Should I buy a refurbished phone?

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We explore if you should buy a refurbished phone, its pros and cons, how much you can save and where to find the best deals.

Whether it’s an iPhone, Google Pixel or Samsung, we all like to own the latest tech. But with the rising cost of living and skyrocketing mobile costs, it’s become challenging to own a newer phone model. 

One way to pay less for a mobile phone is if you buy a refurbished phone. There are common misconceptions about them being damaged but they’re a great alternative to paying full price. Sometimes, you can even grab a good warranty deal out of it. 

Wondering if it’s worth getting a refurbished phone? We look at everything you need to know before making a decision.

If you’re looking for one, scroll down to find the best refurbished phone deals. 

Alternatively, if you don’t want a handset, check out our best SIM only deals starting from just 99p per month. 

What is a refurbished phone?

In a nutshell, a refurbished phone is basically a second-hand phone that has been fixed and is being sold again. 

This means that, instead of selling a used phone in its existing condition, it has been restored to good working order. Thorough tests are carried out to check battery capacity, buttons, camera and audio quality and screen responsiveness. 

The best thing about pre-loved phones is that they’re sold at a much lower cost than their initial retail price. Plus, they’re formatted so all previous data is wiped out, meaning you’re getting pretty much a brand-new phone. 

But just because it’s refurbished does not mean that it was faulty in the first place. Sometimes, refurbished phones are those returned by customers within a cooling-off period. So it may only have had less than two weeks of use.

Wondering how this is any different from a used phone? We explain below. 

Online shopping to buy a refurbished phone. Online shopping opening box on a white background

What is the difference between a refurbished phone and a used phone?

Refurbished phones are checked and restored to good working condition and you usually get a warranty. If a used phone turns out to be faulty, you’re stuck without any protection. 

Plus, a second-hand phone could very well be brand-new or lightly used. But a used phone could have significant wear and tear, be malfunctioning and you’d still not be compensated for it. 

This could be complicated but think of it as buying a phone from someone on eBay vs through a recognised second-hand seller. There’s a certain level of safety that comes with a refurbished phone. This is not the same for a used phone. 

However, it all depends on the circumstances as you could get a decent deal on a used phone. But then again, it’s quite rare and can be considered to be a gamble.  

Pros and cons of a refurbished phone

Here are the pros and cons of buying a refurbished phone:

Pros

  • Cheaper – You could save £100s if you don’t mind not getting a slightly older model instead of a brand new phone.
  • Working condition – All second-hand phones are tested for any faults and are repaired before being sold again. This means that you’ll get a phone that almost looks brand-new. 
  • Warranty – Most come with a warranty period in case any problems arise with the handset.
  • Long-lasting – Since the phones are looked after and repaired, they’re likely to last longer than used ones.

Cons

  • No accessories – You don’t always get accessories such as earphones that were originally included with the phone. 
  • Older model – It’s difficult to get the latest model if you’re buying a refurbished phone. More often than not, you’re likely to get an older model. So you might have to wait a couple of months before you can get your hands on a newer one. 
  • Some wear and tear – Just because a phone is in good working condition, it doesn’t mean it will be flawless. There are bound to be a few blemishes, but that comes with pre-loved goods. 

Where should I buy a refurbished phone?

Check out our mobile comparison widget to buy a refurbished phone for a great deal. Prices go as low as £17.95 per month with no upfront costs for an iPhone XR. 

You can choose to filter out which mobile brand you would like from Apple, Google and Samsung. If you don’t have a preference, you can also choose to see all options. 

Then, select the amount of mobile data you will need, after which there will be options galore. 

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Should I buy directly from the manufacturer?

If you buy a refurbished phone directly from Apple or Samsung, it will be more expensive than through specialist sites. We explain how:

If you buy a refurbished phone through Apple

Ballina, Australia March 30, 2023- Apple Iphone 14 Pro Max, Brand New Unboxing of Iphone in Deep Purple

Apple sells refurbished iPhones, which you can buy directly from its website. It comes with the following features: 

  • New battery, new outer shell, one-year warranty, free delivery and returns.
  • Full functional testing, genuine Apple part replacements (if needed) and a thorough cleaning.
  • Repackaged into a new box with all accessories and cables included.

However, if you compare the prices, it is quite expensive as you can get a refurbished phone + SIM only deal for less. 

To give you an idea:

Through Apple – A 512GB 13 Pro Max will cost you £1,019 without a SIM deal. 

