Alternative n-type buffer layer such as In2S3 has been proposed as a Cd-free alternative in kesterite Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4 (CZTSSe) solar cells. In this study, optical and electronic characterization techniques together with device analysis and simulation were used to assess nanoparticle-based CZTSSe absorbers and solar cells with CdS and In2S3 buffers. Photoluminescence spectroscopy indicated that CZTSSe absorbers with In2S3 buffer had a lower density of detrimental non-radiative defects and a higher concentration of copper vacancies V+Cu, responsible for p-type conductivity in CZTSSe, in comparison to the absorber with CdS buffer. Capacitance–voltage (C–V) measurements revealed that the In2S3 buffer-based CZTSSe devices had a three times higher apparent doping density and a consequently narrower space charge region than devices with a CdS layer. This resulted in poorer collection of photo-generated charge carriers in the near-IR region despite a more favorable band alignment as determined by x-ray photoelectron and inverse photoelectron spectroscopy. The presence of interfacial defect states in In2S3 devices as determined by C–V and biased quantum efficiency measurements is also responsible for the loss in open-circuit voltage compared with reference devices with CdS.