Do Electronics Buy Back Programs Make Sense?

VIDEO: Becky Worley checks out terrific bargains for televisions and other fun gadgets.
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One of the hottest commercials in the Super Bowl was Justin Bieber's Best Buy spot about buying back your old gear.

Best Buy's Buy Back plan seems like a pretty good deal: guaranteed rates for the purchase of your electronics after you've used them for six months all the way through four years.

The premise is that for early adopters or frequent purchasers a guaranteed buy back makes sense, but given the complexity of the plan's structure, this may not be the best way to recoup the cost of your beloved tech purchases.

The plan applies to cell phones, TVs, Laptops and Tablets like the iPad.

You pay to enroll and the costs vary based on the cost of the product.

The longer you keep the product the lower the percentage of its original value you can get back.

The percentages are the most you can get back if your product is in pristine condition and you don't get cash back, you get a Best Buy Gift card that you can apply to purchases in the store or online.

Program Costs

Enrolling in the TV Buy Back Plan:

$60 for TVs that cost less than $500

$100 for sets priced at $500 to $1,199.99

$180 for models that cost $1,200 to $2,499.99

$350 for TVs priced between $2,500 and $5,000

Enrolling in the Phone Plan:

$60 to buy in for phones over $350 (retail price, not subsidized price)

$40 for phones under $350

Enrolling in the Laptop Netbook or Tablet plan: $69.99

Percentage Return:

0 - 6 months: get up to 50 percent of your purchase price

6 - 12 months: get up to 40 percent of your purchase price

12 - 18 months: get up to 30 percent of your purchase price

18 - 24 months get up to 20 percent of your purchase price

For TVs only, redeem your buy back within 48 months from purchase effective date and get up to 10 percent.

Consumer Reports ran the numbers with a hypothetical purchase of a 2009 TV.

If they purchased a 46-inch Samsung LCD TV (UN46B6000) in Dec. 2009 for $1,600, they would have paid $180 to enroll in the Buy Back program.

If they tried to return it today if the TV was in good condition:

Best Case: they'd get $480 back

Worst Case: $240.

Don't forget to subtract $180 for the cost of the plan. The total value back = $300- $60.

Consumer Reports checked to see what the same TV was selling for in second-hand channels:

On Craigslist : $650

On Ebay: $500 - $1,000 (Shipping for these TVs can cost well over $100 so factor that in)

Buy Backs for Phones

For phones, this program is a little more complicated.

The buy back is based not on the subsidized price you paid for the phone when you signed up for that two-year contract, but on the unsubsidized cost of replacing the phone or buying it out of contract.

So I used my own phone as an example.

I bought the iPhone 4 when it came out last summer for $199 (contract price).

If I wanted to switch over to Verizon now and had hypothetically paid $60 to enroll in the Best Buy program when I bought the phone, I would net $179.

It seems pretty good until you compare the current buy back and trade in offers available: eBay will give me $344 (limited time iPhone promotion through their instant offer program).

Radio Shack offered me $280 and the online trade in service Gazelle offered $275 (and they pay the postage).

But there are scenarios where the Verizon buy back program makes sense and the obvious one to me is a purchase of the iPad.

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