The obvious reason to look for a refurbished phone is because you can save so much money compared to buying new. It’s also a good idea because you’ll still get a warranty (something you’ll miss out on if you buy a used phone from, say, ebay), so there’s peace of mind. Plus, it’s good for the environment (compared to buy a new phone) which makes it the greener choice.
What is a refurbished phone?
Put simply, it’s a phone someone has bought and either returned or traded in. This means it may be completely unused, or have been used for a while. And like all used devices, condition will vary depending upon how long it has been used for and how well it has been cared for.
Companies that sell refurbished phones will typically thoroughly clean the device and check that everything works as it should, so you don’t end up with a dud.
The will then sort the phones into different categories such as “Pristine” and “Very Good”. You might also see “Grade A” and “Grade B”, so it’s important to read what each grade means so you know what you’re getting.
One important thing to note is that “refurbished” doesn’t always mean that parts have been replaced or repaired.
There are, however, a few companies that do replace parts. One obvious one is Apple, and that’s why you won’t be able to tell an iPhone from Apple’s Refurbished Store apart from a brand new one. But refurbished iPhones aren’t much cheaper than new ones because of this. The other is Samsung. Samsung’s Certified Pre-Owned Store states that its refurbished phones are “completely rebuilt from scratch by the same engineers who build [its] new devices”,
Another company that actively refurbishes phones – in the UK – is Aznu. Currently it only offers iPhones and Samsung phones, but provides a 12-month warranty and a 12-month subscription to Norton 360 Deluxe. You can buy phones from Aznu’s website, but they’re also sold through Argos.
When buying a refurbished phone, make sure that you check if the phone is locked to a particular network. Most aren’t, but you should pick one that’s unlocked as you’ll be able to pop any SIM in it and use it on any mobile network.
Where to find refurbished phone deals (SIM-free)
Here are the best places we’ve found to buy a refurbished phone. Some retailers currently have special promotions available for the Jubilee bank holiday weekend:
MusicMagpie – extra 15% off certain handsets, using the code LEARN15Amazon Renewed (Also look out for Amazon Warehouse deals)Reboxed – use our code MACWORLD15 for £15 offBack Market – includes a 30-day return policyAznu – Save £10 by signing up to the newsletterEnvirofoneBT ShopHandtec – (on 5 September use code ENDSSOON for £15 off when you spend over £150)4GadgetsSmartfone Store Refurb-PhoneThe Big Phone Store – get £30 of accessories and next-day delivery with any iPhoneLaptops DirectAppliances Direct
Where to buy refurbished phones on contract
You can also pick up refurbished handsets on a monthly contract from network operators including:
Carphone Warehouse Fonehouse GiffGaff Mobiles.co.uk O2 Like New Vodafone
However, here are our picks for the very best deals on refurbished phones we’ve found this month.
Top Refurbished Phone Deals
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (128GB, refurbished)
The iPhone 13 Pro Max superseded it last autumn, but this chunky discount on a refurbished 12 Pro Max is pretty appealing. You can also get the 256GB model for £729.
Apple iPhone 12 (128GB) – Refurbished
From: Apple Refurbished Store
Apple’s refurbished iPhone 12 is £110 cheaper than a new one, and £190 cheaper than when the iPhone 12 originally launched – it was £799 back then.
Apple iPhone 12 mini (64GB) – Refurbished
This price is for a Good condition model, which means noticeable wear and tear, but for a £210 saving compared to the iPhone 12 mini’s original RRP.
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (128GB) – Amazon Renewed
The price on last year’s Galaxy S21 has dropped a long way now that the S22 range has arrived – and you can save even more when you buy refurbished from Amazon.
This is for the Phantom Violet colour: others are more expensive.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus 5G (128GB) – Refurbished
From: Amazon Renewed
Pick up 2019’s S20 Plus 5G for over £700 less than the original launch price.
Apple iPhone 11 (64GB) – Fair condition
From: Back Market
Back Market is one of the newest retailers to offer refurbished phones. The company offers a 30-day refund policy if you change your mind along with a 12-month warranty.Its price on a refurbished iPhone 11 in a ‘Fair’ condition is a solid deal if you don’t mind signs of wear and tear, though the slightly pricier ‘Good’ option offers a great saving too.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max (64GB, unlocked) – Refurbished
From: Back Market
The iPhone 11 Pro Max is no longer available from Apple, but cost £1049 at release, which means this deal saves you over £670 on an unlocked, refurbished phone in ‘Good’ condition.
Back Market also offers free delivery and a 12-month warranty.
Amazon Renewed is Amazon’s marketplace for seller-refurbished handsets. The devices there are extensively “inspected, tested, and cleaned by Amazon-qualified suppliers” and include a one-year warranty.
Benefits of buying from third-party sellers (compared to buying refurbished from the manufacturer) include a greater variety of stock and more competitive prices – but watch out for the grade!
What do refurbished grades mean?
Each retailer seems to have its own grading system, which means a ‘Good’ condition phone from one might be in very different condition to a ‘Good’ phone bought from another.
That’s why it’s crucial to read the description of what each grade means on the retailer’s website.
Some start their grading at ‘Good’ (which means the worst condition they sell) and go up to Excellent or Like New.
Others are more honest, calling phones with obvious signs of wear and tear ‘Fair’ condition. Others still use A1, A2 and A3, or other systems that aren’t so obvious.
Refurbished vs second-hand or used – what’s the difference?
There’s a difference between buying refurbished and simply buying second-hand. While refurbished devices are technically pre-owned, they are repaired and reconditioned to work like new. Buying a second-hand phone, however, means you get the device as is, which means the lifespan may not last as long.
Refurbished phones often come with a one-year warranty no matter where you buy from – in fact, we’d urge you to take a look at the warranty policy before you buy. Ensure there is one!
Read our guide to Refurbished vs Used, where we look at which is better and why.
If you’d still prefer to buy new, but are on a budget, check out our round-up of the best budget phones.