Should I buy refurbished appliances and gadgets?

Yes you should, and the reason why has more to do with bathtubs than you might have expected. Not only are refurbished goods a lot cheaper than brand new ones, they’re actually better. Meet the Bathtub Curve:

The Bathtub Curve

Those of us who are paid to dip our toes into reliability engineering will be familiar with this graph:

The curve shows decreasing probability of failure over the short term

Engineers developed the bathtub curve from analysing the failure rates of huge numbers of machines. Basically it shows that things are highly likely to fail early in service (due to manufacturing defects, etc), then settle in and run reasonably reliably until they start to wear out and fall apart. Now, in real life nothing fits the nice smooth curve exactly, but in general it holds true. That’s why everything you buy comes with a warranty, manufacturers expect a certain percentage of their stuff to die straight away.

The bathtub curve, showing the lower chance of failure after the initial period

After a short period of use the chance of failure drops substantially

Now, when stuff  develops a fault in early service, people send it back to the manufacturer who often sends out a replacement. All good so far. The manufacturer repairs the original device and sells it on as a refurb for a substantial knockdown. My whole point is: having been in service for a short time and having already surfaced any problems, the refurbed machine is now less likely to conk out than a new machine. You’re now getting a machine that will be more reliable and costs less, and you’ve still got a warranty if it does go wrong again. Why buy anything brand new if you could get a better one for less? The worst wear and tear I’ve seen on any refurbed tech or appliances are some minor cosmetic scratches, which you’ll have on your new gizmo within a few weeks anyway.

I’m interested, hook me up.

Plenty of big companies have a refurb scheme. If you’re in the UK check out:

Dell

PC World

eBay (don’t be afraid of this one, lots of people run small businesses through eBay where they sell on the refurbed units from bigger suppliers)

Amazon refurbished

John Lewis Swindon outlet

Marks and Spencer outlet

Currys household applicances

Currys computing

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This page last updated 19 May 2014