A Guide To Buying Refurbished Phones

If you’re not in the market to buy a brand-new mobile, a refurbished or second-hand handset might be right for you. But what exactly are refurbished phones and how are they different from second-hand phones and nearly new phones? We explain.

If you’re not in the market to buy a brand-new mobile, a refurbished or second-hand handset might be right for you. But what exactly are refurbished phones and how are they different from second-hand phones and nearly new phones? We explain.

Holly Niblett
From the Digital team
5
minute read
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Posted 22 FEBRUARY 2021

Why should I be interested in buying a refurbished or second-hand phone?

Mobile phones can be pricey, especially at the top of the range with handsets like the iPhone 12 for example. If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive new smartphone, a refurbished phone could give you the handset you want for much less.

Plus, there’s the environment to think about. A refurbished phone or second-hand phone means you’re using a handset that’s already been manufactured, whereas the manufacturing of new phones can have an impact on the environment.

What’s the difference between a refurbished phone and a second-hand phone?

Buying a refurbished or second-hand phone can save you money. But while a second-hand phone may be cheaper, buying one can also be riskier.

  • Second-hand phones are simply phones that have been previously owned. They’re usually (but not always) sold by the owner. You’ll easily find them online, on sites like eBay, Gumtree and Amazon Marketplace. And there are sites that specialise in second-hand phones.
  • Refurbished and nearly new smartphones will be sold by the manufacturer or retailer
  • Refurbished phones should be in good condition. Second-hand phones could be in any condition.
  • You should get a warranty with a refurbished phone. You won’t get a warranty on a second-hand phone unless the original one is still in date.
  • While a refurbished phone may come with some or all of its accessories, a second-hand phone may not come with any.

What is a refurbished phone?

A refurbished phone is one that’s been sent back to the retailer because of a fault, then been repaired so that it can be resold.

But this definition isn’t set in stone. Some phones described as refurbished won’t have had a fault, and you’ll see all sorts of phrases used to describe them, including reconditioned phones and pre-owned phones.

You need to check with the retailer you’re buying the phone from to find out exactly what they mean by terms like ‘refurbished phone’, ‘reconditioned phone’ and ‘nearly new phone’.

Are there any disadvantages of a refurbished phone?

One of the disadvantages of refurbished phones is that they may have imperfections. They’re often graded to give an idea of what condition they’re in:

  • Grade A: perfect condition, with its box and accessories.
  • Grade B: slight damage, in its box and with accessories.
  • Grade C: working, but more worn and possibly without its accessories.

Sellers use different versions of these grades, so check exactly what they mean before you buy.

What should you look for when buying a second-hand phone?

It’s wise to have a good idea of what you’re looking for and compare prices before you buy.

If you’re meeting the seller in person, you’ll have the chance to have a good look at the phone and you can test it if you take a portable battery along with you. You might also want to test a SIM card in the phone to make sure it works.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, remember to take the necessary health precautions, including wearing a face mask and use hand sanitiser before and after you test the product.

If you then buy the phone, you’ll also want to wipe down the screen. Remember that depending on what Covid tier you're in, and during periods of national lockdown, meeting the seller face to face may not be possible. Always stick to the Government's Coronavirus guidance and rules.

If you’re buying online, look for listings that show plenty of pictures of the phone, and online sellers with positive feedback. For example, on eBay, buyers rate the seller with feedback scores.

To make sure the phone isn’t stolen, look up the phone’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number. Depending on the model of phone, you can often find the IMEI number within your phone’s Settings menu. Once you have the IMEI number to hand, you can go to an IMEI number-checking website to see if the phone is reported stolen. Just make sure the site is trustworthy before you use it.

Do refurbished phones come with a warranty?

Most refurbs come with a warranty, but you should check how long it lasts before agreeing to a deal.

The guarantee is usually provided by whoever refurbished the phone. If that’s the manufacturer, you can contact them directly when a problem arises. You also have rights with the retailer too.

Most warranties vary according to the grade of the refurbishment.

What does nearly new phone mean?

A nearly new phone is one that’s been returned to the retailer within a specified time, within the cooling-off period. They’ve usually been returned simply because the customer has changed their mind, and the phone may or may not have been used.

Nearly new phones should be in perfect condition, without any scratches or marks, but as they’re not technically brand new, they can’t be sold at full price. You should also get the same warranties on a nearly-new phone as you’d get with a brand-new phone. But double check this when buying your phone, particularly if you’re not buying it from a major retailer.

Will a refurbished phone work?

Refurbished phones and nearly new phones will be thoroughly checked and tested. Any data on them will have been wiped in line with the Data Protection Act (of course, a nearly new phone might not have been used at all). It should be just like having a completely new phone.

Do refurbished and nearly new phones come with accessories?

A nearly new phone should come with its accessories. A refurbished phone may include some. With both, the retailer should state exactly what you’re going to get.

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