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Refurbished phones: What are they and where can you buy them?
Buying a high-end smartphone is getting more and more expensive these days. 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 exciting.
This article looks into refurbished phones 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.
A refurbished phone is a lightly used phone that has been returned by a customer, inspected and repaired by the manufacturer/retailer, and labeled as "refurbished" or "renewed" to be sold at a discount compared to the retail price of a new phone. You can buy refurbished and renewed phones from Swappa, Amazon, Samsung, Apple, carriers, and other retailers.
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What are refurbished phones?
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 and returned it within the return window. 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.
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 instead of a third party. Consumers typically prefer this. 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 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
If you want to save money by going this route, you must 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 a warranty with the purchase. This indicates confidence from the retailer’s end about the condition of the device, as well as gives you some added peace of mind just in case something does go wrong. 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. It may also indicate if any box accessories are missing.
What’s the best place to buy these phones? There are plenty of places where you can purchase them. They include well-known retailers, wireless carriers, smartphone makers, and companies that exclusively sell refurbished phones.
The best refurbished phones stores:
Editor’s note: We will regularly update this list with more refurbished phone stores.
This online second-hand shop originally only sold tablets and phones, making it a great place to find quality products. The service has improved 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.
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. If you want an all-in-one solution for selling your phone, too, you can easily trade it in through Gazelle. The company also works with ecoATM to buy used devices, so you might not even need to ship your old phone in before purchasing another device.
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.
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 under the Amazon Renewed program. 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.
Best Buy also offers a trade-in program for consumers to turn in older phones. 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.
Several US wireless carriers (including AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile) sell refurbished phones, although their selection is 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 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 buy has some kind of warranty, and check out any fine print before spending your hard-earned cash.
That said, eBay itself refurbished and sells phones. These come with an impressive two-year warranty, a money-back guarantee, and full refunds if returned before 30 days. Going with official eBay refurbished phones is arguably as safe as any other competitor on this list.
Walmart is one of the largest retail chain stores; chances are you have a store nearby. They also offer refurbished phones at great prices if you trust the brand. Their selection is pretty wide too. You get a 90-day minimum warranty on these products and accessories, so you can shop in peace.
Samsung refurbished phones
If you are a Samsung phone fan, you might like to hear the company has its own refurbished phones. At a significant discount too.
The good news is that Samsung’s technicians have fixed these older phones. The company offers a one-year warranty. It also helps that all parts are genuine; every user gets a new battery, Samsung changes the IMEI and SIM card, and you get a brand new box. If you can wait a few months after a new Samsung flagship launch, you can even pick a returned unit at an impressively low price.
Apple refurbished phones
Hate it or love it, Apple has fantastic 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. Even better, Apple takes things a step further and provides a whole new outer shell, so your phone will look brand new. It’ll also include a new box with all the included accessories, and, of course, all repairs will include genuine Apple parts.
If you’re not convinced by 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.
Yes. Refurbished phones are functionally identical to new phones.
A refurbished phone will last just as long as a new phone will.
Refurbished phones have some small disadvantages. Namely, they come with a smaller warranty period. This may affect the confidence you as a consumer may have in the product. You also may not spot the latest smartphone immediately available as a refurbished phone, meaning you may have to wait. Naturally, you also do not get any pre-order deals and discounts, though you do start off with a lower price than the current retail price of the phone. If you like to buy insurance on your phone, some insurers may not offer this service on refurbished phones. And lastly, depending on the grade of refurbishing, there may be minor signs of use on your device, like a light scratch or blemish.