Buy used and save big

Consumers are turning to pre-owned and refurbished goods, including /*iPhones*/, video games, designer watches, computers, cars and more.

Bargain hunting is becoming an art form in this economy. Now you can score a deal by skipping new and going used. That doesn't just mean taking part in online auctions or using pawn shops, it also means looking for the right things at firsthand retail stores.

"When times are good, new is cool. When times are bad, cheap is chic," said Carl Howe, a market research analyst. "And that's really the message that's going on in the retail market now."

Howe says it is the new way to shop for all kinds of things. While used cars and retooled computers are both really popular, there are also items you wouldn't think of offhand. Prestigious watchmaker /*Tourneau*/ says its refurbished timepieces are now top sellers.

"There's a lot of value in pre-owned," said Andrew Block, executive vice president, Tourneau. "You can buy a contemporary classic -- depending upon the brand -- from about 10 percent less than retail, all the way down to 30 to 40 percent less."

If you want to ring up savings, there are a lot of options when it comes to used phones and /*iPods*/. Apple sells refurbished iPods online, AT&T offers used /*BlackBerry*/ devices at a discount and Best Buy sells refurbished iPhones for $50 less than the new version.

"We've had a lot of success with it," said Lisette Martinez, Best Buy.

Howe says buying used items typically saves you about 5 to 25 percent. But you have to be a savvy shopper and check out the warranties. Howe says you may get the best protections when you buy directly from the manufacturer.

"Those usually carry the same warranties, the same guarantees that a new product would," said Howe. "So it's a relatively risk-free deal for the consumer."

Retailers often back the manufacturer's warranty or offer their own. Howe says there's no doubt, it's a trend whose time has come.

"The stigma of buying used products really has gone away, particularly with the economic downturn. It's really changed the way people think about their money," said Howe.

"Remember, the only one that's going to know when you leave the store that it's used, is you," said Block.

When it comes to the terminology, "used" and "pre-owne" are obvious. But experts say "refurbished" can also mean the items have been discontinued or returned unused, and then repackaged for sale at a discount.



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