Successful startups are about ideas. Sinking or swimming usually has nothing to do with an office full of fancy new equipment. And, since one of the biggest hurdles startups face is raising cash, you’d better be sure whatever cash you have to play with is spent wisely.
And, when you consider that e-waste is responsible for 70% of America’s toxic waste—using pre-owned tech is a terrific way to economize while doing something good for the environment.
If you’re super-conservative with the money you want to spend when launching your startup, you’re in good company. These are a few companies that started with a few bucks, and some rudimentary equipment:
- Hewlett Packard: $538 and a used drill press.
- Starbucks: $4,050 and a cup of coffee.
- Subway: $1,000 and an idea for a custom-made sub chain.
- Apple: $1,500 and a couple of clever tinkerers
When it comes to pre-owned tech, here on some tips on getting the best bang for your buck:
Used vs. refurbished
What’s the difference?
Pre-owned/used goods are products that someone has used and then sold.
Refurbished tech has been returned to the store or manufacturer. The items may be unwanted for whatever reason, sometimes having nothing to do with functionality.
Prior to resale, a refurbished item is checked by the retailer or manufacturer for functionality, and minor fixes or adjustments may be made. It may get new packaging or a new battery.
Refurbished electronics are the best of both worlds. The cost is lower than retail, and, if you know how to shop wisely, the risks are lower than purchasing used equipment.
Where to buy
Buying pre-owned electronics is a bit like shopping for a secondhand car: You should stick to a certified dealer.
And where can you find these certified dealers?
In our book, Apple is number one. They actually have their own online store which promises Guaranteed Apple quality on “like-new” products which are backed by a one-year warranty and the Apple Certified Refurbished promise.
For refurbished PCs, PCMag has its own reputable shop. Many of the featured PCs are a few years old and have seen some use, but they are heavily discounted and offer a lot of value. According to their site, every system in the list features an SSD with Windows 10 Pro pre-installed. These systems also come bundled with a keyboard and mouse. Each system will also support Wi-Fi via either a built-in wireless NIC or a bundled USB Wi-Fi adapter. Most systems also feature 16GB of RAM, and all of these computers come with a full one-year warranty, which means you can rest assured you are covered should anything go wrong.
If you have difficulty finding the products your business needs, try Refurb Tracker, a service that alerts you when a product you’re searching for becomes available. Refurb.me is another good locator tool.
Make sure your method of payment ensures protection
Why does this matter?
Should you find that you want your money refunded, take care with which purchase method you choose. Get out your magnifying glass and read the fine print on your credit card statement–many—including Amex and Visa Signature—don’t offer their typical purchase protection on used goods. Which means you may be out of luck chasing any kind of a refund.
The smarter choice may be PayPal on these purchases. Paypal policy is actually quite generous, as it provides a 180-day window for refund claims on defective items.
If you do choose used vs. refurbished, we recommend Swappa. With five Trustpilot stars, Swappa has an awesome reputation as a friendly community marketplace with the best prices and highest value. You can find gently used technology, including smartphones, cameras, tablets, laptops, electronics, and more.
Other money-saving tips:
Buy recycled printer cartridges and pay it forward
Check Google for a local recycled printer cartridge supplier. Or if you want to mix your charitable instincts with your printing needs, visit www.lasermonks.com , a remanufactured printing supply company run by a group of monks in Wisconsin who, after business expenses are paid, donate their profits.
Get free software. Visit Download.com to try hundreds of free-to-try legal downloads. According to their site, they are a trusted, safe, and secure resource for software and mobile applications. With everything from PC starter kits to games, security patches, screensavers, and mobile apps, you can play with more than 150,000 free downloads. Features such as most-popular lists, editorial reviews, blogs, and how-to articles will help you find the software that is right for you.
Another tip: If you’re unable to find what you are looking for on sites like download.com, check out the manufacturer’s site. Many will offer free trial downloads.
One final note to consider, and that is:
Service and support
One of the reasons we like Apple for refurbished tech is because most Apple hardware comes with a one-year limited warranty and up to 90 days of complimentary technical support. You can get an expert on the phone right away, resolving most issues in a single call.
The legend of startups like Starbucks and Subway are exciting because a dollar and a dream (and a really good concept) can go a long way. And remember, the lessons you learn now in frugality lead to lifelong values of reducing and reusing consumption of electronics. Economizing–keeping your business in the black–will be the make-it or break-it factor for any successful business endeavor.