Better to do with than without, I always say. But that can be tough advice to follow when your company's revenues are not growing at the same clip that you're used to and once promptly paying customers start dragging their feet on payments. Buying refurbished equipment gives you a chance to do with - without a lot of money.

What is refurbished equipment exactly? Simply put, it is previously owned equipment that has been inspected and restored to a sellable condition. By buying refurbished equipment, you can find yourself pocketing savings that average 30 percent to 50 percent of the selling price for the same equipment in new condition.

Refurbished equipment is not only about saving money; it can also be a smarter way to run your business. If your company has standardized on specific models that are no longer being sold, it can be more efficient to buy the refurbished equivalent than to add a new model to your office. By doing so, you can extend the life of existing accessories that may rely on no-longer-functioning equipment, avoid having to stock consumables for a different model, and save on the effort required to learn how to use something new.

When considering refurbished models, look for a detailed explanation of how a vendor defines "refurbished." Find out if the equipment is actually dismantled, if worn or broken parts are replaced, if consumables are replenished, if the reassembled model is tested, and if cosmetic improvements are made. This can give you a very good sense for how much work has actually been done to get the equipment back up to snuff.

The refurbished market is particularly active for office, telecommunications, and industry-specific equipment where purchase costs tend to be high. Most any dealer will sell refurbished and new equipment. There are also "secondary" dealers who deal exclusively in refurbished and used products.

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No matter who you work with, though, make sure the vendor has had at least a few years serving the local business community. A proven track record can help minimize the risk of your running into a "pray and spray" seller. To request a quote for office or telecom equipment, go to our Quoting Index page.

Don't forget to pay attention to the details before you sign the purchase order. Find out what the return policy is, both in terms of how many days you have to return, in what form you receive any credit, and whether there is a restocking fee.

In addition, post-purchase support is critical. Make sure you know about what technical support is available to you from the manufacturer and from the dealer. And just in case your equipment doesn't work, a warranty should be there to help pick up the pieces.

Warranties should ideally last at least one year, although 90 days can be acceptable for a device without many moving parts. Keep in mind that a warranty is not worth much though if you are unable to get through to customer service. If the vendor can adequately address these points, refurbished equipment gives you secondhand equipment with first-rate savings.

Quick tips

Keep current. Stick to the latest technologies when purchasing so you don't have to soon return to the market to buy again.

True value. Know how much the equipment is worth before buying. Otherwise, you run the risk of overpaying despite the savings.

Product history. If it's possible, obtain the product's history to see why the product was returned. Defective items should be tested thoroughly.