Buying high-end smartphones is getting expensive. Unless you wait for special sales and promotions, you can end up paying a ton, and it’s now common to break the $1,000 threshold. That’s why many consumers are opting to save cash buying refurbished phones.
In this article, we take a look into what refurbished phones are and which retailers sell them. We also give you a few tips and tricks that will help you make your purchase decision.
Also note that a great option is to buy one of the best cheap phones around. Even mid-tier smartphones perform amazingly nowadays, so the list we are linking to below is worth a look too.
The best refurbished phones stores:
Editor’s note: We will update this list with more refurbished phones stores as they are launched.
What are refurbished phones, anyway?
Refurbished phones come with some stigma. The lower prices implies, to some, that there’s something wrong with the phone. You may also have seen them presented as “pre-owned,” “renewed,” or “reconditioned.” There are also “open box” phones. These are all interchangeable terms describing the same thing.
All of these terms mean that someone previously purchased the phone and then returned it to the maker, wireless carrier, or retailer. Many times there was nothing wrong with these phones even before they were “repaired”; the person may have simply decided he didn’t like it. In other cases, the refurbished phone may have had some kind of hardware problem, like a display that popped out or a cracked case. Regardless, the phone was fixed and sold again as a “refurbished” item.
Read next: Selling a used phone: do’s and don’ts
But what does “manufacturer refurbished” mean? The difference with a manufacturer refurbished phone is that the repairs that were needed to get it up to “like new” condition were done directly by the original manufacturer, as opposed to a third party. This is typically preferred, but third-party refurbished phones are still a good deal. Just shop carefully.
Refurbished phones are basically like new, but you get them at a discount.
When it comes to refurbished phones vs new phones, there’s really no other difference beyond the fact it was lightly used before getting to you (if used at all). A refurbished phone should work just like new. It’s not technically a “new” product anymore, so the term “refurbished” signals that distinction. That’s why such phones can be such a great deal — they’re basically like new, but you get them at a discount.
Here’s what to keep in mind when shopping for refurbished phones
If you want to save some money by going this route, you need to keep some things in mind. In fact, you’ll want to do more research than if you were buying a new device.
- Check for a warranty – If the phone you want truly has no issues, the smartphone maker or retailer will include some kind of warranty with the purchase. When it doesn’t come with a warranty, there’s a bigger chance something will be wrong with it out of the box.
- Try to buy one from the company that originally made the phone – Many times, a phone manufacturer will have some handsets that are perfectly fine. The original owner returned them for some unknown reason. They’ll often try to resell them as refurbished phones on their official website. This is probably the easiest way for you to save some money.
- Always read the fine print – You should do this anyway with any large purchase, but it’s especially important when you’re buying a refurbished phone. A common red flag is a phone marked “as is.” Reading the fine print might reveal that you can’t return the phone or get a refund if anything isn’t working.
What’s the best place to buy refurbished phones? There are actually plenty of places where you can purchase them. They include well-known retailers, wireless carriers, and smartphone makers, along with companies that sell refurbished phones exclusively.
This online second-hand shop originally only sold tablets and phones, making it a great place to find quality products. The service has become even better by adding gaming, laptops, cameras, and VR to the mix. Basically, it’s sort of like eBay, in that there’s a mix of dedicated businesses and individual private sellers you can negotiate with to find that perfect deal. The big difference is that the seller sets a price and you can simply pay it, or you can request that they lower the price. Overall, this is a great and trustworthy place to buy from.
This is one of the best known places to buy refurbished phones. The company also buys old phones from consumers and fixes them to sell, naturally, at a discount. The company says it doesn’t sell these phones unless they are “fully functional” and have been through a 30-point quality inspection. You can also return any phone you buy on Gazelle within 30 days of purchase and get your money back. It lacks a formal warranty, but Gazelle has a solid reputation for offering high-quality products at great discounts.
The folks at Decluttr want you to sell your old phone, and then possibly buy a “new” refurbished phone from them. They offer a 12-month limited warranty on all the phones they sell. Also, these devices undergo a 70-point inspection before they go on sale on its site. Of course, you can sell your old phones and Decluttr may even take them if they are broken in some way.
It’s not a shock to learn that Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is also a great place to shop for refurbished phones. Like Gazelle, Amazon buys old phones from consumers, offering Amazon gift cards as payment. It then resells the older phones after testing them and making them both work and look like new. They also come with at least a 90-day supplier warranty.
5. Best Buy
Best Buy joins Gazelle and Amazon by offering a trade-in program for consumers to turn in older phones in exchange for Best Buy gift cards. The retailer also sells refurbished phones on its website, along with what it calls “pre-owned” phones.
If a phone on Best Buy has that label, it means it is “fully functional with some cosmetic blemishes” and comes with a non-original package with a charger and a data cable, along with a 90-day warranty. A refurbished phone at Best Buy has been “repaired and restored to a like-new state” and also comes with its accessories, along with a warranty.
6. Mobile carriers
A number of US wireless carriers (including AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint) sell some refurbished phones, although their selection tends to be pretty small compared to Gazelle, Amazon, and Best Buy. However, they are all certified to work like new phones, even if some of them might have some cosmetic blemishes. These won’t affect their functionality.
If you are willing to do a little more research, and also more willing to take a risk on merchants that you may not be familiar with, eBay is a great place to check out a ton of offers. Again, our rules for buying such phones really matter when you dive into the murky waters of eBay. Make sure the phone you are buying has some kind of warranty, and be sure to check out any fine print before spending your hard-earned cash.
Walmart is one of the largest retail chain stores and chances are you have a store nearby. If you trust the brand, they also offer refurbished phones at great prices. Their selection is pretty wide too. And you get a 90-day minimum warranty on these products and accessories, so you can shop in peace.
If you are a Samsung phone fan, you might be pleased to know that the company actively sells refurbished Galaxy phones on its website. At a significant discount too.
The good news is that Samsung’s technicians have fixed these older phones. And the company offers a one-year warranty, new headphones, and a charger. The bad news is that these phones are older than the company’s current offerings.
Hate it or love it, Apple is known for its quality customer service, making them one of the best refurbished phone sellers.
Hate it or love it, Apple is known for its quality customer service, making them one of the best refurbished phone sellers. That is one thing no one can bash them about, so when shopping for certified phones, this is one brand you can’t ignore. Especially if you are an iPhone fan.
All Apple refurbished products come with a standard one-year limited warranty. What’s even better is you can protect them with Apple Care coverage, granting even more peace of mind.
So should you consider refurbished vs new? The answer comes down to how you feel about using something that isn’t technically new. As you can see, there are tons of options out there if you want to save yourself some money. You’ll have to do more research to make sure you get a refurbished phone that’s up to your standards. But that may be a small price to pay for the cash you’ll save in the long run.