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Forget Black Friday. This Amazon tip gets you deals and discounts any time

One of our go-to Amazon shopping hacks can help you save you up to 70% or more, no matter when you shop.

Amazon delivery and return

Amazon's "secret" online store where sells returned items for a fraction of the original retail price.

James Martin/CNET

Black Friday deals are here, from luxury bedding to Apple AirPods Pro, laptops and so much more. While great Black Friday sales on items of every price keep coming down the chute -- and holiday shipping deadlines approaching fast -- you should know about our favorite hidden Amazon shopping trick that has routinely gotten us up to 70% off almost any kind of product. 

You just need to be an Amazon Prime member and know where to look. We'll tell you everything you need to know, including the fine print. But the big thing is that these products are listed as Amazon Warehouse deals, major discounts on returned, damaged, lightly used or refurbished items. And yes, free two-day shipping (one of the Amazon Prime membership perks) applies in case you need a rush holiday gift. (P.S. Here's what to know about detangling Amazon's sometimes confusing return options .)

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Read more: Don't shop Black Friday deals without using these Amazon Prime benefits

Look for the Amazon Warehouse Deals page

We often begin Amazon searches on the Amazon Warehouse Deals landing page, because it cuts out full-price listings almost entirely so you mostly just see the discounted items (we'll get to one exception shortly). To get there, open Amazon using either a desktop browser or the Amazon mobile app and search for "Amazon warehouse" or "warehouse deals." 

Rather than getting a list of search results like normal, you should see a screen that looks a lot like the main Amazon search page, with a search bar, categories and so on. From there you can browse categories like Computers & Tablets, Kitchen or Home Improvement (click these and other links in this story to see actual, current Warehouse Deals listings) or you can search for more specific items just like you would on the regular Amazon homepage, except the results will be discounted, sometimes heavily.

This quick and easy approach works best if you're not in the market for something in particular -- say you're just looking for gift ideas or killing time during your lunch break. It can be a lot of fun to scroll through the various categories looking for stuff that pops out at you. If you're shopping for something more specific, however, keep reading for pro tips on how to find it discounted using Amazon Warehouse Deals.

Why Amazon Warehouse stuff is so cheap

Just like other major retailers such as Walmart or Target, Amazon takes in a lot of customer returns, which it can no longer sell as new-in-box, regardless of why the buyer sent the item back or whether it's even been opened. That's why everything Amazon Warehouse sells is listed as used, even if the product itself has never been touched. Regardless of its condition, used stuff is just worth less -- sometimes a lot less. And that's good for you.

Amazon Warehouse Deals work for almost anything

Everything we've shown you so far works great so long as you're a little flexible about what you're looking for. If, on the other hand, you're shopping for something really specific -- like, say, an Otterbox case for your iPhone 13 -- it can be frustrating to limit your search to just Warehouse Deals listings. You might turn up nothing at all relevant. 

Whenever you head to Amazon to buy an exact product, go ahead and search for it just like you would otherwise. There's a way to check and see if a discounted Warehouse Deals version is available from any Amazon listing.

First, pull up the item you want to buy just as you normally would on Amazon, but don't add it to your cart just yet. Scroll down the page and keep your eyes peeled for words like "New & Used," "Buy Used," "New & Used Offers" or just plain "Used," which you should see on the right side of the website.

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Don't throw away those Amazon boxes just yet -- if you do happen to receive an item that's broken or doesn't work, you'll need to return it to Amazon.

Claudia Cruz/CNET

Usually there'll be a price listed, too, representing the cheapest option available (but not including tax or shipping costs). If you're not having any luck finding the link and you're on a computer, try using your browser's "find" function (usually Control-F on Windows PCs and Command-F on Macs) to look for these keywords.

Once you locate the link, look for items with "Amazon Warehouse" listed as the seller and an Amazon Prime logo displayed near the price. If Amazon Warehouse has more than one of the same item in stock, there will sometimes be a separate listing for each, especially if the items are in different conditions. 

Be careful of Amazon's redirecting trick 

Another thing to keep an eye on -- make sure you always go back to the Amazon Warehouse Deals splash page before starting a different search. Otherwise, if you just search for another item from the search bar at the top of the page, Amazon might bounce you out of Warehouse Deals and into the full site. 

Same goes for "recent searches." If you searched for, say, "bunny slippers" across all of Amazon, then went to Warehouse Deals and searched for "banana slippers," then decided you definitely want bunnies over bananasdon't select "bunny slippers" from the drop-down menu that appears when you select the search bar. Those recent searches will search not just the same terms but the same Amazon sections as the original search. In other words, it'll yank you out of Warehouse Deals and back to the land of full-price slippers. Instead, type the search in again on the Amazon Warehouse Deals main page.

You'll find the best deals if you're not loyal to one brand

Say you've been thinking about getting a new cordless drill for a while. You don't care who makes it, you just don't want to spend a lot of money. Or a new dog leashrobot vacuum, whatever. You're not brand-loyal, just cost-conscious. That's the perfect time to search from inside Amazon Warehouse Deals.

Do it just like you would on the full Amazon site -- type your search terms in the dialog box, then select "Search." Searching from the Warehouse Deals main page, your results won't be cluttered with a bunch of full-price listings. 

Except for one caveat: Amazon's "sponsored" listings. Unless you have an ad blocker that specifically removes Amazon's paid listing results (you cna use the Amazon Ad Blocker Chrome extension), you'll still see full-priced items peppered among the discounts. These non-discounted listings look almost identical to Warehouse Deals, except they're labeled "Sponsored." Sneaky, but that's why I'm warning you.

