Reconditioned power tools – depending on who you ask – are either the bane or the boon of the power tool industry. Mostly they’re the boon, especially if it’s a name brand tool from a name brand reseller.

However if you’re not careful there’s a chance that your great deal today may turn into tomorrow’s yard sale giveaway. Or worse – a prolonged and difficult exchange with a retailer that’s way more trouble than it’s worth.

We recently asked for opinions on reconditioned power tools from the woodworkers at WoodNet, FamilyWoodworking and LumberJocks. They kindly gave us the lowdown on their opinion of reconditioned power tools and without their help this article could not be.

Here are the threads we covered to write this article:

Their responses ranged from “just wait for a sale and buy new” to “primarily (and proudly) buy reconditioned!” The majority of woodworkers appeared to have bought reconditioned at one time or another.

From their responses we put together five questions you should be asking before you buy reconditioned power tools.

1) Is there a Warranty?
Are you slapping your head and saying “DUH”?

You might be surprised at how many reconditioned power tools sell without warranty. Especially at fly-by-night traveling tool sales and end-of-bin sales of off brand or broken tools. If there’s no warranty then there’s no deal. Except perhaps if you need spare parts and the price is a steal.

2) How Does the Warranty for Reconditioned Compare to the Warranty for New?
More often than not you’ll find that the warranty for new power tools is exactly the same as the warranty for reconditioned power tools.

The one case I heard where they were different was on a major stationary tool that offered a six month warranty for reconditioned and a year warranty for new tools.

Still, this is a crucial indicator of how much trust the company puts in their reconditioning process. If the warranties are identical to new then, well, you’re looking good if the price is right ;)

3) Why Was this Tool Reconditioned?
This question is likely not going to be easy to answer – though if you’re in a brick and mortar you might as well ask someone to see if they know.

In the best cases reconditioned power tools are purchased, possibly opened, used once or never and then returned.

In the worst cases they’re used as anchors, or at least they’re used hard and lived in the back of a pick up truck.

In between there’s some sort of a design flaw in the tool and it will never work quite the way it should. You’re wise to cross check any reconditioned tool you’re getting serious about through our woodworking forum search engine to see what comes up.

Whatever the reason for the return, if you’ve answered question 1 in the affirmative you should be ok. Just understand that there’s a wide range of possible reasons that a tool is reconditioned and you’re opening yourself up to accepting any of them when buy recon.

4) How Much Below Lowest New Price is this Reconditioned Tool?
It’s of the utmost importance to ask yourself about your cutoff point for price. How far below brand new price is low enough to warrant the potential for the hassle of returns and the tool breaking soon after the warranty expires.

Some forum respondents won’t buy reconditioned power tools unless they’re 25% cheaper than the cheapest available new price. Some hold out for 40%.

At a certain price point (around 10-20%) you are better off just getting a brand new tool, according to a WoodNetter.

Your mileage will certainly vary, but it’s crucial that you know going in what’s your acceptable price discount. Otherwise you might end up feeling burned… I think it’s for this reason that some woodworkers said they only bought reconditioned for tools that they didn’t plan to use that often.

5) What was this Tool’s Reconditioning Process Like?
In cases of reputable reconditioning, it’s anecdotally noted that reconditioned tools are often more thoroughly and rigorously checked than brand new tools.

Bosch, who we interviewed about reconditioned tools, said:

“A certified factory reconditioned tool has been through a complete inspection by factory trained technicians at the Robert Bosch Power Tool National Reconditioning Center. Genuine factory replacement parts have been installed by the technicians as necessary. The reconditioned tool is guaranteed to meet all original specifications and to perform as new.”

If you’re buying from a reputable manufacturer then you’re sure to win in the end – just ask our 5 questions and you’ll get a deal you can gloat about in your favorite woodworking forum :)