Projectors are expensive. Plain and simple. TVs have come down in price so much over the years that it is easy to get sticker shock when looking at a new 4K projector. But what a TV can’t give you is a massive theatrical screen in your own house. There’s a couple of options to score a quality refurbished projector for much less than new to help you achieve that movie theater feel.
Epson has probably the most well-known refurbished/clearance store as they do not allow retailers to sell customer returns as open-box items. They get sent back to Epson for refurbishing. They offer the same warranty as a new projector and Epson’s warranty support is very good. They typically don’t fix the projector; instead, they will replace the whole projector. This means you will be without a projector for less time. The downside is that you will have to recalibrate that new replacement projector for your space. They also replace the projector with a refurbished projector so there’s a chance you will get one with an issue.
Epson’s direct store does not accept returns but they will happily replace a defective projector with a new refurbished one. Within 30 days this process is pretty easy but after that you have to go through the warranty department, so it is essential to look over your refurbished projector as soon as you get it. We’ll go over how to do that in a bit.
One of the best, if not the best place to buy an Epson refurbished projector is eBay. Epson sells the same projectors that they have on their store through eBay but here you get 30 day free returns as well as the other benefits of shopping through eBay.
Epson also sends their refurbished projectors to places like Amazon, Safe and Sound HQ, Walmart, and others. Stores like Amazon and Walmart have great return policies so a lot of times this is the way to go if they have the model you are looking for. If it is sold directly through Walmart and Amazon it should still have the same great warranty that Epson offers. Just be cautious and double-check the seller. Sometimes, the price from Amazon and Walmart are even better than what Epson has on their own site. Other times, these third-party stores have projectors available that Epson doesn’t.
Here are some links to find refurbished Epson projector deals:
BenQ is the other main player when it comes to refurbished projectors. They too have their own store and while their deals aren’t consistently as good as Epsons, it is possible to score a very good projector for much less than new. BenQ offers a 1-year warranty on all of their refurbished projectors. While it isn’t as good as Epson, BenQ typically has very high-quality projectors and back them up with a 3-year warranty on new. They don’t have the rapid replacement program for most projectors like Epson does but their service is generally well-regarded. BenQ’s direct refurbished store is the best place to find a projector as third-party options are seldomly found and are inconsistent.
Optoma also has some refurbished projectors available but they typically only come with a 90-day warranty which isn’t quite enough to satisfy my concerns. You can still score some good deals so if an Optoma projector fits your needs and budget then you may be willing to take on a bit more risk. BuyDig is the main reseller of refurbished Optomas and you can go directly to them or find them on eBay.
How to Inspect a Refurbished Projector
Buying a refurbished projector takes a bit more work and that comes in the form of a good, thorough inspection upon delivery. It’s impossible to know what happened with the projector before it came to you – it may have been a customer return with no use or it may have been a defective unit that needed work. Running the projector through its paces is very important and not knowing how any given refurbished projector might perform is the biggest reason it’s so important to have a great return/replacement policy.
Things to look for and inspect:
- Make sure the projector turns on and displays its menu;
- Plug a device into all of its HDMI inputs and make sure it properly displays the signal. (Not all HDMI inputs will be the same so check the manual to make sure you are sending it a signal it can handle);
- If the projector has an automatic lens cover, make sure it opens and closes when the projector is turned on and off (aside from this test, be sure not to turn the projector quickly on and off repeatedly – this is bad for the lamp and can shorten its life);
- Test the audio out capabilities if you’ll be using them;
- Check that the speakers work properly, if equipped;
- If the projector has lens shift, make sure you can use the full range of both the horizontal and vertical shift;
- Do the same for focus and zoom, making sure you can focus the image on while zoomed all the way in and out;
- Test all of the buttons on the projector and remote;
- For 3LCD projectors, check the convergence. This is how well each LCD panel aligns with each other (Epson projectors come with a built-in pattern and system for aligning the panels. The manual will have directions for usage. If the convergence is off by a lot then the built-in adjustments may not be enough.);
- If the projector is equipped with a dynamic iris, turn it on and watch some content that goes from very bright to very dark. Dynamic irises are known to make some noise but if it is very loud then it may be defective;
- If the projector has a manually adjustable iris, test the full range of adjustments;
- Put the projector in all of its power modes, making sure the bulb does not flicker and the fan(s) aren’t making abnormal noises (high power mode on projectors can be loud but clicking or knocking is not normal);
- Inspect the lens of the projector – it shouldn’t be overly dusty, or have fingerprints or scratches;
- Display some very dark content and make sure there are no dust blobs on the screen (these will show as faint circles or, for lack of a more technical term, blobs);
- Display a black screen with white text and make sure there isn’t any haloing around the text (this is also a good way to test a 3LCD’s convergence);
- Watch various content to make sure there aren’t any odd artifacts or banding.
If you find what you believe is an issue but are unsure if it is the projector or your attached equipment, the first troubleshooting step is to see if it shows on the projector menus and/or test patterns. If you are still unsure, a great place to ask questions is AVSForum.