Should You Buy Used Headphones? (With Tips)


With new headphones coming out all the time, it can be hard and expensive to keep up with the best technology and the highest quality sound. Further, if you are one of the audiophiles, always looking for the truest sound for the best experience, the headphones you want are usually at the high end of the cost spectrum.

Do not fear! There is a cheaper way to stay in the game. Buying used headphones is a great way to spend less and experience more. Review the tips below to understand what used headphones are and how to pick out the best ones.

Used or refurbished headphones are an excellent way to experience quality sound for less cost. Used headphones are often sold with the same warranty from the major retail sellers. With used headphones you can save upwards of 24 to 50% of the original listing price.

What are Used Headphones?

Depending on who you are purchasing the used headphones from, these could be considered “used”, “pre-owned”, “open-boxed”, or “refurbished.” The most common thing that we associate with “used” is the used car. Buying something “used” brings up thoughts of terrible quality performance, uncomfortable feel, and constant issues. The thought of buying used tends to only be associated with moments where there is a need but no money.

Don’t associate “pre-owned” or “used” with this outdated idea of a used car salesman. It couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Let’s step back for a moment. Places like Best Buy and Amazon are constantly selling goods online and shipping them all over the world. Literally, selling all the time. While you read the beginning of this article, Amazon probably sold more stuff than you have in your house and your family’s houses combined. 

All of this shipping via online sales causes problems. Why? Sometimes the wrong items get shipped. Further, when you buy something online, you can’t test it. When you finally receive it. You may hate the look or feel. What can you do? Return it. With Amazon’s amazing return policy, you don’t have to worry about eating the cost.

This means that often the big online retailers have items returned all the time. What do they do with them? They resell them, but they can’t claim them as new products. So, they are sold as resell items that are pre-owned at a discount. Each discount depends on the condition of the headphones and the model and maker. Quality headphones aren’t as discounted because they retain their value over time. However, you are still saving significant dollars via Amazon.

Some of the items, though, aren’t actually pre-owned at all. Some of them were never sold, but the packaging was damaged. They can’t sell items with damaged packaging beyond a certain point and just sell them as-is. Either way this is a massive benefit to the consumer who can find deep discounts for products they want.

Are Used Headphones Hygienic?

When was the last time you put on a pair of headphones that weren’t yours? If you have been to a museum or art gallery that has an audio tour, then you have. Did you worry about the hygienic state of the headphones? Probably not. Well, there isn’t much to worry about in this regard either for used or pre-owned headphones.

Let’s look at different varieties of headphones just to be clear, and at the end give you a tip on how to ensure that the health and safety of your ears come first.

Earbuds or In-Ear Headphones

Earbuds are inserted directly into the ears. This style of headphones has the most contact with your dark and dirty places. However, that doesn’t mean that they are actually dirty if they are pre-used. Let’s assume the worst, note small children should stop reading.

Say you buy a used pair of earbuds off of Amazon, like the Jabra Elite 75t Earbuds. You open the box and discover earwax, etc. all over the silicone tips. What do you do? Well, first, remember that you can return them. Second, understand that you can clean them! Keep that discount and rehab them yourself.

Earbuds can be disinfected. Penn Medicine talks about the best ways to clean and disinfect surfaces. Even manufacturers can tell you how to specifically clean their earbuds, like Apple’s AirPods on the official Apple site.

The main way to ensure a new and clean surface on your earbuds is to use 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipes, similar to a Clorox Cleaning Wipe.

On-Ear or Over the Ear Headphones

On ear or over the ear headphones do not go into your ears. Rather they either rest on or over your ears. This means that there is a lot less contact with the dark and dirty parts of your ears. If you are thinking about the hygienic state of these types, you need to think about how they could be dirty. 

The main issue with these types of headphones is the head strap and ear pads. However, you should consider cleaning these in the same way as the above-mentioned earbuds. Most likely you won’t have an earwax problem. Rather, you will only be contending with a few hairs, sweat, and dirt. That isn’t that bad at all; mainly because it all cleans up quickly and easily via a solid wash.

To clean on-ear or over the ear headphones use 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipes, similar to a Clorox Cleaning Wipe.

Hint on Ensuring a Clean Connection

If you just can’t trust your cleaning ability and are worried about the risk, don’t fret, and don’t let it stop you from buying used headphones. Instead use this quick and easy hint. 

Often you can just replace the pads and silicone tips for your headphones and earbuds to ensure a new surface for sanitary reasons. It is that simple. If you go to the manufacturer’s site of the headphones, they will sell new accessories for the headphones you have. These are made to last, and when a part wears out, you should be able to replace them. Check out the Bose website here for an example.

Can I Trust That Used Headphones Will Work?

Consumer Reports, the leading consumer advocate and research group for consumer goods of all kinds, fully supports buying used electronics of all varieties. They believe that electronics aren’t single-use. However, in a recent Consumer Affairs article on how to purchase used electronics, they stress the importance of understanding who you are buying the item from and what the quality of the service is.

Because different sellers have different meanings for the word pre-owned and refurbished, you, as the buyer, need to be fully aware of what you are buying and what all of the terms mean. If you are able to do your homework, then you can make a fully informed decision on the headphones you want and whether the condition they are in is something that you can accept.

Generally, used headphones of all varieties do work well. If not, then they are considered broken and can’t be sold. Think of it this way. How many times have you gone to a museum and used the headphones that they supply to you? Often? This is the same principle. You trust that they work after countless others used them, and they do work well.

Where Can I Get Used Headphones?

Amazon’s Warehouse Deals and Best Buy are by far the best places to get used electronics, specifically headphones. Why? Amazon and Best Buy will still offer both their amazing return policies and warranties on the products. 

The listing will be accurate, and it will usually say what is wrong with the product and why it is being sold at a discount. It is hard to find another seller with this type of resale policy. You will always get a better price for the headphones you want. It may not be 90% discounted but you will still save money. This is a reflection of the fact that headphones retain their value well over time. Quality headphones are an investment that holds value.

Here are some example listings found at the time of the writing of this article.

HeadphonesAmazon Warehouse Price
Apple AirPods Pro1 Deeply Discounted Set
Jabra Elite 75t5 Deeply Discounted Sets
Sony WF-1000XM333 Used Discounted Sets
Sony WH-1000XM48 Discounted Sets
Beats Solo31 Used Set Available

How to Pick Out the Best Used Headphones

It can be hard to know which headphones here is a quick rundown of what has been discussed. These are the key takeaways to always remember.

  • Know what you want to buy
  • Know what the terms mean
  • Buy from a reputable retail seller
  • Understand that you can replace certain parts yourself

Conclusion: Buy the Best in Your Price Range

Remember to enjoy the experience. Find what you want and enjoy it when you get it. Listening to music and movies isn’t something to hate but to experience. Headphones don’t have to be expensive, but rather, when you look you can find the right deals in all of the right places.

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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