What is a refurbished phone and should you buy one?
Before you spend potentially thousands on a brand new phone, we've put together a guide on refurbished mobiles. What are they, how much do they cost and where can you buy one today?
These days, buying a new phone is a struggle. With the current cost of living crisis, a brand new handset isn't always a viable option - but that doesn't mean you have to fall behind the times when it comes to technology. Instead, you can keep up and spend less by buying a refurbished phone.
Not sure what a refurbished phone is? That's OK – the first thing you need to know is that a refurbished phone is not the same as a hand-me-down. Rather, it's a fully-functioning, state-of-the-art handset that's gone through testing and, sometimes, repair.
To explain it in full, the tech team at RadioTimes.com have put together a comprehensive guide on refurbished phones, including what they are, how much they are and where you can get them. We'll also let you know if they're worth buying with a list of pros and cons.
Here's everything you need to know.
Get a refurbished phone for just 99p at eBay
To celebrate one of the biggest phone launches of the year, eBay are offering 150 lucky shoppers the chance to snap up a refurbished phone for just 99p.
Models include iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel, and for anyone who misses out, there's also a 20% discount running until midnight on 28 September.
- What is a refurbished phone?
- How good is a refurbished phone?
- Pros and cons to buying a refurbished phone
- Where to buy a refurbished phone in the UK
- Best refurbished phone deals
A refurbished phone is essentially a second-hand phone that has been tested and restored to good working order.
This means that rather than selling a phone in its existing condition, the previous owner will have sent it back via a returns policy or sold it to a trade-in site.
The retailer will then put the phone through thorough testing and repaired any faults before selling it as refurbished or ‘pre-loved’.
Sellers often carry a wide range of refurbished phones, often up to the most recent model, offering them at prices considerably lower than their initial retail price.
Plus, all data from the previous owner will have been wiped from the device so you and your new phone can start afresh.
Most retailers have a very high standard for their collection of refurbished phones and will make sure they’re fully functioning before selling them.
The tests carried out usually involve checking that the buttons and camera are working and whether the battery charges. The seller will also check the quality of the audio, the touch screen and how well the phone connects to Wi-Fi and 4G/5G.
Moreover, just because a phone is sold as a refurb doesn’t mean it was faulty in the first place. Some phone owners may trade in their old phones for an upgrade, or simply change their mind during a 30-day returns period. In these cases, the refurbished phone is unused and, more or less, brand new.
The only real difference is that most handsets won’t be sold in new packaging and won’t contain the usual phone accessories. If you’re lucky, the retailer may send your phone with a charger and a SIM key, but the box is unlikely to have headphones or any extras.
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There is a lot to consider when it comes to a refurbished phone, so we’ve collated a list of pros and cons to help you make your decision.
- They’re cheaper – You can save hundreds of pounds by springing for a refurbished phone rather than one that’s brand new.
- They’re fully functioning – All refurbished phones go through several rounds of testing and any faults with the handset are repaired prior to selling.
- There is a warranty period – Most retailers will provide a warranty period in case you come across any problems with the phone.
- They last just as long – Most refurbished phones will last for upwards of three years, especially if they’re newer.
- No accessories – Refurbished phones are often sent in a plain box with none of the accessories that accompany a fresh phone. You will probably still get a charger but don’t hold out hope for headphones.
- It’s unlikely you’ll get the newest model – More often than not, it’s unlikely that a retailer or a phone owner will sell a phone that has just come out. If that's what you're after, you might have to wait a few months.
- The warranty will be shorter – Most new phone warranties are between 12 and 24 months, but refurbished phones will usually have a shorter time period.
- There may still be scuff marks – Just because the phone has been repaired doesn’t mean it won’t look pre-owned.
Not all manufacturers sell refurbished phones. However, mobile network providers Vodafone, O2 and giffgaff are among those who do. These sites offer the phones both for sale and for rent (much like a normal mobile phone contract) and will give you a warranty period while you get used to the new handset.
