Consumer Group: Buying secondhand tech can save you cash and help the environment

The holiday shopping season is here and that means many people are eyeing those Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals especially for electronics.

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There’s a way to avoid the crowds and still get big discounts by considering secondhand technology.

“You can get Black Friday prices year-round, while also helping the environment,” said Lucas Rockett Gutterman, director of U.S. PIRG’s Designed to Last Campaign.

Gutterman said the difference between a used and new electronic can be very minor. In its latest report, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund outlines how you can spot refurbished deals.

“Sometimes ‘open box’ or ‘like new’ can mean that it was just restocked. Someone opened it, they never even took it out of the packaging, and they returned it to the store and now you’re getting it at a really great deal,” said Gutterman. “But I would be careful and just look at what the website you’re buying from the store you’re buying from how they use those terms, and what exactly they mean by it.”

Researchers say phones, tablets, desktops, and laptop computers are all good products to buy secondhand.

“Google Chromebooks, those are the affordable laptops that are really used across the country. It used to be that they expired after only four to eight years. But thanks to a campaign by PIRG and by parents and teachers, they’re going to last for 10 years,” he said.

However, they say you may want to avoid some refurbished items like televisions and computer monitors. That’s because those products are often bulky, fragile, and difficult to repair.

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“The higher quality the product is from the start, the better-refurbished gift it can make,” said Gutterman. “You want to be looking for brands that are really durable, and built to last, and be looking for products that maybe are a little bit more expensive new, so that when you’re buying them refurbished, they’re going to last for a long time.”

Buying secondhand tech can also help the environment. Gutterman said most of the environmental damage from our electronics isn’t from charging them. It’s from making the device in the first place!

“It just takes a huge amount of energy and materials to make a smartphone to make a pair of headphones to make a laptop or a TV. All of those minerals have to be collected around the world. They have to be made into these very tiny circuit boards that just take a lot of energy,” said Gutterman. “That’s why we found that you can reduce the environmental impact, for example of a smartphone by up to 91%.”

Another thing to keep in mind is making sure you know the return policy. Experts say most sellers will give you 30 days to return. But in some cases, you may only have a couple of weeks.

You can find more tips on PIRG’s website.

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