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Want a cheap iPad? Forget the classifieds, ask Apple for a used tablet

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TORONTO - Consumers looking to save a few bucks and pick up a lightly used iPad don't have to risk dealing with potentially shady characters via online classified ads or auction sites.

They can deal directly with Apple, one of many companies that are now choosing to sell previously used refurbished goods to consumers at discounted prices.

Consumer Reports considers buying refurbished goods from trusted manufacturers and retailers to be only "a slightly higher risk" than buying new.

And the web is filled with positive stories from users who have been pleased to buy used products from Apple that appeared to be as good as new.

"It's essentially the safest way, in my opinion, to buy something (used) online because it's the manufacturer itself doing the (repair) work and you don't have to worry that someone dropped them, or there's water damage you can't see, or they're not telling you if there's any other defects or problems," says Rene Ritchie, editor of the Apple blog iMore, who's purchased several refurbished MacBook laptops and an iPad without incident.

Apple says it has a "stringent" refurbishment process and although its used products may have some cosmetic imperfections, they should work perfectly. They come with a new battery and a one-year warranty, just like Apple's new products.

Some recent offerings in the refurbished section at Apple.ca included a WiFi and mobile-ready iPad 2 with 64 gigabytes of storage for $579, about 31 per cent off the regular price. Mac mini computers ranged from 21 to 31 per cent off, MacBook Pros from 15 to 33 per cent off, and MacBook Airs were discounted by 13 to 28 per cent.

Similar deals on different products can be found through big box stores such as Best Buy, Future Shop and Staples, although their warranties typically aren't as generous as Apple's. Buying an extended warranty is usually an option, although the added cost might negate the savings of buying used.

Ritchie says he's also bought refurb items through big box stores but did have a few issues with some products that didn't perform as new. But in his case it was immediately obvious something was amiss and he was able to return the products. He wasn't soured by the experience and would buy refurb again.

"Because they had a retail presence and they had good customer support I could get them exchanged — so it was more of a hassle," he says, adding that consumers who buy refurbished should run their purchase through a battery of tests right away.

"I would put them through every test imaginable as soon as I got them home. If something's going to fail I want it to fail almost immediately so I can have it taken care of."

Other companies that offer refurbished products online include Dell, Epson and IBM.

And it's not just computers that you can save on.

Dyson and Miele also offer refurbished products, including vacuum cleaners and appliances.

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