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Forget Black Friday -- this Amazon shopping hack can save you up to 70% or more all year

Amazon keeps a secret warehouse of discounted merchandise hidden behind the regular listings. Here's how to find it.

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Amazon houses thousands of discounted items in a secret online store where it liquidates customer returns and merchandise with damaged packaging at fractions of their retail prices.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You don't have to wait for Black Friday or Cyber Monday to get killer deals at Amazon, because this shopping hack isn't limited to Thanksgiving -- or any weekend, for that matter. It works every day of the year, anytime you want to use it. I routinely save anywhere from a few bucks to over 70% off the retail price of just about everything I buy on Amazon, and once I show you how to navigate Amazon's maze of secret listings, you can too.

The trick is deceptively simple. Instead of perusing the normal Amazon listings, you'll want to shop a section called Amazon Warehouse Deals. The only catch -- aside from the fact this stuff isn't technically "new" -- is that Amazon doesn't make these discounted listings terribly easy to find. You'll have to play a little hide-and-seek, and Amazon's gotten quite good at hiding stuff

Plus it's easy to accidentally navigate away from the Amazon Warehouse listings once you've found them and wind up back at the regularly priced ones, clueless. It can almost seem like Amazon does it on purpose.

That's why I'm going to help you find your way through the retail labyrinth that is Amazon and show you how to drill down until you find the best deal. Once you master this trick, you'll never want to pay full retail price on any Amazon item again.

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Whether you're on mobile or desktop, if you know how to find Amazon Warehouse Deals you can save up to 70% off a retail price.

James Martin/CNET

The easy way: Start from the Amazon Warehouse Deals splash page

I begin nearly all of my Amazon searches on the Amazon Warehouse Deals landing page, because it cuts out full-price listings almost entirely so you mostly just see the discounted items (I'll explain the one exception shortly). To get there, open Amazon using either a desktop browser or the Amazon mobile app and search for "Amazon warehouse" or "warehouse deals." 

Next, rather getting a list of search results like normal, your screen should actually look a lot like the main Amazon search page, with a search bar, categories, etc. From there you can browse categories like Computers & Tablets, Kitchen or Home Improvement (click these and other links in this story to see actual, current Warehouse Deals listings) or you can search for more specific items just like you would on the regular Amazon homepage, except the results will be discounted, sometimes heavily.

This quick and easy approach works best if you're not in the market for something in particular -- say you're just looking for gift ideas or killing time during your lunch break. It can be a lot of fun to just scroll through the various categories looking for stuff that just pops out at you. If you are shopping for something more specific, however, keep reading for pro tips on how to find it discounted on Amazon Warehouse Deals.

If brand doesn't matter, do this to find the best deals

Say you've been thinking about getting a new cordless drill for a while. You don't care who makes it, you just don't want to spend a lot of money. Or a new dog leash, robot vacuum, whatever. You're not brand-loyal, just cost-conscious. That's the perfect time to search from inside Amazon Warehouse Deals.

Do it just like you would on the full Amazon site -- type your search terms in the dialog box, then select "search." Searching from the Warehouse Deals main page, your results won't be cluttered with a bunch of full-price listings. 

Except for one caveat: Amazon's "sponsored" listings. Unless you have an ad blocker that specifically removes Amazon's paid listing results (I love the Amazon Ad Blocker Chrome extension), you'll still see full-priced items peppered among the discounts. These un-discounted listings look almost identical to Warehouse Deals, except they're labeled "Sponsored."  Sneaky, I know, but that's why I'm warning you.

Sometimes Amazon will redirect you away from Warehouse Deals

Another thing to keep an eye on -- make sure you always go back to the Amazon Warehouse Deals splash page before starting a different search. Otherwise, if you just search for another item from the search bar at the top of the page, Amazon might bounce you out of Warehouse Deals and into the full site. 

Same goes for "recent searches." If you searched for, say, "bunny slippers" across all of Amazon, then went to Warehouse Deals and searched for "banana slippers," then decided you definitely want bunnies over bananas, don't select "bunny slippers" from the drop-down menu that appears when you select the search bar. Those recent searches will search not just the same terms but the same Amazon sections as the original search. In other words, it'll yank you out of Warehouse Deals and back to the land of full-priced slippers. Instead, type the search in again from scratch, from the Amazon Warehouse Deals main page.

