What You Should Know Before Buying a Refurbished Camera

Avoid the scams on refurb camera gear. Know what to look for and where to buy.

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Just as taking a photo is hard work, finding a good price for new gear is, too. One of the most demanding parts of photography is the expense that comes with it. And as a photographer on a budget, paying full price might not be very appealing.

While you can always wait for your dream camera to go on sale, buy it used or just let it gather dust on your wish-list, one of our preferred options is buying refurbished.

Shop Refurbished Cameras on Amazon

Unlike a used camera, a refurbished camera is thoroughly tested for any defects and fixed  before it goes out on the market. After it passes inspections, the camera is like-new and the price goes down. You’ll receive your camera in the mail, and chances are there won’t be a scratch on it. 

But since a good photographer doesn’t entrust their images to just any old camera, we’ve put together a helpful guide for buying the best refurbished gear. Check out this list of the best deals on refurbished cameras.

How to Find Trustworthy Refurbished Cameras

Buy From Authorized Dealers Only

It’s generally a bad idea to buy camera gear from a seller that is not authorized by the camera manufacturer. The equipment might be refurbished, but you have no way of knowing who actually did the repairs. Basically, buying from an unauthorized dealer leaves you more vulnerable to scams.

Authorized sellers offer refurbished gear that has been inspected and repaired by someone trusted by the camera manufacturer. Additionally, authorized dealers typically offer at least a 30 to 60-day warranty, so even if you end up with a lemon, you have the option of returning it for a refund. Most manufacturers, like Nikon and Canon, list verified dealers on their product pages. If you don’t see the dealer on the manufacturer’s page, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, but it should raise a red flag. Do a little more digging, check for reviews and verify warranties before making a purchase.

Top Refurbished Dealers

If you don’t have time to wade through everything, you can always check out our current camera deals page here.

dslr camera

Adorama

Adorama is a great place to pick up refurbished camera gear. All refurbished products come with a 90-day return-to-manufacturer warranty. Plus, you can pick up some superb deals. We’ve seen refurbished cameras and lenses sold on Adorama for anywhere from $50 off lenses to hundreds of dollars off retail prices on cameras.

For example, at one point you could save $897 on a refurbished Nikon D850 DSLR camera body. It usually retails for $3,296 but was available at Adorama for $2,399.

Current Deals at Adorama:

Check Deals on Adorama

B&H Photo

B&H Photo has a nice rotating selection of refurbished cameras and lenses with deals from $30 to $500 off high-end photography equipment. Warranties vary from product to product, so be sure to check before you buy.

For example, the Nikon D7500 20.9MP body is listed for almost $1,000 on Amazon, but now you can get a refurbished Nikon D7500 for $699.

Current Deals at B&H Photo:

Check Deals on B&H

BuyDig

BuyDig usually has great deals on refurbished cameras. For example, in 2019, a refurbished Nikon D5600 went on sale for $299, which came in a bundle with 18-55mm VR Lens and 70-33mm VR Lens. Usually, the Nikon D5600 retails at $696.95. Set up a Deal Alert and we’ll let you know when deals are posted.

Current Deal at BuyDig:

Check Deals on BuyDig

Canon

The Canon store has some superb deals on refurbished items, and they all come with a 1-year limited warranty. If you are in the market for a new Canon lens and don’t want to pay retail, you should check out their selection of refurbished lenses. There are a lot to choose from at really good prices. Canon also has great deals on smaller more lightweight cameras, like this Canon EOS M6 EF-M which went for $559.20, which is nearly 50% off the MSRP back in 2019.

Current Deals at Canon:

Check Deals on Canon

Nikon

The Official Nikon store usually has a wide selection of refurbished cameras and lenses as well. All refurbished camera gear purchased on the Nikon page comes with a 90-day warranty and at least a 10% discount off the retail price. While you may find bigger discounts on refurbished items at other stores, the official Nikon store has a bigger selection if you’re looking for something specific.

Keep in mind that the best time to purchase from Nikon is during one of their 10% off all refurbished items plus free shipping deals. If history is any indication, Nikon has this deal a couple of times a year.

Current Deal at Nikon:

eBay

eBay tends to be a tangled mess of shops that look good on the outside, but turn out to be a guy in a trench coat on the street corner. Just because a dealer claims they’re an authorized refurbished dealer doesn’t mean they are legit. Before making a purchase, review the seller’s feedback, read over the return policies for their store, and ask questions about anything that is not clearly stated in the description.

eBay can definitely still be a good place to pick up refurbished gear, as long as you go with a reputable shop. Adorama, for example, has an eBay shop and is, as mentioned above, a trusted seller. You’ll want to look for something indicating that the shop is an authorized dealer, which is usually listed somewhere on the product page. If you do decide to take a risk on a lesser-known eBay store, be sure to use PayPal so that you can at least get your money back if the deal goes sour.

Currently, eBay does not have any deals on refurbished cameras. But set a Deal Alert and we will let you know when one pops up.

If you’re still on the fence about refurbished cameras, check out our overview on the advantages and disadvantages to buying refurbished.

Pros and Cons of Buying Refurbished

While refurbished items aren’t “new,” a quality refurbished item should have been fully restored to like-new condition before it was put back on sale. Typically, these items were opened for one of the following reasons:

  1. The product was used as a demo item
  2. The product arrived at the store in damaged packaging
  3. A customer returned the product
  4. The product shipped with a manufacturer defect

These items are then inspected and, if necessary, repaired before they are returned to the store as refurbished.

An obvious advantage to buying refurbished is the nice 10% to 30% discount off the MSRP. Getting 30% off the retail price without having to fool around with rebates is enough to tempt most serious photographers. In many cases, you are getting what is basically a “new” item at a substantial discount.  It’s also important to note that the percentage of the discount isn’t typically determined by the quality of the product, so much as the demand. Newer or more popular products get smaller discounts while you’ll typically see better deals on older models.

Of course, the downside of buying refurbished is that you can never be totally sure why the item was marked as refurbished to begin with. It could be nothing, or it could be a defect that comes back to bite you. Usually, you only get to look at a few pictures online before deciding to buy. While obvious signs of wear should be shared in the description, it can definitely be a roll of the dice.

One thing you can do to reduce your chances of getting a bad deal is to always read the description of the listing to verify what accessories come with the item. Don’t just assume that since a new kit includes items like a battery, charging cable, etc., that a refurbished kit will also include them. In fact, the biggest complaints about refurbished items tend to be that items were not included, despite being listed in the description. Therefore, it’s a good idea to always verify you got everything that was advertised.

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Any product or service prices/offers that appear in this article are accurate at time of publish, and are subject to change without notice. Please verify the actual selling price and offer details on the merchant's site before making a purchase.

Sheena Koontz

Sheena is a freelance writer and photographer out of Bristol, VA. She specializes in abandoned, landscape, and travel photography. You can follow her on Facebook or check out her website here.

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