have more protection if you need to report a charge after purchasing a faulty item.

If you decide to buy on a website like eBay, then use the usual common sense to avoid scams.

  • Check seller feedback to ensure that prior buyers got what they expected to receive in a timely manner.
  • Keep all communication through eBay so that you have an official record of the interaction.
  • Read item descriptions carefully so that you understand the condition of the item you’re buying.

Additionally, eBay has a full list of ways to stay safe when using their website. Craigslist also has information about avoiding scams while using their website. This advice also applies to tools like Facebook Marketplace.

The reward

Hopefully this guide helps arm you as you enter the big, confusing world of used electronics and appliances. Making a great used electronic purchase will be rewarding — both as a result of the hunt, and as your bank account thanks you.

The information contained herein is provided for free and is to be used for educational and informational purposes only. We are not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law and we do not provide "credit repair" services or advice or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit. Articles provided in connection with this blog are general in nature, provided for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for individualized professional advice. We make no representation that we will improve or attempt to improve your credit record, history, or rating through the use of the resources provided through the OppLoans blog.