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Amazon Prime members don't get any extra discounts on Amazon Warehouse merchandise, but they still benefit from free and usually pretty fast shipping. 

James Martin/CNET

How Amazon Warehouse returns work 

Of the dozens (if not hundreds) of Amazon Warehouse listings we've bought over the years, we only ever ran into problems with a handful of them -- a Bluetooth adapter for a car that would randomly shut off, a wireless router that didn't broadcast any signal, a very well-worn puppy harness with dog hair stuck to it; stuff like that. 

Whenever that happens, just return the item like you would any defective product, then order another one. Sure, it's a bit more hassle, but considering the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars we've saved over the years this way, it's worth the extra effort.

Truth is, most Amazon Warehouse items are in perfect working order -- many haven't even been so much as pulled out of their packages. Even for stuff that has been taken out of the box, Amazon puts everything through what the company calls a "rigorous 20-point inspection process," after which each item is given a quality grade and priced accordingly. 

Some items may have cosmetic damage or be missing parts, accessories, instructions or assembly tools, but Amazon will detail any damage to the product or packaging, as well as any missing element along with the condition, so you won't be surprised.

What the different Amazon grades mean

Amazon has five different grades it assigns to items it resells. Here they are with brief explanations of what Amazon means.

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The Amazon Warehouse listing for this product in Good condition costs $121.79. The same item in Very Good condition costs almost $7 more. Either option, however, seems better than paying $164.99 for it brand-new.

Screenshot by Dale Smith/CNET

Renewed: This is the highest grade an Amazon Warehouse item can receive and is on par with what other companies might call "refurbished." Renewed items have been closely inspected and tested and determined to look and function like new and come with a 90-day replacement or refund guarantee. The "refreshed" Roku Express Plus we once ordered had never even been opened.

Used, Like New: No noticeable blemishes or marks on the item itself, although the packaging may be damaged, incomplete or missing altogether. All accessories are included, and any damage to the package will be described in the listing. The box for the Like New Evenflo locking gate we bought saved $6 on was a little banged up, but we've seen way worse on Walmart's shelves. The gate itself was flawless.

Used, Very Good: The item has been lightly used, with minor visible indications of wear and tear, but is otherwise in good working order. Packaging might be damaged, incomplete or the item repackaged. Any missing accessories will be mentioned in the listing.

Used, Good: Item shows moderate signs of use, packaging may be damaged or the item repackaged and it could be missing accessories, instructions or assembly tools. Another Bosch Icon wiper blade we got was only in Good shape, but we saved $15 on that one, and honestly can't tell one from the other now that they're on the car.

Used, Acceptable: Very well-worn, but still fully functional. Major cosmetic defects, packaging issues and/or missing parts, accessories, instructions or tools. I got an Echo Dot for $23 that was considered Acceptable. It has a scratch near the power port, but on a nightstand it's hard to tell and cost half price.

How to choose the right quality grade

If there are multiple listings with different grades available, think about what it will be used for. If it's something purely functional and we couldn't care less about its cosmetic condition, like hair clippers or a cordless drill, we'd go with the cheapest option. 

If it's something for display, like a kitchen mixer, end table or wall clock, read the descriptions a little more closely and look for items that are rated Very Good or Like New. 

But honestly, a low enough price on just about anything could woo you into putting up with some scratches or scuffs. In our experience, Amazon tends to err on the side of caution, marking items as Good or Acceptable that the average person would consider Very Good or Like New.

amazon-echo-dot-cnet-gift-guide-2021

You can sometimes get Amazon Echo Dots for over 50% off their retail price.

Amazon

Beware, you may not have a warranty with your Warehouse Deal

One of the benefits of purchases made through Amazon Warehouse is that Amazon's standard 30-day replacement or refund return policy applies, which comes in handy if you wind up with a lemon. Amazon does caution that because these products are considered used they don't come with the manufacturer's original warranty.

That said, if the product hasn't already been registered in someone else's name, there's a decent chance any issues you run into past Amazon's 30-day window can be resolved with a call to the manufacturer.

Amazon Prime members still get free shipping

Subscribing to Amazon Prime won't get you a bigger discount on Amazon Warehouse Deals, but you'll get free shipping just as you would for any other Prime-eligible item, which is why we pay for Prime even though many of our purchases come from Amazon Warehouse.

Most of the stuff we bought through Amazon Warehouse ships and arrives within the same one- to two-day window we get with new items, although some orders do take longer to fulfill. If that's the case, the extra handling time is usually indicated on the listing, so you'll know what to expect.

Quick tips about buying from third-party sellers 

While wading around in the listings looking for Amazon Warehouse Deals you may have discovered even more discounted listings not sold by Amazon. What you've stumbled upon are items sold by third-party retailers whose only relationship with Amazon is that their items are for sale on Amazon's marketplace, much like eBay

Amazon's buyer protections lag considerably behind eBay's, however. eBay guarantees customers their money back in the event of a dispute, and although Amazon will ultimately do the same, its process is a bit more convoluted, so proceed with caution. Generally, if you can't find a good enough deal on Amazon Warehouse, tab over to eBay and look for the item there instead. eBay is a little more transparent about both its vendors and the merchandise they sell. If you're going to buy garage-sale used as opposed to Amazon's never-opened used, eBay may well be the better way to go.

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