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How to Buy a Used Refrigerator

When shopping for a refrigerator, you may find that a used refrigerator will meet your needs. Used refrigerators can offer obvious advantages in terms of cost savings, but it is important to consider a few issues before making your purchase:how to buy used refrigerator

First, measure the dimensions of the space where your refrigerator will go. This is important when buying any refrigerator, new or used, but you must be especially vigilant when buying a used appliance as you may not be able to return it if it doesn’t fit.

Make sure the refrigerator and freezer doors have a correct seal—a door that leaks air will gobble up energy dollars. An easy way to test for air leakage is to close the door on a piece of paper; when you attempt to pull out the page, you should feel some resistance. A poor seal could signify a bad gasket around the door’s perimeter or hinges that need to be adjusted.

Another factor to consider is the direction the door opens. While most modern-day refrigerators offer doors that can be affixed on either side of the appliance, some older models do not offer this option. If the door swings in the wrong direction for your kitchen but you like the refrigerator, check to see whether the door can be reversed.

Look carefully inside the refrigerator and freezer to make sure all shelves and drawers are included and in good repair. Check the light switches and control knobs for proper function. Check the temperature settings to ensure they reach and maintain the desired cooling temperatures; do this in the store, if possible.

Inspect the drip pan behind the bottom grille, as well as the condenser coils behind the back covering (sometimes these are on the bottom of the appliance). Damage or excessive dirt could be a bad sign, suggesting that the previous owner did not clean nor take care of the appliance properly or that the motor may have endured undue strain.

As a final consideration, take into account that no matter how well a used appliance was maintained, any refrigerator more than 10 years old will most likely not be as energy efficient as a model you could purchase new today. Be sure that the immediate savings in the upfront cost of the appliance are worth the higher energy bills you may pay year after year.

About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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1 Comment

  1. Sometimes one has little choice but to buy a used refrigerator, because the dimensions of today’s boxes have changed. In my case, I find I cannot buy a 17+ cu.ft. unit that is under 65 inches, floor to top of box. I have a cabinet that overhangs the space and limits the height. To replace or simply remove the cabinet would cost hundreds of dollars. Further, the widths of all but the larger refrigs are narrower and leave a five inch space between the box and the wall (or countertop). The space is useless. The warranties that come with the purchase price are meager for a $500-$600 item: 1 yr labor and parts, not from the dealer but from the manufacturer. In my view, the purchase warranty should be 5 yrs on the sealed unit (compressor, motor, tubing, etc.), and the local retailer should take case of the problem. Lastly, the warranty does not cover circuit boards, because of the chance of surge damage. A lightning strike is an act of nature, but minor surges should be covered by built-in surge protection. I would wait to sell my condo and buy a condo with a fairly new refrigerator rather than buy a new one under present terms.


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