Refurbished, Renewed, Used…What’s the difference
A guide to understanding labels on pre-owned products
Buying pre-owned products is a great way to stretch your purchasing power, get more life out of products, and help make a positive impact on the environment. At Verdi Commerce, we are committed to accelerating the circular economy and enhancing sustainability all while helping customers get the quality products they want and need. We help brands and consumers navigate the process of distributing and purchasing refurbished products and we are big fans of pre-owned products—it’s what we specialize in after all—but even for us, the marketplace can sometimes seem a little confusing.
Product categories such as Renewed, Refurbished, Certified Renewed, Certified Refurbished, Used, Pre-Owned, and Open-Box are often used interchangeably even though they don’t necessarily mean the same thing. As buyers, we want to have confidence in the products we are choosing, and the confusing array of categories certainly doesn’t help.
So, let’s work through a few of these categories and see what each really means and how it is used in the marketplace. But before we get to the actual definitions, let’s be clear on a fundamental reality: These terms are not regulated.
Our definitions are based on our experience in the electronics industry but that does not mean all sellers will necessarily use the most appropriate term for their products. Our definitions can help serve as a guide, but please be sure to reach out to a seller directly if you have any doubts or concerns about what exactly they mean by their term of choice.
A few guiding definitions:
- Renewed: A pre-owned device which has been returned and restored to like-new condition, including new hardware and software updates if necessary. These products are typically backed by a warranty similar to, or even matching, the original warranty.
- Refurbished: A pre-owned device which has been returned and restored to as close to like-new as possible, including replacement parts and updated software if necessary. These products are typically categorized on a scale of how closely they come to being like-new and are often backed by a warranty.
- Certified Renewed & Certified Refurbished: These are devices which have been returned and refurbished, just as the above definitions, but in this case by the manufacturer themselves or by a third-party authorized by the manufacturer. These products are typically categorized on a scale of how closely they come to being like-new and are often backed by a warranty from the brand rather than a 3rd party.
- Used: These are pre-owned devices which have been returned and resold “as-is” and typically do not include a warranty.
- Pre-Owned: This term is interchangeable with the ‘Used’ label, above, and is also typically employed to refer to this sector as a whole when talking about the industry rather than individual products.
- Open-Box: A pre-owned device which has been returned in its original packaging typically within a short time from original purchase. The product may be tested and cleaned if necessary but has likely not been used to any meaningful extent. These products are typically backed by a warranty similar to, or even matching, the original warranty. Open-box typically refers to the lightest-used devices which are often returned because the original buyer changed their mind, or the device did not fit the intended purpose or space.
As you can see, there is a lot of overlap in these terms and some elements are interchangeable. Consider that the highest levels of Refurbished products would also qualify as Renewed, or that Renewed products could potentially be Open-Box if all original packaging was also returned. Where things do stand-out is with Certified Refurbished and Certified Renewed products—in these cases, the Certified element indicates a particular quality assurance over the process by the manufacturer, which of course, is a positive.
But even with these definitions, things aren’t always clear. Different marketplaces like eBay and Amazon like to choose specific labelling which fits with their brand rather than with broader industry-wide approaches. (And this applies to other marketplaces too, but this blog is already getting too long to include them all!)
eBay, by design, transacts a lot of pre-owned products which are typically identified by individual sellers as being ‘Pre-Owned’. But eBay also operates a program for vetted sellers which can label products as being Certified Refurbished or Refurbished-Excellent, Refurbished-Very Good, and Refurbished-Good. Here, Certified Refurbished, as our definition above, implies it is coming from the manufacturer or an authorized reseller, well the other three levels of Refurbished are coming from sellers vetted by eBay. Read more about eBay’s approach here.
Amazon, on the other hand, refers to their pre-owned program as the Amazon Renewed Program where pre-owned products from vetted and authorized resellers are labeled as being Premium, Excellent, Good, or Acceptable condition. Premium products typically carry a 1-year warranty while all others carry a 90-day warranty. Really, the Premium category fits the definition of Renewed, while the Excellent, Good, and Acceptable categories better fit the definition of Refurbished, but, and as these terms are not regulated, Amazon prefers to stick with one term for branding purposes. Read more about the Amazon Renewed Program here.
At Verdi, we partner with leading brands to bring certified refurbished products back into the marketplace via our ecommerce store, Verdi.com, and across other established networks such as eBay and Amazon (and many others). We prefer to use the terms Certified Renewed and Certified Refurbished on our own consumer platform as we think these more accurately reflect the products in question, but we also must use the terms set by eBay and Amazon when re-selling on their platforms. This is why two similar products in similar conditions may be listed as Certified Refurbished on one site and Renewed on another.
The move to a more circular economy is happening as people all over the world want to get more value from products and reduce our collective impact on the world. We expect a winner-take-all term for refurbished goods to identify itself over the next few years as customers begin to demonstrate stronger affinity with some labels over others. Until this happens, just remember that if you have any doubts or concerns about the refurbished product you are considering, simply reach out to the seller for clarification—no matter what label is being used, you should have trust in the quality of the product you are buying. Or, simply buy from us at Verdi.com or our marketplace stores, where all products are guaranteed to be certified refurbished!