Should You Buy A Refurbished Mobile Phone?

Should You Buy A Refurbished Mobile Phone?

Merchandised smartphones on display.
Reading Time: 6 minutes

With phones skyrocketing in price, more and more consumers are looking for ways to save money on their upgrades. Fewer consumers are locking themselves into long term cell phone contracts. Previously, you would lock yourself into a cell phone contract for two years for a subsidized phone. These phones have become too expensive and bills have been increasing, as well. 

More consumers than ever before are looking to buy phones outright without the contract attached. However, not many consumers want to spend north of $1,000 on a smartphone. This has led to a rise in refurbished phone sales. 

There’s a lot of confusion as to what refurbished means. If you’ve thought about buying a refurbished phone and you are wondering the pros and cons of doing so, you’ve come to the right place. Today, the experts behind WirelessWizard will help you understand what refurbished actually entails, why you should care, and how to spot a good product to buy.

What Does ‘Refurbished’ Mean?

Many consumers misunderstand the various labeled conditions of electronics. Many assume refurbished and used are used interchangeably. As a result, they’re turned away from the thought of using electronics that have been refurbished. 

Refurbished is a blanket term that can be used to describe electronics that have been returned to the manufacturer by either the end-consumer or the distributor/retailer. This product could have been returned due to a fault with the phone itself or even because the packaging had been damaged. 

Regardless of the reason for returning, the phone won’t be recirculated until it’s fully tested and certified. Some sellers do try to use the term “seller refurbished” to get around the true definition of refurbished. Because of this, you’re getting a thoroughly tested, professionally cleaned, and repackaged phone.

Used vs Refurbished Phone: What’s the Difference?

Many use these two terms interchangeably when it’s far from the case. A used phone is a phone that has been used by the end-consumer, hence hasn’t been tested, cleaned, or repackaged by the manufacturer or a third-party company that works with the manufacturer in question. Because of this, quality control with used electronics like phones can vary considerably. After all, anyone can sell the smartphone they’ve been using—no need to clean it, test it, or even repackage it. Thus, you’re taking a risk that the smartphone is being sold in working condition.

With a refurbished phone, you can bet on getting a phone that looks like-new. Generally, you won’t even find a lot of cosmetic damage on refurbished phones. While you can find some that will show signs of wear and tear, the physical damage will in no way affect the performance of the phone. Therefore, you’ll benefit from having a phone that has been thoroughly tested by either the manufacturer or a designated third-party.

Reasons You Might Want a Refurbished Smartphone

There are a variety of reasons you may want to consider getting a refurbished smartphone. Nowadays, smartphones can cost a lot of money. When buying a smartphone brand new, you can expect to pay nearly a thousand dollars—if not more. Unfortunately, like other electronics, the value of your gadget depreciates as soon as you break the seal. What if you found a way to decrease the hit you would take with depreciation while getting a phone that’s a fraction of the cost? That’s exactly what you can get with refurbished phones.

As long as you’re willing to live with the potential for some cosmetic damage, you can save a lot of money by opting for a refurbished smartphone over a brand new one. Best of all, you may even find that the smartphone you get is much more reliable than what you’d get with a brand-new phone. After all, with quality control measures in place, not every new smartphone is tested. Whereas, with refurbished phones, your exact phone goes through a multi-point inspection and testing process. Therefore, you’ll know for a fact your phone passed the quality assurance tests.

Reasons You Might Not Want a Refurbished Smartphone

While savings, a warranty, and helping the environment are a few reasons to buy a refurbished smartphone, there are a few things that may put you off. 

For starters, since a refurbished phone has typically been used by someone else or returned due to a malfunction, it’s likely to have a defect—which could be physical or internal. Besides, not every retailer or reseller will provide a guarantee. Be sure to check the return policy, warranty, and other options just in case your refurbished smartphone comes short of your expectations.

