I work from home. Outside my window on any given day, there are lawnmowers, construction tools, barking dogs and the like, all making it hard to concentrate. I'd heard Apple's AirPods Pro ($200 at Amazon) were borderline magical in their noise-canceling capabilities, but $250? No. Nuh-uh. (For what it's worth, . Still too pricey for me.)
Then I spotted a pretty compelling sale: An eBay merchant was offering the earbuds for $168 after a pair of promo codes -- a hefty $81 off and much more palatable to my cheapskate sensibilities. The catch? They were refurbished. Grade-A, like-new refurbished, but still. The ick factor alone is a key reason CNET's Jason Cipriani.
That deal has expired, but here's a similar one: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Blinq has. Sign up for Blinq's email list, however, and you'll receive a coupon code for 10% off your first purchase. (If you don't receive that code right away, check your spam folder. That's where mine ended up.) Final price, not including sales tax: $164.96, even less than I paid. (Update: This deal has expired, but see below for other options.)
I bought mine in part because I was curious -- what does "like new" really look like? -- and in part because I knew that the ear tips could easily be replaced. That's the main "ick" part, after all, so if they showed up looking gross, I could(and still be way ahead, price-wise).
Here's what happened, and this comes with a big old "your mileage may vary" caveat: The AirPods arrived utterly indistinguishable from new. Everything appeared in mint condition: box, power cord, instructions, charging case and, most important of all, the AirPods themselves. The ear tips looked pristine, like they'd never been touched (let alone inserted).
I did have a tense moment when I thought the case wasn't charging properly, but that's because the charging LED turns off after a few seconds -- which, ahem, makes zero sense, Apple, and isn't noted in the manual.
As for the AirPods, I must admit the noise canceling is pretty amazing. That lawnmower droning away outside my window? I could barely hear it once I put the earbuds in. And with some music playing quietly, I felt like I was inside a soundproof bubble.
All told, I came away with good-as-new AirPods Pro for $168. The warranty lasts only 90 days, but I choose to be optimistic. (Note: Blinq doesn't specify a warranty, only a 30-day return policy. The company has a great reputation, but if you want a definite answer about the warranty, contact customer service before ordering.)
What to look for when buying refurbished AirPods
If you're open to the idea of buying refurbished AirPods yourself, here's what I recommend.
Start with eBay. Although the eBay seller I purchased from (Vipoutlet) no longer offers the same deal, there are. You should be able to find something in the same ballpark, price-wise.
Check the seller ratings. I spotted a good deal from a company called Mac.forever, which has 99.8% positive feedback from over 2,700 customers -- more than ample proof it's a reputable merchant. If you're seeing an unusually good deal on AirPods and the seller has only a handful of ratings, that's a big red flag. Look elsewhere.
Note the warranty and return policy. I felt comfortable ordering from Vipoutlet because of its 30-day money-back guarantee, zero restocking fee and free returns via prepaid label. I already mentioned the 90-day warranty, which is to be expected for a third-party refurb. But if you're looking at a warranty that's only, say, 30 days, I'd steer clear.
Be prepared to buy new ear tips. As noted above, Apple proper sells a set for $8. There are third-party options as well, like these. They're black, not white, and therefore less likely to start looking yucky from ear gunk.
There are other potential sources besides eBay, of course. (Blinq, for example.) You could try Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, but neither one offers any kind of buyer protection -- and AirPods sold there are likely to be straight-up used, not refurbished, meaning no pro-level cleaning or inspection.
You could also try a reseller service like Back Market, which currently offers. That's for "mint" condition, and you get a full 12-month warranty.
Here's my question: Would you consider buying refurbished AirPods? If you've already done so, hit the comments and tell me how it worked out!
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