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Buying a Refurbished Car Stereo? 12 Epic Pros and Cons

The easiest way to get a car radio at a lower price is by buying its refurbished model. There is however a lot of confusion about what renewed products are and the risks associated with them.

So, should you consider buying refurbished car stereos, or are they not worth your money?

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The main advantage of purchasing a refurbished car stereo is that it can cost much less than its new counterpart. Hence, you get a high-quality product at an affordable price with a factory warranty.

Another benefit of buying a refurbished unit is that it has been tested and certified by the manufacturer, so you can be confident in its quality and performance.

On the other hand, downsides of buying a refurbished car stereo include quality concerns, compatibility issues with your vehicle or system, potentially reduced lifespan, or a higher risk of defects or malfunctions due to past use.

As an Amazon Associate, ImproveCarAudio will receive a small commission from qualifying purchases made through the links in this article.

Tip:  Before buying a refurbished car stereo, do your research and read reviews from other buyers to ensure that you are getting a high-quality product.

If you’re looking for quality refurbished car stereos, check out the Amazon. There is a large selection (link to Amazon) of great deals on popular models.

In this article, I will look at some of the key pros and cons of buying a refurbished car stereo. I will also provide some tips on making sure that you get a good quality radio with minimal risk.

Pros of Buying a Refurbished Car Stereo

It is common for people to buy a stereo and later return it for some reason. In that case, the manufacturer cannot sell the unit as new, so they fix whatever was wrong with the product and sell it as a refurbished unit.

how to buy refurbished car radio

Refurbished car stereos offer several benefits over both used or even new units. The obvious advantage is that you do not have to pay as much, yet you still get the same product with the same features. Compared to used products, they are more reliable and have a warranty from the manufacturer or seller.

Here are the benefits you will enjoy by opting for a refurbished car stereo:

Saved Money

Cost is the biggest reason people buy refurbished car stereos (or other refurbished products).

Refurbs are usually much cheaper than new products. You can get as much as a 50% discount on a refurbished stereo, making it an attractive choice. Although such discounts are common in other electronic gadgets, finding a car stereo for sale at half its price can be challenging.

You can save around 30 to 50% when buying refurbished phones and smaller electronic devices. For computers and larger electronics, including car stereos, 10 to 25% discounts are standard.

It may not sound like much, but think about what you could spend that money on otherwise. The additional savings could even allow you to buy a more advanced car stereo than you would typically be able to pay for.

So by getting a refurbished car stereo, you are essentially getting the same features at a fraction of a price, isn’t that nice?

The Refurbished Stereo Is Still Reliable

The most common concern among buyers is that the product may be defective. However, you would be surprised to find out that only five percent of returned electronics are actually faulty, according to a survey by Accenture, a technology consulting firm.

Often happens that consumers have not even opened the original package, which means the products remain untouched.

Even if there are no defects, the stereo may have cosmetic issues like dents, scratches, etc. So when a car stereo is returned to manufacturers, they check the product thoroughly before selling it again. They repaint the stereo if required and check for missing parts and components.

Once they are satisfied, the unit is listed for sale at a lower price. This means that most of the time, you are essentially getting the same stereo that you would get at a higher rate on online or offline stores.

Every Refurbished Head Unit is Tested by Experts

“Okay, so most of the car stereos being sold as refurbished were returned just because the buyer did not want them. But what about the other five percent? Surely, there is a risk that I am getting a lower-quality stereo, right?”

Glad you asked. All refurbished stereos undergo certified testing. This is carried out either by the manufacturer itself or the refurbishing experts. They repair any missing or faulty parts and ensure that it functions correctly. If you are buying a refurbished car stereo from the manufacturer or an authorized refurbisher, rest assured that the product will be in perfect condition.

Note: Third-party sellers also refurbish stereos. These units are less reliable, so it is better to get a more extended warranty period when purchasing refurbished car stereos from third-party sellers.

It Is Environment-Friendly

Many refurbished products have a positive impact on your pocket. But did you know that buying a refurbished car stereo has a positive environmental impact as well?

Purchasing refurbished units increases the lifecycle of those devices, which reduces the amount of electronic waste. It also saves the earth’s raw materials by reducing the demand for new car stereos.

It is important to realize that our planet’s resources are becoming scarce, making it more and more environmentally damaging to acquire them. Manufacturing and transporting new car stereos also result in greenhouse gas emissions, which play a significant role in increasing global warming.

