Buying a laptop that someone else got rid of may not be the best idea.

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Until recently, I never shopped for a laptop. That’s because my former employer always supplied me with a new one whenever the old one died. Ten years ago, the company sent me new computers that allowed me to do my job remotely. Then it started sending refurbished laptops.

Some were OK, but others weren’t, and since I wasn’t paying for them, I usually overlooked any flaws. When I quit that job a year ago, I bought from my company the refurbished laptop they’d recently sent me. Unfortunately, that laptop was nothing but trouble.

For six months, it stopped connecting to public Wi-Fi. Then it eventually became so slow that I often had to leave the room while waiting for a new browser or my e-mail to open. Finally, I’d had enough. I went shopping.

Shopping as a novice

Because my last employer always shipped me a clunky, refurbished model when I needed a “new” laptop, I had no idea what was out there or how much laptops changed in recent years.

I browsed Best Buy’s website and found that I could get a laptop for $300. Was it a piece of junk? Probably. What made $500 laptops better? What about the ones that sold for $800? Clearly, I needed to educate myself. So, I stopped by my local computer repair store for some advice.

A helpful guy named Kyle told me to avoid consumer laptops and go for business class, which would last longer. “We’ve got refurbished models that are high quality,” Kyle told me, gesturing toward a glass shelf of black and chrome laptops. The prices ranged from $175 to $500, and each came with a 90-day warranty.

I told Kyle I’d think about it and went home for more excruciatingly slow online shopping, where I found that Best Buy also sold refurbished models. I decided to buy an older Dell laptop from Kyle for $260. What a deal, right? Well, not exactly.

“It’s toast”

I bought the laptop on Friday, and it worked fine but seemed slow. I set up my e-mail, downloaded files I needed from my Carbonite backup account and subscribed to Microsoft 365 because I need Microsoft office. Then on Saturday, my screen went black every time I walked away for a few minutes.

The screen went black frequently, and I’d have to restart to get it back. Then on Monday, when I booted up the laptop, the screen simply stayed black. I took it back to Kyle, and he said they’d check it out. Later that day, I called for the status.

“It’s toast,” one of the technicians told me. “We can put a new hard drive in or give you your money back.” I took the refund and went back home to limp along with my old laptop. By Friday afternoon, I could stand it no longer. I called it a day and drove to Best Buy.

You get what you pay for

After questioning a geeky and helpful Best Buy worker for an hour, I bought an HP laptop with SSD for $650. That night, I transferred my Microsoft 365 subscription. Now I have a fast laptop that’s up-to-date, folds into a tablet and is fun to work on. And you know what? It was worth every penny.

Because I use the laptop for writing as a self-employed freelancer, it’s also tax-deductible. Now I can’t believe I waited so long to shell out money for a fast, light, fun laptop. Lesson learned: Sometimes being a cheapskate isn’t worth the money saved.

Would I buy another refurbished laptop? Nope. However, considering my obvious lack of technical knowledge along with my recent unfortunate experience, here are three links to better inform yourself of your own decision. These articles all offer tips to be a better shopper than I was.

1. Yes, you should go for it.

2. Refurbished can be great but be selective. Amazon has an entire selection of “Certified Refurbished” laptops.

3. You’ll save money but refurbished laptops can have a downside.

I’m a big proponent of “buying used” to save money, especially when it comes to cars. However, when it comes to saving money on refurbished laptops, I’m clicking the shut-down button for good.

Meet the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Contributor

Hipp is a freelance writer based out of Missouri.

Budgeting & Saving, Tech

save money, Very Personal Finance

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Article last modified on May 24, 2018 Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Should You Buy a Refurbished Computer? - AMP.