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If you’ve ever looked at a phone and thought that’s just too expensive, you’re most definitely not the only one. Buying new phones is certainly an investment, especially when it comes to flagship devices. This another option however: buying refurbished.

Refurbished phones are almost always significantly cheaper than brand new versions of the same phones in question. If you can find one that meets your specifications and works with the carrier of your choice, that is. Unfortunately, confusion in the market – like where to buy these phones, what different labels mean, and whether or not to trust a refurbished phone’s authenticity – have made them less popular than one would think.

So let’s break down that confusion, shall we?

Who refurbishes these phones?

lg v20 drop test 15

This poor LG V20 is in need of some OEM refurbishing love!

Not all refurbished phones are necessarily created equal. There are several things to consider when purchasing a refurbished device. One question you’ll likely find yourself asking is who refurbishes these phones? And the answer is not always simple.

Who refurbishes a phone is typically contingent on who is selling this refurbished phone. Factory-refurbished devices are sent back to the manufacturer of the phone for testing and restoration, restoring these devices to the same level you should expect out of the box with a brand-new device. These phones come sometimes from unsatisfied customers returning their newly-purchased handsets with absolutely nothing wrong, and other times are from insurance companies after a customer makes a claim for, for example, a cracked screen. Often times, manufacturers will call these devices “certified refurbished” and offer limited warranties against product failure for them as well.

Another kind of refurbished device that’s fairly popular is one that has been refurbished by some entity that isn’t the original manufacturer of the device. These are typically cheaper, but come with the downsides of oftentimes not carrying warranties and not having the peace of mind that manufacturer certification gives. Though it’s true that these devices often work just as well as manufacturer-refurbished counterparts, it’s worth being more skeptical of companies like these – long story short, do your research and make sure you’re going down a trusted path.

A final classification you’ll find is pre-owned. Pre-owned devices are typically second-hand products that have had no modifications made to them following the last user’s use of the phone. Buying pre-owned can get you phones in any one of a number of conditions, so be careful that you know you’re purchasing a pre-owned product in a condition you are okay with. Also be very cautious about the source of pre-owned devices; many phones on the pre-owned market will be stolen or otherwise tampered with, so make sure you’re buying from a reputable retailer.

So where should you buy refurbished devices?

samsung refurbished pre-owned store

If you have a phone in mind, one good place to check is always the manufacturer; many manufacturers offer refurbished device programs of their own, and you’re almost always going to receive a like-new device with a good warranty if you buy directly from the OEM. A prime example of this is Samsung, a company that recently started offering refurbished devices directly in the United States.

You can also sometimes find manufacturer refurbs at carriers or retail stores. A pro-tip is that you will typically find more options online than in retail stores, though both are worth a shot.

Over the last several years, several online retailers have also rose in popularity offering pre-owned and/or refurbished devices for sale. eBay comes to mind as a classic option, and so do smaller options like Swappa and Gazelle. Again, be sure that wherever you’re buying from is a reputable option – that means that Craigslist may not quite be the best option for your next phone purchase.

Here’s just a few well-known and trust retailers that offer a pretty extensive selection of refurbished devices, to help you out:

Conclusion

The upshot is that buying refurbished will save you a lot of dough in most cases, and if you’re buying from the right places your phone won’t be any different than a new device either. Doing your homework before your next purchase can land you a deal that may be too difficult to refuse – but do keep in mind that it’s a wild west out there in the land of pre-owned and refurbished phones. Make sure to keep all the considerations in this piece in mind in order to make an informed purchase.

Do you think your next phone will be pre-owned or refurbished? Sound off in the comments!