Every tool manufacture gets back broken or defective tools. Sometimes they are deficient in manufacture, other times customer s actually break them ( often but claim otherwise), regardless of the reason, tools break and very often manufacturers take them back.

So, what do they do with these tools you ask?  Well, some are destroyed, others used as parts and others still are refurbished for re-sale. In the industry they are called “refurbs”, and they are often retailed at 30% - 50% less than new-in-box (NIB) tools. Depending on the manufacturer and the tool, there may or may not be a warranty with the tool and if there is it may or may not be the same as the NIB tool.

The real question for most woodworkers is “are these tools worth purchasing”?, and the quick answer is yes they are, but there are a few things to watch for.

Some refurbs come in brown packaging while others come in what looks like new original boxes. Either way, they are still refurbs and there are 5 important things to look for,  such as ...

1 – Most important – is the tool a brand name, well recognized tool brand or is it knock-off or lower quality made tool. If the tool is a brand name tool, like Makita, Milwaukee, DeWalt, Delta, Ridgid and so on, it is probably a good buy. Walk away from brand names that look and feel cheap and are names that you don't recognize, unless you are willing to risk your investment.

2 – Second Importance – What is the warranty? Some refurbs come with warrant, some do not, while others have a “modified” (often shortened) warrant period. Again, if it is a recognized tool, your chances are better even with a reduced warranty.

3 – Third importance – Who is selling the tool? Is this an established tool store or are you purchasing this from some sort of a “discount everything” - “Inventory slasher” type firm. How long have they been in business and are they reputable? Who will honour the warranty? And what if it is an out of box failure? Question you need to ask yourself.

4 – Fourth importance - Power source, is the tool battery operated or 110 / 220 volt? If the tool is battery powered, I recommend staying away from the older Ni-Cad batteries and look for newer Lithium battery powered tools. If the tool is “plug-in”, and all the above are in place, it is probably a good buy.

5 – Fifth importance – It's YOUR money. How much risk do you want it to carry? If the tool is not too expensive for your budget and it fails after the warranty but you got your use out of it, consider it a disposable tool – not unlike a rental. If the tool is more expensive you will want to make sure that your money is well invested and that the tool will stand up to the rigours you will put it through.

Refurbished tools can be a good deal. What I like about refurbished tools is that in many cases a qualified technician has repaired or it least checked these tools individually, and I have more confidence in technicians checking tools than simply having them roll off an assembly line somewhere.

I have purchased refurbished tools in the past, some I still have and use quite happily while a few others (with off brand names) have long since been tossed, and yes I learned the hard way that purchasing brand names, in most cases, gives me longer lasting tools and yes ... I pay more for them but in the end it's worth it to me.

The decision you have to make is how much of your money do want risk and for what term of use for the tool. With that I'm sure you will make wise decisions.

Copyright – Colin Knecht