The best refurbished laptop deals for college kids — plus more gadgets to help them excel in school

Julie Tremaine
·6 min read
hispanic latina college student works on assignment in her dorm room. She is writing something in a notebook. A laptop is on her desk.
hispanic latina college student works on assignment in her dorm room. She is writing something in a notebook. A laptop is on her desk.

Tuition, books, pizza money… college today is more expensive than it’s ever been — so finding a good deal is more important than ever. Especially now, when balancing virtual learning with in-person classes during the pandemic presents a new set of challenges, it is important to have high-quality electronics to help with the new digital educational landscape. That’s why it’s time to consider looking into refurbished laptops and other gadgets that will save you money and help you stay connected to your professors and fellow students.

Refurbished products are top-tier goods that have been returned to the manufacturer, repaired or restored to like-new state, and then sold at a discount. They’re a great choice if you’re trying to find ways to make your dollar go further — like, if you’re in college, or putting someone through college, while on a budget.

When considering purchasing refurbished electronics, Eric Griffith of PC Magazine recommends looking at several different factors, including how much warranty you will have, its condition, how many accessories will come with the item like cords and headphones and who performed the refurb. “Ask the seller about a product’s origin and hope for an open-box product,” he says. “You may not be the first owner, but you could be the first user.”

Laptop Magazine agrees with the value and quality in refurbished computer purchases, noting, “If you're trying to squeeze the most value out of every dollar of your next laptop purchase, consider buying a refurbished unit… You will often be able to save money and get slightly more functionality by considering a product that's not fresh off the factory line.”

Sean Nicholson, worldwide manager for Microsoft’s refurbisher programs, speaks to the quality of refurbished machines that come from trusted manufacturers like his. “No refurbisher or new equipment manufacturer really wants machines coming back — it actually costs them a lot of money,” he says. “It’s economic suicide to put out machines whose quality you’re not confident about."

The key is, though, that you have to purchase through a seller who has premium standards and an excellent warrantee program. If something does go wrong, you want to be sure that you have coverage to get your purchase repaired or replaced. eBay’s Certified Refurbished program gives two-year warranties and a 30-day return window.

Woman student on college campus learning wearing face mask while working on her laptop
Woman student on college campus learning wearing face mask while working on her laptop

It’s especially important to have that kind of coverage for college students, who use their laptops and electronics constantly, and have to lug them around campus and protect them in dorm rooms, or in busy homes. This year presents new obstacles to students, especially those with limited income who may not have as much access to campus wifi and computer labs. According to BestColleges.com, the restrictions from the pandemic have placed additional stress on low-income students. Anne Dennon says, “As the crisis continues to unfold, it's becoming clearer every day how educational disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have deepened the digital divide for millions of American college students — particularly those who belong to underserved populations.”

Even with the current uncertainty around higher education in the pandemic, a study from New America and ThirdWay found that most students intend to continue their college educations — so having the flexibility to work from anywhere with quality products is key — but that 57 percent of all students they surveyed reported having trouble accessing reliable internet, and nearly three-quarters of the students they spoke to are concerned about having enough money to cover their expenses right now.

Refurbished electronics can help because they can often be much higher-quality models for about the same price as lesser-equipped new machines. Here are 10 refurbished electronics that will help students through their college courses, and save money at the same time.

The Acer Spin 3 14" Laptop is a novel take on a computer, which has a swiveling screen that’s perfect for presentations or study sessions. This laptop has a 30-day return window and a two-year warranty. At $699.99, it’s 23 percent off the MSRP of $909.99.

The key to getting a laptop with current technology for less is to buy one from an open package. That means it’s been opened and returned, but functions like new. This Dell Inspiron 15” 3000 Laptop is certified refurbished from the manufacturer, so it will function as though it’s being used for the first time. Score this gadget for just $503.00

These JBL Under Armour Sports Wireless Bluetooth Headphones are built for exercise, whether that’s running on the treadmill or running across the quad to make it to chem lab. Wireless connectivity allows you to link to your smartphone, and a touch-sensor allows you to hear what’s going on around you with just a tap. At $74.99, these are guaranteed by a two-year warranty backed by Allstate.

This wireless speaker connects to smartphones for easy music anywhere, whether that’s in the dorm common room or the quad. The Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker is refurbished from the manufacturer, and is in like-new condition. At $94.95, this speaker is 27 percent off the MSRP of $129.95.

If you invest in a long-term wireless plan, you can pay off a new iPhone in increments over a very long two year span — but if you purchase a certified refurbished phone from Apple, you can save anywhere from $100 to $220 off the full price. These phones, in models from iPhone 8 to iPhone XR, come with new batteries, new casing and a one-year warranty. Apple sells refurbished versions of almost all its merchandise, from laptops to Apple Watches.

Good quality headphones are a true game-changer for any music lover who has a crowded commute, or who uses music to cancel out the sound in noisy homes. These Bose Noise Cancelling 700 are factory renewed, come with the Bose manufacturer’s warranty, and are $299.95, which is 25 percent off the MSRP.

Apple iPad Mini 2 16GB

The newest generation of Apple’s tablets was having shipping delays of a month or more at the start of the fall semester — but if you want something slightly more affordable and that you can have quickly, consider this Apple iPad Mini 2. The small size makes it easy to carry when you’ve got a backpack full of textbooks, and it’s offered at $169.99.

These Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones are available directly from Bose, and have been cleaned and inspected by the manufacturer. The water-resistant earbuds, connected by a wire, are designed to stay in place even through rigorous activity. At $79.95, these are 47 percent off the MSRP of $149.95.

There’s nothing more distracting than a rowdy dorm when you’re trying to study. These tiny Jabra Elite Blue True Wireless Earbuds are easy to store in a pocket or backpack, and have a sport design created to stay in place even while exercising. At $39.99, these refurbished earbuds are 21 percent off MSRP, and come with a warranty.