Electronics are expensive and expendable, making them likely candidates for resale if someone's looking for quick cash. But most should be avoided unless you're buying from a reputable dealer who's willing to include a warranty that covers the risks.
Here are some prime candidates to give you buyer's remorse:
Projection TVs: Large projection sets and portable projectors use expensive bulbs with limited life spans, and it's impossible to know how close they are to burning out. Sets older than a few years, in particular, have used bulbs that can burn out rather quickly. A new bulb can cost $300 or $400. Some projection sets also have moving "color wheels" that are subject to wear that might lead to failure.
Standard DVD players: These have too many moving parts that might be ready to fail, and new standard DVD players are too inexpensive to justify the risk of buying used. The internal lasers that read the disks also wear out and are too costly to make replacing them worthwhile.
High-definition DVD players: Toshiba's format just lost the battle to Sony's Blu-ray, so movies will be hard to find in high definition. These players also work fine for standard DVD discs, but smaller and more-attractive models that do the same thing can be found new for $50 or less.
MP3 players with hard drives: Avoid used iPods and other players with hard drives for storage, unless the price is good enough to cover the cost of replacing the drive.
Computers: It's rare to find a used desktop or notebook PC with a price that justifies the risk. Consider only desktops less than a year old and laptops less than 3 months old, and only then when they're offered at substantial discounts. A desktop that appears to be in good working condition still has too many moving parts, including hard drives and fans, that are subject to wear and tear. Laptops have the same moving parts and get subjected to bangs and bruises in transport.
Digital cameras and camcorders: There are too many moving and precision parts in handheld devices that are commonly dropped. Stick with reputable dealers of used equipment who will also offer warranties of 90 days or more.
This article was reported and written by David LaGesse for U.S. News & World Report.
Published March 20, 2008