You will not personally notice the effects of buying a refurbished stereo instead of a new one. But know that you will have done your part to reduce your footprint as a consumer. It is a win-win situation. You get what you need at a lower price, and the company minimizes its environmental footprint by reselling a device that would otherwise end up in waste.

You Can Get Older Models

Are you one of those people who prefer older models over newer, upgraded ones? Is your favorite product no longer available because the manufacturer has stopped producing it? If so, you must look into refurbished car stereos.

Manufacturers often discontinue a product or limit its supply a few months or years after its launch. This can leave you wanting to use that product for some time and have grown fond of it. In most cases, you will not be able to find it on the official website or in any online or offline stores.

However, stereos that are not available in the market can often be found as refurbished units. This way, if you want to get an older version of a model, you can buy it from the line of refurbished units.

It Is Much Better Than a Used Stereo

“Used stereos are available at an even lower price than refurbished ones. So what is the difference, and how are refurbished units better than used ones?”

In general, people think of refurbished and used products as being the same. I also used to think that way, but used car stereos are not very reliable and essentially come with no warranty. Unfortunately, I had to learn this hard way:

It was a time before 2000 that I was dreaming about a CD player in the car. But not the 10 CD charger in the trunk. On the radio itself, so I started searching for quite a few months and finally found it. It was a beautiful Clarion CRX75 with a thin removable panel.

Someone was selling it really cheap compared to the brand new one, and I knew it will be mine. How happy I was, and how stupid at that time. This “cheap” was still more than my two weeks pay. Finally, I got my Clarion, and honestly, I felt unique in my car, more classy. It was playing beautifully, with dynamic the fantastic sound quality at that time, for about …. a month!!! 

After this time, the LCD screen has died. I was in shock, but hey, let’s go back to the store and repair it. Well, I thought that since I just bought it, so it had to be covered.

How wrong I was. The warranty did not cover any second-hand equipment, a little detail that I forgot to ask for before purchase. Then I heard the truth. It happened that repairing this screen would cost me more than I spend on the whole radio, but I did not have that much.

It was the first and last time when I bought anything used. Never again, and it is still valid today. 

I kept my Clarion with a broken screen for about a year, it was still playing, but I just did not see anything. After about a year, I decided to replace it with a brand new Kenwood CD player.

Where is my Clarion now? I think it is still somewhere in the storage with other old electronic stuff I keep because of the sentiment and all memories...

On the other hand, a refurbished stereo is repaired and double-tested by experts for optimal functionality. It also comes with a warranty period of 6, 12, or even 24 months.

A used product by definition has been (often heavily) used by a consumer for a period. But as I mentioned before, most refurbished units are either not used at all or lightly used only for a few days before being returned to the manufacturer.

So overall, refurbished car stereos are of much better quality than used ones.

Cons of Buying a Refurbished Car Stereo

I have highlighted all the incredible benefits of choosing refurbished products over new ones, but it is only one side of the coin.

There are also several risks and disadvantages associated with buying refurbished car stereos. It is essential to know these things so that you do not end up regretting your decision in a similar way like I did.

Here is what you should keep in mind before bringing home refurbished stereos:

You Get a Shorter Warranty

The most significant disadvantage of refurbished stereos is that you get a shorter warranty period. Usually, you can expect a warranty for 30 days. However, you may also get more extended warranties if you buy from well-known manufacturers. They typically offer warranties for 90 days and sometimes six months. So always look for deals from authorized refurbishers or manufacturers to be on the safe side.

Here is the important one, so do not skip that step:

You will need to thoroughly test the product for cosmetic and internal defects within the warranty period. Make sure the device works fine, and return it if you notice any issues.

Its Lifespan Is Unknown

When you buy a new car stereo, you expect that it will last for at least a few years before you have to replace it. But in the case of refurbished stereos, you cannot be sure how long they will last. Some products may last for years, while others may break down within a few months.

It is true that car audio systems are very well-built and usually last for years. Most refurbished stereos last about the same time as brand-new units. However, an unknown lifespan is still something you should keep in mind when buying refurbished car stereos.

You May Not Get the Original Accessories

When a product is defective and returned, the manufacturer repairs it and makes sure it functions correctly. This means that the product will probably work like new without any issues.

However, you cannot say the same for accessories. Manufacturers and sellers often do not repair original accessories and instead ship duplicate counterparts.

It is also possible that the original accessories were working fine, but the manufacturer still replaced them to save money. This is the reason you often do not get original accessories with any refurbished product you buy.

Refurbished Stereo May Be Defective

Now you understand how refurbished stereos are repaired to ensure full performance. But I also pointed out why units renewed by third-party sellers may not be the best.