How to find Warehouse Deals for anything on Amazon

Everything I've shown you so far works great so long as you're a little flexible about what you're looking for. If, on the other hand, you're shopping for something specific -- like really specific -- say, an Otterbox case for your brand-new iPhone 12 ($829 at Amazon), it can be frustrating to limit your search to just Warehouse Deals listings. You might turn up nothing at all relevant. 

Whenever you head to Amazon to buy an exact product, go ahead and search for it just like you would otherwise. There's a way to check and see if a discounted Warehouse Deals version is available from any Amazon listing.

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At the bottom of the box, click the link that reads, "Used & new (20) from $121.79" to get the discounted Amazon Warehouse listings for this item.

Screenshot by Dale Smith/CNET

First, pull up the item you want to buy just as you normally would on Amazon, but don't add it to your cart just yet. Scour the page, keeping your eyes peeled for words like "New & Used," "Buy Used,"  "New & Used Offers" or just plain "Used." 

Usually there'll be a price listed too, representing the cheapest option available (but not including tax or shipping costs). If you're not having any luck finding the link and you're on a computer, try using your browser's "find" function (usually Control-F on Windows PCs and Command-F on Macs) to look for these keywords.

Once you locate the link, look for items with "Amazon Warehouse" listed as the seller and an Amazon Prime logo displayed near the price. If Amazon Warehouse has more than one of the same item in stock, there will sometimes be a separate listing for each, especially if the items are in different conditions. 

Why Amazon Warehouse stuff is so cheap 

Just like other major retailers such as Walmart or Target, Amazon takes in a lot of customer returns, which it can no longer sell as new-in-box, regardless of why the buyer sent the item back or whether it's even been opened. 

That's why everything Amazon Warehouse sells is listed as used, even if the product itself has never been touched. Regardless of its condition, used stuff is just worth less -- sometimes a lot less. And that's good for you.

What to do when you get a lemon

Of the dozens (if not hundreds) of Amazon Warehouse listings I've bought over the years, I only ever ran into problems with a handful of them -- a Bluetooth adapter for my car that would randomly shut off, a wireless router that didn't broadcast any signal, a very well-worn puppy harness with dog hair stuck to it; stuff like that. 

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Don't throw away those Amazon boxes just yet -- if you do happen to receive an item that's broken or doesn't work, you'll need to return it to Amazon.

Claudia Cruz/CNET

Whenever that happens, I just return the item like I would any defective product, then order another one. Sure, it's a bit more hassle, but considering the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars I've saved over the years this way, it's worth the extra effort.

Truth is, most Amazon Warehouse items are in perfect working order -- many haven't even been so much as pulled out of their packages yet, like the Ring 2 Doorbell I got for $65 (it retailed for $139) or the Baby Trend stroller I paid $81 for instead of $110. Even for stuff that has been taken out of the box, Amazon puts everything through what the company calls a "rigorous 20-point inspection process," after which each item is given a quality grade and priced accordingly. 

Some items may have cosmetic damage or be missing parts, accessories, instructions or assembly tools, but Amazon will detail any damage to the product or packaging, as well as any missing element along with the condition, so you won't be surprised. For example, I knew when I ordered a 100-watt Pyle amplifier for $29 that the accessories were loose and the amp would come repackaged. Who cares? I saved $15.

The different quality grades and what they mean

Amazon has five different grades it assigns to items it resells. Here they are with brief explanations of what Amazon means by them.

Renewed: This is the highest grade an Amazon Warehouse item can receive and is on par with what other companies might call "refurbished." Renewed items have been closely inspected and tested and determined to look and function like new and come with a 90-day replacement or refund guarantee. The "refreshed" Roku Express Plus I ordered had never even been opened.

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The Amazon Warehouse listing for this product in Good condition costs $121.79. The same item in Very Good condition costs almost $7 more. Either option, however, is better than paying $164.99 for it brand-new.

