refurbished computers

What is the downside, if any, of buying a refurbished computer from Dell, Gateway or the like?

I’m looking for a new computer and would like it to cost $1,000 or less. Mostly I would be surfing the Web and doing word processing, but I also want to start playing around with MP3s and digital photography. Plus I’d like a flat-panel display, partly to save space and partly because I like the way they look.

So I’ve been looking at various prices and options. Then I realized used computers were an option, and it seems I could get significantly more maching for my money. The warranties seem just as good. Any reason not to do it?

Thanks in advance for your help.

As long as you get the extended warranty, and your world wouldn’t just come crashing to an end if your computer failed at some inopportune time, I’d say go for it. Dell has some of the sturdiest computers on the market, and from my experience does a better-than-average job refurbishing them. I manage some 250 Dell laptops at our school, and I speak from experience; pretty much everything we get is refurbished, and for the most part it works great.

However, computers do have a limited life span, and can only be refurbished so much. If you choose to buy a refurbished computer, it will fail sooner than its brand new counterpart. Exactly when depends solely on how much it was used before you got it. As long as you get the extended warranty, though, this shouldn’t be a problem. Dell has THE best tech support on the market, IMHO, and will replace just about anything for free, no questions asked.

I can’t speak for the other companies, but I expect most of the same would apply. Just make sure EVERYTHING is covered in the warranty. Repairing computers can get real expensive real fast. I’ve gone through about $3000 in parts for my laptop in the past two years (not because it’s poor quality or anything, but because I use it pretty much 24/7/365); luckily, it’s all been covered under the warranty, no exceptions.

On the whole, I’d say go for it; as long as you back up your stuff regularly (which you should be doing anyway), you don’t have much to loose.

Are you sure this is true? I don’t manage 250 computers but I have gone through about 30 systems over the years and it is my impression that they fail nearly randomly. Naturally, if they fail randomly, the longer you own them the more likely you are to see them fail (which could make you think, erroneously, that older computers are more likely to fail than newer computers), but I don’t have the impression that they are any more likely to fail in, for example, their 4th year than in their 1st year.

(Monitors may be an exception to this, although in my personal experience, those refurbished monitors I bought that were not DOA seem to be lasting as long as new monitors. Of course, now I’m trying to compare a set of monitors bought new mostly in the early '90s with a set of refurbished monitors bought mostly in the late '90s and early '00s.)

I would STRONGLY advise against getting an extended warranty. For the price you pay for a warranty, you could easily have any conceivable problem repaired out of pocket. The existance of an extended warranty demonstrates that the retailer expects it to work out in their favor. Outside the manufacturer warranty period, the system itself is not usually worth what you’d pay for an extended warranty.

At the very least, definately buy the LCD display new. A refurbished model will probably have been returned due to a large number of display defects (dead pixels). Even if it had a normal screen going out of the factory, such defects multiply with time. Another consideration is that any computer you buy will have to have a DVI (Digital Video Interconnect) connector to hook up to an LCD display. You can buy LCDs that will hook up to the older analog connector, but this will reduce image quality and performance dramatically.

Remember, you’ll get what you pay for. If you want to spend $1000 including the monitor on your computer, that leaves you less than $500 to spend on the computer itself.

If he’s buying a name-brand PC from a major vendor, the price of repairs may well exceed the cost of the extended warranty. Some vendors have outrageous prices for their service parts, and may be the sole supplier of compatible parts. I’ve heard tell of compaq try to charge $4K for a replacement motherboard on a 4-year-old server.
My argument won’t come into play if RAM or a hard disk drive fails, for example, but it very well may if the power supply or motherboard were to go out. Some chassis are shaped oddly, and so if your CD drive fails you’ll need to order a special one so that it fits properly.

That’s absolutely true, Yeah, I suppose I should have clarified. Most of the time they are random failures. However, some components are more susceptible to failure over time than others. For instance, the bay clips on the bottom of the laptops, which hold batteries and other modules in the computer, fail on regular and known intervals. This is a simple matter of plastic fatigue; as the clips are open and closed, over and over, the plastic slowly weakens until it breaks. This isn’t just a matter of having the computer long enough for something to randomly go wrong; the failure of the clips is directly related to their age.

Hard drives, on the other hand, are for the most part an example of what you’re talking about. Once a hard drive is even minimally damaged, it will usually fail catastrophically very soon after. It doesn’t really matter how old it is; one day, you’ll just set the laptop down a little too hard, and poof your data is moot. More or less random failure.

Thus, on the whole, a refurbished computer will probably fail sooner than one that’s brand new.

From my experience, this simply isn’t true. If I’m not mistaken, an extended warranty (good for in-house complete service for at least 4 years) is only a few hundred dollars from Dell. My very first repair, a new LCD, easily made up for that three times over. Since then I’ve made good on my warranty for at least 10x its value. I’ve never talked to someone who regretted having the warranty.

I’d have to agree; if your going to splurge on something, do it on the monitor, for all the reasons that FDISK mentioned.

Why buy used? I noticed that used prices from Gateway & Dell are MORE than new ones. I know it should be the other way around but it isn’t. If you want cheap prices try they always have the latest Dell for $650 or less.

Thanks for the advice, everyone. I’ll check, and I’ll think about spending more on the monitor.

Seems to me like the OP is just starting to get into what he can do with computers. If he’s just getting into MP3s and digital photography, a used and cheap computer might be a good thing because he’ll want to buy a new one before the used one craps out on him, assuming he has the enjoyment I expect he will when it comes to digital music and photography. In a year or so he’ll realize the processor could be faster and the HD a little bigger, and he’ll know what he wants out of a new system. That and he can keep the fancy monitor! He’ll be happy he didn’t shell out for a new one.

That was totally IMHO but…well, sorry.

IMO, the first requirement is to move to an area when you can get a big pipe. If you are on a modem, it does not make near as much difference what your computer is.

Location, Location, Location,

Go for the fastest connection you can afford. Wish I had figured that out years before. We are going to move soon but high speed access is a must and we are looking with that in mind.

If I have to go back to a modem, I will not have any mind left in 6 months… :smack:

HEre is what they have now: Dell ( recent news section)
Dimension 4550 P4-2.4Ghz 533Mhz bus, 128MB DDR/30GB Free upgrade to 40xCDRW XP Home, MS Works $599 - 10% coupon = $540 with free PDA, Camera, or Printer.
Coupon code should be automatic.

How about a CRT monitor with that?

Envision 17" Monitor, Money 2003,
and Tax Cut 2003 for $25 Shipped Crucial 256mb PC2100 Memory
For $35 Shipped After Rebate

Staples has Envision EN-710 17" Monitor, Microsoft Money 2003, and Tax Cut 2003 all for $25.02 after the usual coupon/rebate. for that one.