5 Things To Know Before You Buy a Refurbished Phone

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Sooner or later, there comes a time when you’re going to have to replace your cell phone. Because you want the best cell phone deal you can find, it makes sense to consider a refurbished phone.

Aside from substantial savings, you’re going to want to make sure that the device you’re considering is an unlocked phone that the seller has certified to work and comes with a warranty.

Thinking About Buying a Refurbished Phone? Read This

Many people think “refurbished” means old or second-hand, but that’s not always the case. 

Buying a refurbished phone is a great way to save money on a device. Money expert Clark Howard is a big fan of buying refurbished phones, particularly when new iPhone models are released because of their effect on older devices.

“The value of used iPhones will be much, much lower … and you’ll be able to find people’s used and now unloved iPhone at a lower price than they would have been before,” he says.

Are you thinking about buying a refurbished phone? If so, here are five things to know before you buy.

1. What Is a Refurbished Phone?

A refurbished phone is one which a retailer, network or manufacturer has repaired and inspected to make sure it works like new.

A refurbished phone typically has been reconditioned into working order and put on sale for a discounted price. It is common for many refurbished phones to be in perfect working condition but have superficial blemishes or knicks. Sometimes, they aren’t shipped in the manufacturer’s original box or package but may come with the standard accessories as if they were new.

A phone that has been refurbished could also have been returned to the retailer (or reseller) for one reason or another. In those instances, they typically come with warranties, but more on that later.

2. Should You Buy a Refurbished Phone?

If you want to save money on your next phone and keep many of the same features of a brand-new device, buying a refurbished phone makes sense – but you should know what you’re buying. 

If you’re thinking about buying a refurbished phone, there are some things you need to consider. Here are a few:

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Price

Of course, one of the most important things to consider is price. We’ve established that refurbished phones are cheaper than their brand-new counterparts but by how much? 

As an example, a brand-new iPhone 14 Pro costs $1,099 (256GB) on Apple’s website.

new iPhone 14 Pro for sale
Screenshot via apple.com

In contrast, the same phone just a few generations earlier – the iPhone 11 Pro – costs $599 on Apple.com. That’s a $450 savings on a device with very similar specs and features.

Scratches

When considering whether to buy a refurbished phone, you should expect some minor scratches or marks. Reputable online sellers will disclose such information in the product description.

If scuffs and other marks are something you’re not comfortable with, buying a refurbished phone is not for you.

Accessories

A major factor in buying a refurbished phone is whether you’ll be able to find accessories you need that may not come with your refurbished phone. 

Some pre-owned devices are sold without a charger or other add-ons. That means you may have to spend additional funds to get these items. Before you purchase, you should make sure the accessories you need are available.

Can Refurbished Phones Be Trusted?

Refurbished phones can be trusted if you purchase them from trustworthy and reputable companies. I have purchased four different models of iPhones that were refurbished, but you can buy Android phones as well.

My go-to site for refurbished phones is Amazon Renewed, which offers certified devices. The site has never let me down, but we’ll talk more about how to tell a reputable seller later.

Read my in-depth review of Amazon Renewed and how I saved money.

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3. What Types of Refurbished Phones Can You Find?

You can get some of the most popular models like the Google Pixel and Galaxy Note 20 that are a couple of generations old for cheap online.

Manufacturers like HTC, Motorola, Huawei and Nokia don’t sell their refurbished models. But you can find them from other retailers and carriers.

4. What Site Is Best for Refurbished Phones?

Unlike just a few years ago, there’s no shortage of places to buy a refurbished phone nowadays. Some people think only second-hand businesses sell refurbished phones, but that’s not true: Two of the major phone manufacturers — Apple and Samsung — sell their products refurbished with 12-month warranties.

I researched several certified refurbished phone retailers to see what they offered as of January 2023. Below you’ll see retailers, the types of phones they offer and warranty information.

SellersSample ModelsDetails
AT&TiPhone XR, Galaxy S10eAT&T sells used phones under its “Certified Pre-Owned” label online and in stores. Warranty typically 14 days.
AmazonTCL 30XL, Google Pixel 7 ProAmazon Renewed comes with at least a 90-day guarantee on its products.
VerizonMotorola Edge+, Apple iPhone 12, Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5GVerizon’s “Certified Pre-owned” phones are guaranteed to be “100% functional” with 90-day warranty.
Best BuyGalaxy S21 5G, Galaxy S22, iPhone XS, Pixel 5All refurbished phones come certified by the Geek Squad, the retailer’s tech support staff. Warranty is 90 days.
Walmart RestoredApple iPhone 11, iPhone 12 Pro Max, Galaxy Note20, Comes with original accessories and a 90-day warranty

Aside from those retailers, there are numerous sites online that sell reconditioned phones (and some of these sites are the best places to buy unlocked phones as well as the best places to sell your cell phone. Reputable dealers include:

For the latest deals, check out ClarkDeals to find refurbished deals for less.

5. How To Protect Yourself Before You Buy a Refurbished Phone

Buy Only From Reputable Sellers

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. Here are a couple of things to look for:

  • A high feedback score: On eBay, a yellow star means that the seller has at least 10 positive feedback ratings. Learn more here.
  • Negative comments: Read any unfavorable remarks about the seller; reviews can warn you of potential problems with that vendor’s products or customer service.

Make Sure the Seller Takes Returns 

One of the first things you want to look for besides price is the seller’s return policy. A good return policy gives you a full refund, not a credit. You don’t want to get stuck with a dud. Before you buy a mobile device you’ve found on Amazon or any other site, make sure you can return it.

Get a Warranty (Typically 90 Days)

Make sure the refurbished phone you want to buy has a warranty. What separates good refurbished phones from others is the warranty. No warranty, no deal.

Not only does a warranty protect you in case the phone is defective, but it allows you time to test the phone (more on that in a bit).

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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:

For Android:

For iPhone:

Final Thoughts

Now that you know that buying a refurbished phone can actually be a pretty good deal, remember that you have to do your due diligence to find one you like.

A refurbished phone doesn’t mean it’s defective or even that it used to be. People may return phones because they don’t like the color or trade it in for new ones. (And, yes, sometimes they are sent back due to being defective).

If you’re thinking about buying a refurbished phone, the more research you do on the front end, the more comfortable you’ll feel about the process and product.

Buying a refurbished phone is a great way to save money on a mobile device, but it’s not the only way. Read our in-depth guide on how to lower your cell phone bill.

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