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Refurbished phones: What are they and where can you get them?

Refurbished phones are often as good as new ones, but much cheaper!
By
December 11, 2021
2019 camera shootout

Buying high-end smartphones is getting more and more expensive. Unless you wait for special sales and promotions, expect to pay at least $1,000 for a new flagship device. This makes refurbished phones all that more exciting.

This article looks into what refurbished phones are and where you can buy them. We also have some tips and tricks to help you make a better purchase decision. You might also want to look at our list of the best cheap phones around if you want something new. Even mid-tier smartphones perform amazingly nowadays, so the list we link to below is worth a look.

Read more: Here is a list of the best cheap Android phones you can buy

The best refurbished phones stores:

Editor’s note: We will regularly update this list with more refurbished phone stores.


What are refurbished phones?

Money Stock Photo 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Refurbished phones come with some stigma around them. Lower prices may imply 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 that describe the same thing most of the time.

These terms mean that someone previously purchased the phone and returned it to the manufacturer, wireless carrier, or retailer. There was often nothing wrong with these phones even before they were “repaired”; the customer may have decided they didn’t like it. The refurbished phone may have had some hardware problem or manufacturing defect in other cases. Regardless, the phone can be 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 needed to get it up to “like-new” condition were done by the original manufacturer, as opposed to a third party. This is typically preferred for consumers. However, third-party refurbished phones can still be a good deal. Just shop carefully.

Refurbished phones are basically like new, but you get them at a discount. John Callaham

When it comes to refurbished phones compared to new phones, there’s really no other difference beyond the fact it was lightly used before getting to you (if, in fact, it was 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 steep discount.


Here’s what to keep in mind when shopping for refurbished phones

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If you want to save some money by going this route, you need to keep some things in mind. 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 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 imperative when you’re buying a phone. A typical 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 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.


Swappa

Swappa logo on smartphone with devices on background stock
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

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. 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 pay it or request that they lower the cost. Overall, this is an excellent and trustworthy place to buy from.


Gazelle

Gazelle

This is one of the best-known places to buy refurbished phones. You can also return any phone you buy on Gazelle within 30 days of purchase and get your money back. The company also offers device protection plans, so you can get another layer of reassurance. Gazelle offered a trade-in program where you could send over your old phones and earn cashback. However, Gazelle recently did away with that service. If that is what you are looking for, you might want to see if there is an ecoATM available in your neck of the woods.


Decluttr

The folks at Decluttr want you to sell your old phone and possibly buy a device 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.


Amazon

Amazon stock photo 4
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

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. These come with at least a 90-day supplier warranty for renewed products. But Amazon also offers Renewed Premium devices for some devices (including iPhones), which come with a full-year warranty.

Also: What is Amazon Renewed?


Best Buy

Best Buy - Refurbished phones
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Best Buy also offers 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. Best Buy devices have been “repaired and restored to a like-new state” and also come with their accessories, along with a warranty.


Mobile carriers

ATT logo stock image 1 - Refurbished phones
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Several US wireless carriers (including AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile) 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.

Also read: These are the best cell phone plans in the USA


eBay

eBay stock photo 3 - Refurbished phones
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

If you are willing to do a little more research and take a risk on merchants 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

Walmart logo on phone - Buy refurbished phones
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

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 that you can shop in peace.


Samsung refurbished phones

samsung galaxy s20 plus review samsung logo 1 - Refurbished phones

If you are a Samsung phone fan, you might like hearing the company has its own refurbished phones. At a significant discount too.

Next: These are the best Samsung phones you can buy

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.


Apple refurbished phones

iPhone 13 Pro on MacBook Air tilted - Refurbished phones
Gary Sims / Android Authority

Hate it or love it, Apple has amazing 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.

Also: Which is the best iPhone for your needs?

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.


If you’re not convinced with the idea of buying a refurbished device, you might also consider getting a used phone. Doing this has its set of dangers, though. Check out our guide to get the best chances at a pleasant used phone purchase.

Next: How to buy a used phone