Screenshot by Dale Smith/CNET

Used, Like New: No noticeable blemishes or marks on the item itself, although the packaging may be damaged, incomplete or missing altogether. All accessories are included, and any damage to the package will be described in the listing. The box for the Like New Evenflo locking gate I saved $6 on was a little banged up, but I've seen way worse on Walmart's shelves. The gate itself was flawless.

Used, Very Good: Item has been lightly used, with minor visible indications of wear and tear, but otherwise in good working order. Packaging might be damaged, incomplete or the item repackaged. Any missing accessories will be detailed on the listing. I saved $4 on a Very Good Bosch Icon wiper blade that had, like, one scuff on it.

Used, Good: Item shows moderate signs of use, packaging may be damaged or the item repackaged and could be missing accessories, instructions or assembly tools. Another Bosch Icon wiper blade I got was only in Good shape, but I saved $15 on that one, and honestly I can't tell one from the other now that they're on my car.

Used, Acceptable: Very well worn, but still fully functional. Major cosmetic defects, packaging issues and/or missing parts, accessories, instructions or tools. I got an Echo Dot for $23 that was considered Acceptable. I think it has a scratch near the power port, but now it's on my nightstand where it does its job well, and mostly in the dark, for less than half the cost of a new one.

How to choose the right grade

If there are multiple listings with different grades available for the product I want to buy, I think about what I'm going to use it for. If it were something purely functional and I couldn't care less about its cosmetic condition, like hair clippers or a cordless drill, I'd go with the cheapest option, period. 

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The Ring 2 video doorbell normally retails for $200. As of early November, Amazon has it discounted to $139, however the Amazon Warehouse price is only $90.

Chris Monroe/CNET

If it's something I'd display, like a kitchen mixer, end table or wall clock, I'd read the descriptions a little more closely and look for items that are rated Very Good or Like New. 

But honestly, a low enough price on just about anything can woo me into putting up with some scratches or scuffs. Not to mention, in my experience, Amazon tends to err on the side of caution, marking items as Good or Acceptable that the average person would consider Very Good or Like New.

Officially no warranty, but your mileage may vary

One of the benefits of purchases made through Amazon Warehouse is that Amazon's standard 30-day replacement or refund return policy applies, which comes in handy if you wind up with a lemon. Amazon does caution that because these products are considered used they don't come with the manufacturer's original warranty.

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Amazon Echo Dots can usually be had for over 50% off their retail price of $50 when Amazon Warehouse lists them for sale.

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That said, if the product hasn't already been registered in someone else's name, there's a decent chance any issues you run into past Amazon's 30-day window can be resolved with a call to the manufacturer.

Amazon Prime members still get free shipping

Subscribing to Amazon Prime won't get you a bigger discount on Amazon Warehouse Deals, but you'll get free shipping just as you would for any other Prime-eligible item, which is why I still pay for Prime even though most of my purchases come from Amazon Warehouse.

Most of the stuff I've bought through Amazon Warehouse ships and arrives within the same one- to two-day window I get with new items, although some orders do take longer to fulfill. If that's the case, the extra handling time is usually indicated on the listing, so I know what to expect.

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Amazon Prime members don't get any extra discounts on Amazon Warehouse merchandise, but they still benefit from free and usually pretty fast shipping. 

James Martin/CNET

Third-party sellers and other deals

While wading around in the listings looking for Amazon Warehouse Deals you may have discovered even more discounted listings not sold by Amazon. What you've stumbled upon are items sold by third-party retailers whose only relationship with Amazon is that their items are for sale on Amazon's marketplace, much like eBay

Amazon's buyer protections lag considerably behind eBay's, however. eBay guarantees customers their money back in the event of a dispute, and although Amazon will ultimately do the same, its process is a bit more convoluted, so proceed with caution. Generally, if I can't find a good enough deal on Amazon Warehouse, I'll tab over to eBay and look for the item there instead. eBay is a little more transparent about both its vendors and the merchandise they sell. If I'm going to buy garage-sale used as opposed to Amazon's never-opened used, I prefer eBay.