Manufacturing defects are not uncommon, and you may end up getting a car stereo that is not entirely functional.

So it is essential to make sure you are buying renewed products only from the manufacturer or authorized refurbisher. This is because you usually only get a 30-day warranty, and you cannot always spot a defect within the first 30 days of using a device.

Indeed, this happens relatively rarely, but it is something to keep in mind when looking for refurbished car stereos online.

You Have Fewer Options

The stock of refurbished car stereos is unpredictable. You may find lots of models to choose from, or there may be no products at that particular time. Users wanting to buy refurbished products have to make do with what is available to purchase.

In most cases, you will not find the latest models listed as refurbished units. And it is also impossible to predict whether your favorite model is available as refurbished or if it will be available in the future.

So do not expect to get the latest car stereos at a lower price by purchasing their refurbished versions. You will probably find a newly released model available as refurbished after a few months or a year.

Refurbished Head Unit May Have Minor Scratches

The stereo you are buying has probably been used by someone for a short period. So you may discover a few dents, scratches, and dings from the previous owner. Manufacturers and authorized refurbishers try their best to remove these cosmetic defects. Still, some of these markings are impossible to remove, especially on screens.

However, it should not be a big deal because these markings do not impact the stereo’s speed, functionality, or quality. Since the internal defects have already been repaired, you can expect a refurbished unit to function the same as a new one.

The good news is that you can get products at even bigger discounts if you ignore cosmetic defects.

Tips for Buying a Refurbished Car Stereo

Now you know that refurbished products offer several benefits, but there are also some critical considerations. So it is important to make sure you are getting value for money by being cautious. There is still a chance you may end up regretting your decision. But if you are careful, it is easy to get incredible deals for the latest products.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when buying a refurbished car stereo:

Only Buy From Reputable Brands

If you decided to purchase a refurbished head unit, remember to buy it only from reputable brands.

Third-party sellers also refurbish car stereos and other products. The problem is that the products refurbished by third-party sellers may not be of the best quality. Sometimes, they offer no warranty and have a no-return policy. Such devices are not reliable and may not even contain original parts or components.

For these reasons, it is crucial to only buy from reputable brands. These manufacturers either renew products themselves or have authorized refurbishers handle the process for them. They make sure every stereo is up to the mark before selling it as a refurbished product.

Always Check the Return Policy

This is something you should do regardless of whether the car stereo is refurbished or not. Many sellers offer a 7- or 10-day return window so that you can test the product and see if you like it. Never buy refurbished products that have a no-return policy.

You will usually find this information on the product page of the device. Though, sometimes, you may have to contact the seller for details about their return policy. 

Make Sure It Comes With a Warranty

Usually, your refurbished car stereo will have a warranty period of 30 or 90 days. But you may also get a warranty for six months or even a year for more reputable radios.

On the other hand, there are also products with no warranty at all. Needless to say, you should steer clear of such devices as they are very unreliable. Always check the warranty period of the refurbished product before buying it.

Read the Reviews Before Making Purchase Decision

Since you have a smaller warranty period, you need to carefully test the stereo for all possible defects. Once you have selected a product, read as many online reviews as possible to learn about its pros and cons.

I always check reviews before every purchase, and actually I start reading from the lowest rankings to see real problems people experience. I also make a list of common issues people have had with that device. 

Then, when your refurbished stereo comes home, you can test it thoroughly and see if it has any of the same problems. This way, you can secure yourself against any manufacturing defects.

Check the Price 

I am probably stating the obvious here, but you should only buy a refurbished stereo if the price difference is significant.

For example, say there is a particular stereo by BOSS worth $200 on Amazon, and its refurbished model is priced at $180. In that case, you need to consider whether those $20 are worth going for the renewed version. For me, such a small difference is not worth the hassle.

It probably will not be a good deal if the warranty period is significantly reduced. BOSS also offers a free extended warranty for additional two years. You may have to contact them to determine if you qualify for it since you are buying a refurbished stereo.

Final Thoughts

Refurbished car stereos are a popular alternative to brand-new products. However, before spending money on refurbished units, carefully weigh their pros and cons.

On the plus side, renewed car stereos are cheaper, eco-friendly, and tested by experts. They are also better than used products, and there is a chance you may find a discontinued or old model.

On the downside, you can expect to get a shorter warranty period, relatively unknown lifespan, and unoriginal accessories.

To ensure you get the best ROI (Return Of Investment), you should only buy refurbished products from reputable brands after checking the warranty, return policy, and reviews.