There’s no standard for what retailers or manufacturers may label as a “refurbished” product—so they’re not created equal. Some will come with brand new parts installed, others will have used parts, and others no accessories at all. As a result, you may be pushed to compromise on the quality of a smartphone at the expense of saving some money. 

Red Flags to Look for With Refurbished Phones

While a refurbished phone can be a good buy in most cases, there are several things you’ll want to look out for when you are shopping for one.

Seller Refurbished

As mentioned, this is one of the main things that you want to be wary of when shopping for a refurbished smartphone. Seller refurbished isn’t the same as refurbished. Generally, a product can only be designated as refurbished if it’s been repaired, inspected, and tested by an authorized retailer. Whereas, you will find a lot of sellers labeling their products “seller refurbished”—which doesn’t really mean much. While technically it could be true that the seller made the effort to clean, test, and repackage the phone—there are no standards to abide by. Therefore, it would be best to avoid these entirely.

No Warranty

Generally, if a manufacturer is selling refurbished smartphones—either themselves or through a third-party—you can expect to get some kind of warranty. You want to be certain you’re getting a minimum of a 90-day warranty—though you’d ideally want more. That way, you can identify issues that may crop up after a shorter return period. A lot of the issues you’d have with a smartphone or electronic in general would show up within 90 days anyway. Therefore, you should be in the clear if it passes 90 days and you don’t have any glaring or major issues. Still, the longer the warranty, the better your purchase.

Making the Appropriate Choice

Generally, you want to look at a couple of things when you’re deciding whether to go for a refurbished phone or not. Firstly, you should consider the seller. Is the seller an authorized distributor? If so, chances are the item will come in like-new condition and with minimal issues. Likewise, you can expect better after-purchase support for a gadget with a better warranty. If the item is coming from the manufacturer, you can expect the best support and the best warranty coverage.  

As long as you’re willing to forfeit the brand-new package experience, you should be able to experience massive savings with a refurbished smartphone. You simply need to be aware of what to look for and some of the red flags to avoid when buying one. As long as you purchase from a retailer with a solid return policy, you should be able to make a wise purchasing decision that you feel comfortable with. Spending hundreds on something refurbished can be frightening if it’s your first time. However, once you learn about all of the benefits that come with it, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.


As you can see, buying refurbished can come with a lot of benefits that make it one of the best ways to save money on an electronics purchase. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do refurbished phones have new batteries?

This will depend on the brand you’re buying. Several brands do advertise their refurbished phones as coming with brand new batteries. For instance, Apple assures consumers they not only use the same replacement parts used in new models, but that they also come with a brand-new battery, a new outer shell, and even new accessories. 

Samsung is another brand that advertises its refurbished phones as coming with new accessories and rebuilt with all original components. However, they don’t advertise their refurbished phones as coming with brand new batteries.

Is it safe to buy a refurbished mobile phone?

Absolutely. As mentioned, buying refurbished may save you a headache in the long run. After all, brands like Apple and Samsung put their phones through rigorous testing. Samsung says each certified pre-owned (refurbished) device needs to pass over 400 individual tests to ensure it’s fully ready to be re-sold. 

Also, both Apple and Samsung offer their standard one-year limited warranty with their refurbished phones. Therefore, you aren’t missing out on anything you would get with a brand-new device. While this isn’t true with every brand or seller, you can generally expect refurbished phones to offer similar quality control (if not better) than brand new devices.

Is renewed and refurbished the same?

Renewed and refurbished can be very similar. These terms can be used to describe similar things—it depends on how it’s being used. For instance, Amazon advertises ‘renewed’ products and they note the items have been inspected and tested to work like new. To become an Amazon Renewed seller, you need to have a refurbishment process that includes diagnostic testing, replacement of defective components, and thorough cleaning and inspection. 

Likewise, it needs to be repackaged. Generally, refurbished means it has gone through the same procedures—but with a company that’s specially certified to work with the product and supplier in question or the supplier. Therefore, you can expect to get a much higher quality refurbishing with one that offers a product that’s certified refurbished by the manufacturer over renewed.


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