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What does 'refurbished' mean when shopping for Alexa devices?

Amazon's Certified Refurbished storefront sells Echo speakers and other Amazon devices at steep discounts, but can you trust the quality? In a word, yes.

Dale Smith
Dale Smith Former Associate Writer
Dale Smith is a former Associate Writer on the How-To team at CNET.
5 min read

The Amazon Echo Studio is arguably the best and most expensive Alexa smart speaker available, but it can be had for less from one of Amazon's two discount storefronts.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In the world of discount electronics, there's new and then there's not-so-new. If you're willing to forgo the joy of opening a fresh-from-the-factory box, tremendous deals can be had on the latter -- and nowhere is that truer than the Certified Refurbished Echo and Alexa Devices store at Amazon. At any given time, you'll find deep discounts on everything from Amazon Echo Show smart displays to -- if you're lucky -- the Holy Grail of discounted Alexa gadgets: the Echo Studio, Amazon's high-fidelity smart speaker with Dolby Atmos (and, yes, Alexa). 

Whether you've stumbled upon this little discount storefront buried deep within Amazon or you've only heard tell of such marked-down merchandise, you may have wondered, what's the catch? Surprisingly, not much, other than you get to keep some of the money you'd otherwise spend on a brand-spanking-new device. Otherwise, you get the same return policy, the same warranty and the same Alexa-powered smart home smarts you'd find in a comparable, full-priced version of the same gear.

However, Amazon's Certified Refurbished Alexa store isn't the only place to score deals on less-than-new Echo devices. If you don't mind being a little more daring with your retail spending, Amazon also has yet another store where you can get even better deals, but that one deserves a little more of a "buyer beware" attitude going in. 


The third-gen Echo Dot sounds almost as good as the latest iteration, but costs considerably less -- especially if you can find it refurbished.

Dale Smith/CNET

We'll go over both of your options and help guide you how to get the best deal on newish Alexa devices, depending on your level of risk aversion. Although there are certainly other places, like eBay and Facebook Marketplace, where you can find even deeper discounts on actual "used" items, we're going to steer clear of recommending anything that doesn't come with some sort of guarantee directly from Amazon, whether that's an actual product warranty or just a healthy return policy. 

Also note, for the absolute deepest discounts available all year, you'll want to combine one or both of these techniques with a major site-wide sale -- Prime Day, Black Friday or Cyber Monday, for example. However, since those sorts of mega sales are so few and far between, feel free to use these shopping hacks any day of the year.

With that in mind, here's everything you need to know about how to add Alexa devices to your smart home on the cheap (without venturing outside of Amazon).

Is 'refurbished' the same as 'renewed' or 'open-box'?

In the land of discounted consumer goods, there are several terms that mostly mean either the same thing or something very much like it. For example, Amazon generally uses both "refurbished" and "renewed" to designate products that, after close inspection and testing, have been determined to look and function exactly like new versions of the same thing. Amazon usually offers a full 90-day replacement or refund guarantee on such items and, if the device is also made by Amazon, often includes the same warranty as you'd get when buying brand-new.


Both the Echo Dot and it's larger sibling -- known just as the Amazon Echo -- are often discounted anywhere from 5% to 20% or more if you're willing to buy less-than-brand-new.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Typically, merchandise that's labeled refurbished or renewed will come in new, unopened packaging, although it will be different from the packaging you'd get if you purchased the item truly new. "Open-box," on the other hand, usually comes in the original packaging which may or may not have actually been opened, depending on where it came from exactly. 

"Open-box" items are often designated as "used," sometimes with qualifiers such as "Used, Like New" or "Used, Acceptable." We'll explain what all of that means in a bit.

Certified Refurbished Alexa gear comes straight from Amazon

The easiest place to start is at Amazon's own Certified Refurbished Echo and Alexa Devices store. At the time of this writing, there was a smattering of discounted items available: A third-generation Echo Dot for $32 ($8 off retail), an Echo Show 5 for $42 ($38 off retail and $3 cheaper than the current deal), an Echo Studio for $180 (a whopping $20 off retail). And there were plenty more discounts where those came from.


Besides it's main storefront, Amazon also has pages promoting refurbished and open-box items at steep discounts.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Note, however, that these deals are subject to inventory and may not be available when you look. That said, there will likely be other deals just as good or better, taking their place. Part of the fun of looking for discounted Alexa gear is in the serendipity of what you might find.

Items from Amazon's Certified Refurbished store come with the same Amazon warranty and return policy you'd get with a new-new device, meaning they're effectively equivalent as far as you're concerned. They may be customer returns that have been fixed or they may be duds discovered during quality assurance at the factory that were then sent back through the line. 

Either way, you can rest assured that the device you buy will last just as long and come with just as much consumer protection as a similar, full-priced device. Plus, although it may not come in the original box, it will come in a fresh, clean, never-before-opened package, further solidifying your confidence.


Occasionally, some of the more difficult to find Alexa devices, like the Echo Flex with motion detector and nightlight accessories, are available at a discount.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Amazon Warehouse Deals come with slightly more risk but better deals

If those deals sound a bit meh to you -- and you're comfortable taking a slightly bigger risk in terms of consumer protections -- your next step is to check out the discounted goods over at Amazon Warehouse Deals. You're liable to find just about anything Amazon sells at its Warehouse Deals store, including (and especially) Alexa devices.

Many of the same discounted items found over at the Certified Refurbished store are often available at an even steeper discount over at Amazon Warehouse Deals. For example, that Echo Show 5 that retails for $80, was discounted to $65 new and was also on sale refurbished for $62 could be had for a scant $40 at Amazon Warehouse Deals.

Items purchased through Amazon Warehouse Deals do come with the same return policy, including the same return window (normally 30 days but usually longer during the winter holiday shopping season) as any new product bought directly from Amazon (as opposed to third-party sellers). But here's the catch: They don't necessarily come with the same warranty. 


When you buy from Amazon Warehouse Deals, you do run the risk of having to return the items you bought if they arrive broken or otherwise defective.

Angela Lang/CNET

That's because items sold through Amazon Warehouse Deals are technically classified as "used," even though many of them come in boxes that, while damaged, have never actually been opened. Other items, however, might be customer returns, meaning they've been opened already before being repackaged, usually haphazardly.

In other words, you run a far greater risk of having to return your purchase when you buy through Amazon Warehouse Deals. With greater risk, however, comes greater reward. In this case, that "reward" arrives in the form of even more money saved than if you bought through Amazon's refurbished store.