Monday, June 6, 2011

10 Tips for Buying a Used iPad

There is no doubt about it.  The iPad is cool, but the price tag can leave a dent in your wallet.  Trying to save some money by purchasing a used iPad is a smart idea, but there are few things you should consider before parting with that cash.  PriceAdvice has put together 10 tips to help the used buying process a bit easier:

  1. Read the Condition.  Each reseller (eBay, Amazon, etc) has set criteria for the condition of used goods—Used, Refurbished, Like New, etc.  It is important to understand the exact criteria for what you are buying.  Here is a quick rundown of what sellers usually mean when they describe the condition:
Refurbished:  Cleaned, inspected and repaired to original manufacturer’s guidelines.  It may or may not have the original packaging and instructions.  This is a great option, but it may be a bit more expensive.  Time and care have gone into bringing the unit to “like new” performance and those costs are added into the selling price.
Used:  Generic term for previous use.  It could be in any state.  If the only description on the item is “used,” ask detailed questions before purchasing.
Like New: The seal or box has been opened, but the iPad is in perfect condition with all original packaging, accessories and manuals. This would generally be considered acceptable for purchase as a gift.
Very Good:  iPads with this description have been well cared for with only limited usage.  The packaging and manual are usually included, but the tablet will show some minor wear and tear.  An excellent balance between performance and savings.
Good:  An iPad that shows wear and tear from consistent daily use, but works perfectly. 
Acceptable:  A consistently used iPad that shows significant wear and tear like dents and scratches.  From a technical standpoint, it should still be in perfect working order.
For Parts or Not Working:  A broken iPad that can only be used for parts.  Steer clear of these, unless of course, you only need it for parts.
Remember that these are the guidelines that the resellers use.  The actual seller may or may not follow these same guidelines, so don’t hesitate to ask questions.
  1. Ask to see photos of the actual unit being sold, not just stock photos.  Many of the used iPads for sale show stock photos instead of the actual unit being sold.  To ensure that you are being sold an iPad that matches the condition listed, ask to see photos of the front, back and sides.  This will allow you to see for yourself if there are scratches, dents, or other wear and tear marks that you find unacceptable.  
  1. Buy from sellers with ample feedback.  Understanding the seller's customer satisfaction history gives you a better understanding of how satisfied you will be as a customer. Sellers with lots of sales history and positive buyer feedback most likely describe their items as they really are, making it more likely that you will get what you think you are paying for.
Apple iPad Case
Elan Folio for iPad
  1. If there are minor scratches on the back or corners, a case can easily mask them.  Buying a well-worn iPad will certainly save you some money, but minor scratches and scuffs can make your new toy a lot less shiny. To make your iPad seem new, put a case on it.  No one will be able to tell that your iPad is used.  We really like the Apple iPad Case for full coverage around the edges, or if you prefer a more professional look, the Elan Folio by Griffin is a great choice, but offers a little less coverage.
  1. Check on the warranty.  iPad warranties are good for one year, so before buying ask about the purchase date. If the iPad was purchased less than a year ago, you can also purchase AppleCare which extends the warranty to the two year mark.  It costs $79, but includes technical phone support in addition to warranty coverage. It is important to note however, the warranty excludes consumable parts like the battery and protective coating, so you shouldn’t purchase it in hopes of replacing your battery.  A new battery costs $99 through Apple.
  1. If buying a 3G, understand the carrier service.  AT&T and Verizon are the only two carriers that offer 3G service.  You cannot switch an AT&T iPad to Verizon service or vice versa, so understanding the carrier plans and fees is an important pre-purchase decision.  Neither company requires a contract for monthly service, but their data plans are quite different.  Here are the basics on each carrier (Plans are subject to change. Verify with each carrier for the latest pricing):

AT&T data plans start at $14.99 a month for 250MB of data service.  Overage fees of $14.99 are assessed in 250MB increments.  Alternatively, a 2GB data plan costs $25 a month.  There are no activation fees and the plan automatically renews every 30 days unless you cancel it.

Verizon data plans start at $20 a month for 1GB of data and max out at $80 a month for 10GB of data.  In addition to the monthly fee, Verizon charges a $35 activation fee. 

For each carrier, you can set up new service directly on your iPad via the Settings/Cellular Data menu.  A credit card will be required for payment.  NOTE: A handful of AT&T subscribers have a “post-paid” account.  If you purchase one of these 3G iPads, you will most likely have to take the iPad into an AT&T store for help setting up service.  In some cases, you may have to purchase a new SIM card for $15.  Since most iPads are pre-paid accounts, this will most likely not apply to you.
  1. Make sure to erase all the data before syncing with your iTunes account.   iTunes does not react well when devices attached to other accounts try to sync.  To avoid this hassle (and possibly freezing up your iTunes account), it is important to erase all previous account data.  To do so, go to Settings/General and tap Reset and then tap “Erase all data.”  This will ensure that you can sync with your iTunes account without problems.  Often the seller will have already completed this step, but it is always good to double check.  NOTE: If you purchase a Jailbroken iPad, you should check with the seller before erasing any data.
  1. Download the iPad manual.  Make sure you understand how to use the iPad by downloading the manual from the Apple website.
  1. Don’t pay extra for accessories that you won’t use.   When you sift through the thousands of used iPads for sale, you will find that many of them come with accessories at an added cost.  While the accessories may be cheaper than if purchased new, it is still not a good deal if you won’t use them.  Weigh the savings benefit to your real-life usage before purchasing these iPads.
  1. Use PriceAdvice to find the best deal.  PriceAdvice has scoured thousands of closed auctions and online sales to give you great pricing data.  Use our pricing information to avoid overpaying and to find a great deal.

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