Should You Buy a Refurbished Drone?

By Pilot Institute
Posted on July 25, 2022 - 5 minute read

The refresh cycles for new drones have gotten noticeably shorter in the last couple of years. This has resulted in drone pilots or enterprises having to buy new drone models at least once a year to keep up with the latest features. This has also created a sustainable market for refurbished drones.

Buying refurbished drones is a great way to save money. You can buy a refurbished drone for about 10% to 20% cheaper than their brand-new counterparts. Is buying refurbished drones a good idea? What are the special factors to consider when buying refurbished?

What are refurbished drones?

Refurbished drones refer to drones that have been through minor repairs or replacement of parts, then sold again as appropriately labeled “refurbished” products. These are anywhere between 10% to 20% cheaper than their brand-new counterparts, making them excellent deals if you want to get bang for your buck.

Most people would equate refurbished drones with used drones.  This isn’t necessarily an accurate equivalence. Yes, a refurbished drone has also had a previous owner who may have used the drone to an unknown degree. However, refurbished drones are distinct because they have undergone a “refurbishment” process. This typically involves the replacement of defective parts.

Who did the refurbishment?

Technically, anybody who can tinker with drones and replace spare parts can do a refurbishment. However, we recommend buying only drones that have been refurbished by the original manufacturer. This is the only way to guarantee that you are getting a refurbished drone that has a similar quality to brand-new.

Another advantage of getting a manufacturer-refurbished drone is that you might still get one that has a warranty. This is a huge benefit that you are not going to get if you’re buying a used drone.

Where can you buy refurbished drones?

You can buy refurbished drones directly from the manufacturers. DJI has an online storefront specifically for DJI Refurbished products. The selection here can vary from time to time. As of the writing of this article, DJI is selling refurbished versions of some of their most popular drones including the Air 2S, Mini SE, and Mavic Air 2.

Autel also has a similar page for their refurbished products. At the time of writing, the page only contains refurbished accessories like remote controllers and chargers. The page likely also has a revolving selection of available products.

Refurbished drones from other brands, such as Parrot, can be purchased via Amazon.

It’s also possible to buy refurbished drones in large retailers like Best Buy, Target, or Amazon. If you’re buying from these retailers, you must check that you’re getting officially refurbished products. Different brands have different ways to mark their officially refurbished drones. In the case of DJI, the drones’ serial numbers come with an “R” suffix.

Has a refurbished drone been heavily used?

It’s almost impossible to tell how much use your refurbished drone has had before it reached your hands. You can try and check for battery cycles if your drone has a smart battery with an app interface. However, this is still no guarantee that your drone was only lightly used as the battery can be replaced.

To allay any concerns about buying refurbished drones, it’s good to understand where they come from. Refurbished drones can be drones that were sent in for warranty-covered repair or within the replacement period for newly purchased drones.

Getting repaired drones is more likely with DJI because of the DJI Care program. This is DJI’s in-house warranty program that allows drone pilots to buy replacement drones at a discount should their drone get damaged. It is possible for the drones repaired under this program to eventually be sold as refurbished.

This does not mean that refurbished drones are of any less quality. Manufacturers even claim that refurbished drones are “like new” and that they have been through the same quality checks as brand-new drones. After-sales support for refurbished drones is also the same as if you purchased a new drone.

Both DJI and Autel give disclaimers that their refurbished drones may have a few scuffs or marks. This is only minor cosmetic damage and should not affect the drone’s longevity or performance. In any case, your purchase should still be protected by the standard warranty and returns policy.

Does a refurbished drone come with a warranty?

Yes, officially refurbished drones should come with the same warranty as brand-new drones. This ties into the guarantee of the manufacturers that refurbished drones are “equivalent to new.” DJI also allows the purchase of DJI Care programs for refurbished drones.

Is buying a refurbished drone a good idea?

If you’re looking to save a few hundred dollars when buying a drone, then you should consider buying a refurbished drone. There are lots of accounts out there of people buying refurbished drones that have lasted for several years after.

There are several precautions to take before buying a refurbished drone. The most important thing is to get one that has been refurbished by the original manufacturer. This ensures that repairs and tests were done properly and that defective parts were replaced by original spares.

Some degree of buyer protection should come with any refurbished drone. It’s best if this comes in the form of a warranty or returns policy from the manufacturer. Some retailers also provide additional buyer protection. For instance, Amazon provides the Amazon Renewed Guarantee for renewed or refurbished products that has a 90-day refund or replacement guarantee should you be dissatisfied with what you purchased.

That said, there is always some risk involved in buying a used drone, refurbished or not. Keep this in mind when making your purchase so that you will be compelled to do some thorough testing on it as soon as possible. This is a lot easier to do if you’re already an experienced drone pilot. Just go through all the usual flight maneuvers, test if the camera and gimbal are working, and do a quick transmission range check. Doing these tests will help you determine if a return or replacement is warranted.

Final thoughts

With so many new drones being launched yearly, it’s not surprising that there is now a huge market for refurbished drones. This could a great source of deals for those aspiring to get good but inexpensive drones. Refurbished drones are often described as “like new” and should not have any major issues.

If you’re worried about buying drones that are refurbished, the best precaution you can get is to buy only those that have been refurbished by the official manufacturer. This ensures that you get the best results possible out of the refurbishment process. Even a refurbished drone should have some sort of buyer protection, such as a warranty or a window for no-questions-asked return or replacement.

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