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.
In this article, we take a look into what refurbished phones are and where you can buy them. We also have some tips and tricks that will 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 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 phone stores regularly.
What are refurbished phones?
Refurbished phones come with some stigma around them. The 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’s 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 then returned it to the manufacturer, wireless carrier, or retailer. Very often, there was nothing wrong with these phones even before they were “repaired”; the customer may have simply decided they didn’t like it. In other cases, the refurbished phone may have had some hardware problem or manufacturing defect. 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.
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
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 imperative 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. 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 used to offer a trade-in program where you could send over your old phones and get 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
If you are a Samsung phone fan, you might be pleased to know 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. 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. 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.