Buying a refurbished phone: What you need to know


If you’ve lost your cell phone or it stops working, you already know that a brand-new replacement isn’t cheap. If you want to save money, buying a refurbished is an option.

But what exactly is a refurbished phone and what are the pros and cons of buying one? In this article we’ll talk about what you need to know before you buy a refurbished phone and how you can protect yourself if you decide to make the purchase.

Should you buy a refurbished phone?

First of all, you should know what a refurbished phone is and is not. Many people think it means old or second-hand. A phone that has been refurbished is one that has been returned to the retailer (or reseller) for one reason or another.

People may return phones because they don’t like the color, or they trade it in for a new one. And, yes, sometimes they are sent back due to being defective.

The retailer will typically repair the phone and run diagnostics to make sure it works like it’s supposed to. While many refurbished phones don’t come in the manufacturer’s box, they should come with the standard accessories as if it were new.

Who sells refurbished phones?

Some people think only second-hand businesses sell refurbished phones. But that’s not true: Two of the major manufacturers — Apple and Samsung — sell their products refurbished with 12-month warranties.

The issue with those like-new devices is that they are discounted, but not by much.

But there are other places to buy refurbished phones. Manufacturers like HTC, Motorola, Huawei and Nokia don’t sell their refurbished models. But you can find them from these retailers and carriers:

Major retailers and carriers who sell refurbished phones

Sellers Sample Models Details
AT&T Stores Galaxy Express AT&T sells used phones under its “Certified Restored” label online and in stores
Sprint Stores Galaxy Note 9 Sprint “pre-owned” phones are non-certified but come with 90-day warranties
T-Mobile Stores iPhone 6X Plus T-Mobile’s “Certified Pre-owned” phones come with 90-day warranty
Verizon Stores Google Pixel Verizon’s “Certified Pre-owned” phones are guaranteed to be “100% functional”
Best Buy Moto G6 All refurbished phones come certified by the Geek Squad
GameStop Samsung, iPhone Find major models like the iPhone X and more
Walmart Google Pixel 3, iPhone 6
Find all the best phones along with accessories

Aside from those retailers, there are numerous sites online that sell reconditioned phones. Reputable dealers include:

3 other things to know before you buy a refurbished phone

  • Make sure the seller takes returns: You don’t want to get stuck with a dud once your payment clears.
  • Make sure you get a warranty (typically 90 days): You’ll need some time to test the phone. No warranty, no deal.
  • Buy only from reputable vendors: If you choose to buy a refurbished phone from a reseller in a marketplace site like Amazon or eBay, make sure you only buy from vendors with a 98% or higher seller rating.

Final thought: How to make sure your refurbished phone is working properly

Once you get your phone, there are some tests you’ll want to run to make sure it’s functioning properly. Phone tester apps will run diagnostics on your device. Here are some free ones:


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