You can also find refurbished phones at more general retailers such as Currys, Argos and JD Williams. The selling site eBay in particular has an entire 'Certified Refurbished' section devoted to products that are in pristine condition and have met the standards of the original manufacturer. If you see a blue tick on the bottom of a product, don't worry - you've not stumbled onto Twitter. It means that the product has been refurbished.
Some of the best deals you can find are on technology trade-in sites like Back Market and musicMagpie, the latter of which employs a 70-step process to ensure their refurbished phones are up to scratch. MusicMagpie also offers out phones to rent for 12- or 24-month contracts and will give you the option of either a free annual upgrade or the chance to renew your contract for 10 per cent less.
To help you get an idea of how much-refurbished phones usually cost, we've collated a list of some of the most popular phones from recent years. Bear in mind that the cost of a second-hand phone depends on the quality of the refurb – if there are scratches or bumps it's going to be classed as 'Good' or 'Fair' and be cheaper than the ones that are considered 'Like New' or 'Pristine.'
Apple iPhone 11 64GB from £299.99
The iPhone 11 came out in 2019 alongside the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. It's prices started at £729 and now you are able to buy it for under £300. The iPhone 11 features a 6.1-inch display, a dual-lens camera, and an A13 Bionic chip.
Apple iPhone 11 | £279.99 (Good) at musicMagpie
Apple iPhone 11 | £309.99 (Very Good) at musicMagpie
Apple iPhone 11 | £349 (Like New) at giffgaff
Apple iPhone 12 64GB from £379.99
Apple's iPhone 12 started at prices of £699 in 2020 and received good reviews for its enhanced camera and extended battery life. After refurbishment, you can get it, in some cases, for half the price, although you may have to expect a few scratches.
Apple iPhone 12 | £379.99 (Good) at musicMagpie
Apple iPhone 12 | £459 per month (Excellent) at giffgaff
Apple iPhone 13 128GB from £599.99
Less than two years old, the iPhone 13 started off with an RRP of £779 and was the first device to include iOS 15. As a newer model, you might still have to pay a bit more for this phone, but compared to the price of a brand-new handset it's better to deal with a few scuff marks!
Apple iPhone 13 | £599.99 (Good) at giffgaff
Apple iPhone 13 | £33 per month (Great) at Vodafone
Samsung Galaxy S10 128GB from £199
With the Samsung Galaxy S23 currently on sale, the S10 can feel like a very out-dated model. But even now this phone, originally released in 2019, is known for its reliability and longevity.
Samsung Galaxy S10 | £199 (Very Good) at giffgaff
Samsung Galaxy S10 | £229 (Excellent) at musicMagpie
Samsung Galaxy S10 | £319 (Premium Pre-loved) at JD Williams
Samsung Galaxy S20 128GB
With a triple lens camera, 6.5-inch screen and a large battery, the Samsung Galaxy S20 is worth buying even now. Released in 2020, the S20 was sold with prices ranging from £799 to £1,399 depending on whether it's the S20, S20+ or S20 Ultra. You should also be aware that the S20 comes in either 4G or 5G, so make sure you know what you're buying.
Samsung Galaxy S20 | £299 (Good) at musicMagpie
Samsung Galaxy S20 | £389 (Premium Pre-loved) at JD Williams
Google Pixel 5 128GB from £144
With an original price of £599, refurbished phone buyers could see a reduction of 75 per cent on their phone costs if they go for the Google Pixel 5. This smartphone includes a strong metal casing, fast processing and 5G capabilities.
Google Pixel 5 | £144 (Fair) from Back Market
Google Pixel 5 | £186 (Excellent) from Back Market
Google Pixel 6 128GB from £339
Released in late 2021, the Google Pixel 6 was praised for its excellent cameras, superfast 5G speeds and intuitive interface. Originally priced at £599, you can get over £200 off by buying a refurbished version.
Google Pixel 6 | £339 (Good) from musicMagpie