Through Look After My Bills – A 512GB 13 Pro Max with 100GB mobile data and unlimited minutes and texts will cost you £1,225. 

If you buy a refurbished phone through Samsung

Samsung Galaxy S23

Samsung sells Certified Pre-Owned phones with the following features: 

  • One-year warranty, charging cable, data cable and ejector pin. 
  • Everything is packed up into a brand-new box along with a handy user manual
  • Receive the same software upgrades as a brand-new phone for the next two years. 
  • Every ‘Re-Newed’ Galaxy phone is given a new battery, new unique identifiers and the latest software. 

However, if you compare the prices, it is quite expensive as you can get a refurbished phone + SIM only deal for less. 

To give you an idea:

Through Samsung – A 128GB Galaxy S20 Ultra will cost you £649 without a SIM deal. 

Through Look After My Bills – A 128GB Galaxy S20 Ultra with unlimited mobile data, minutes and texts will cost you £717. 

Are refurbished phones always in good condition?

Every refurbished phone is given a grade which tells you what its condition is. Make sure to check this before buying or else you’ll be paying more for a less effective phone. 

The grades range from A to D and are as follows: 

  • Grade A: This is basically as good as new. It’s most likely a phone that was returned within the cooling-off period. The worst it can get is a few minor signs of scuffing due to light use. 
  • Grade B: If you’re on a budget but want a new-looking phone, this is your best bet. With a few minor scratches, these phones become more affordable while still giving off a more or less brand-new feel.  
  • Grade C: These phones will look like they have been well-used. This means that you can expect around five defects like chipping or dents. 
  • Grade D: These phones will be broken or in a non-working condition. It’s beyond repair and ideally isn’t the best to buy. But you will find these on sites like eBay. 

Ideally, you shouldn’t get anything that is beyond a Grade C. Otherwise you won’t be able to make the most out of your second-hand phone. 

Does it come with new batteries?

Not all refurbished phones come with a new battery. This is because not all of them need one. If the battery capacity is at around 85%, that means the device is healthy. 

However, before it is sold, the batteries will have been thoroughly tested to make sure it fully works. Sometimes it might need replacing to be restored to its original condition. 

Do I get a warranty?

Whether you get a warranty or not depends on where you buy your second-hand phone from. Most of them do, but always check before buying one. 

If it’s from a major network or retailer like O2 or Vodafone, you’ll get a guarantee. 

Sometimes even eBay or Amazon might offer a 12-month guarantee. However, if you end up buying privately, it might be more complicated. Your warranty depends on whether it was mentioned in the phone listing or not.

How much cheaper is a refurbished phone than a new one?

You can save £100s of pounds if you buy a refurbished phone rather than a new one. This is especially true if you opt for a slightly older model. You can enjoy a much bigger discount that way. 

For example, a refurbished 128GB iPhone 14 Pro Max with unlimited mobile data costs £57 per month for 24 months. 

Whereas if you buy a brand new 256GB iPhone 15 Pro Max with unlimited mobile data, it’s for £70. This is £13 more each month and will cost you £312 more over 24 months.

Comparison between refurbished phones

Things to remember when you buy a refurbished phone

To make sure that you don’t end up getting a bad device, here are some tips to keep in mind: 

  • Buy from reputable sellers: Look at the providers’ return policies and reviews to make sure you are buying from a trustworthy seller. Plus, they are more likely to have tested and inspected the phone before selling it. 
  • Check the grading: Use the grading system to test whether your phone is in good condition before buying it. 
  • Test battery health: Avoid getting a phone with battery health that is under 80%. If this information is not readily available, speak to the seller before purchasing. 
  • Get a warranty: Aim to get at least 12 months of warranty on your phone so that any faults can be fixed. However, make sure that you also look at the return policies. 
  • Check if the cameras work: Make sure that all the cameras and features like zoom and camera modes are working properly. 
  • Set up security features: See if the facial recognition or fingerprint sensor features work and if you’re able to use them properly. 
  • Test the ports and buttons: Try to make sure that the charging and data ports are working. Also, see if the buttons are faulty or loose, as they could be a real problem sooner or later. 

Your rights when you buy a refurbished phone

When buying a refurbished phone, your consumer rights should be similar to if the phone was brand-new. 

It should come with a standard warranty, basic protection and the right to return the phone within 30 days of buying it. This is if the phone isn’t satisfactory, fit for purpose or has any undisclosed faults. 

For faults within the first six months: The retailer will have to prove that the issue wasn’t there at the point of sale.