The market for refurbished and second-hand phones is only getting bigger. An IDC report that forecasted the demand for refurbished and used phones projected device shipments to reach 332.9 million, globally, by 2023 – growing at an annual rate of 13.6% from 2018.
But why are people buying refurbished? Well, first off, unsurprisingly, it’s cheaper. Second, there are loads of handsets to choose from. As customers upgrade to 5G, many may want to trade-in or sell their old, perfectly capable, 4G phones – which means refurbished buyers can pick up devices that are anywhere from 6 months to a year old for a stunningly low cost. Finally, as any environmentally-conscious shopper will tell you, refurbished phones are a part of a circular economy and keeps electronic waste out of landfills. There really isn’t a drawback to buying refurbished if you think about it.
Here we’re looking at just what buying refurbished means, how that differs from second-hand, where to get the best refurbished phone deals, and some of the best refurbished phone deals available now.
Best refurbished phones deals
Here are some of the top offers we’re seeing at the moment on refurbished phones, on contract and SIM-free.
1. MusicMagpie Winter Sale
Now: Up to £100 off iPhone (Refurbished)
musicMagpie’s Winter sale has up to £100 off smartphones, including every iPhone 11 model. The offer outdoes its Black Friday sale!
2. Apple iPhone SE (2020, 64GB) with 5GB data
Now: £30 upfront, £27 per month (includes 6 months of Disney+)
O2’s contract deal on the new iPhone SE saves you £34 compared to buying the phone new on contract. You also get six months of Disney+ for free!
3. GiffGaff Winter Clearance Sale (Refurbished)
Now: From £69
GiffGaff carries a massive range of refurbished handsets from top brands. Apple fans can choose from the 11 Pro Max, SE 2020, XR/XS, and older, while Android fans can pick up last year’s Galaxy S20 5G, Note10+, S9 and other handsets in the Galaxy range. You’ll also find options from Google, Huawei, Motorola and Sony.
4. Samsung Galaxy Fold (Refurbished, 12GB RAM, 512GB)
Now: £757 (£392.99 off)
The Samsung Galaxy Fold is a revolutionary device, thanks to its foldable form factor and flexible display. This refurbished unit sees almost £400 shaved off the original RRP, thanks to a great Amazon deal.
5. Samsung Galaxy S20 5G (Refurbished, 12GB RAM, 128GB )
Now: £599 (£300 off)
6. Samsung Galaxy S9+ (128GB, Certified Refurbished)
Now: £610 (£259)
The S9+ cost £869 when it launched a couple of years ago. Get it now for £610 directly from Samsung. Read about the Galaxy S9+ in our review, where it received 4.5/5 stars.
7. Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max (256GB, unlocked) – refurbished
Now: £789.99 (£100 off)
musicMagpie currently has its Christmas offer with up to £100 off handsets, including the iPhone range. The iPhone 11 Pro Max is no longer available from Apple, but costs £1149 from other retailers, which means this deal saves you £359 on an unlocked, refurbished phone in pristine condition. MusicMagpie also offers free delivery and a free 12-month warranty.
There’s also an option graded in Good condition for £669.
8. Apple iPhone SE 2020 (64GB, unlokced) – refurbished
Now: £369.99 (£30 off)
Pick up the new iPhone SE in Pristine condition for £30 less than the RRP from MusicMapgie.
What is a refurbished phone? Should I buy a refurbished phone?
A refurbished phone is one that’s been cleaned (physically, and with contents wiped) and repaired to work just like new. But not all refurbished phones are made equally.
Manufacturer certified refurbished
At the top of the hierarchy, we have manufacturer certified refurbished phones. These are phones that are thoroughly repaired and tested to work and look just like new by the manufacturer’s own standards – so you can be sure there will no difference between new and reconditioned. Parts that no longer work or are damaged are fully replaced, so the end product is effectively just as good as new.
Samsung’s Certified Pre-Owned Store states that its refurbished phones are “completely rebuilt from scratch by the same engineers who build [its] new devices”, while Apple’s Refurbished Store states its refurbished products meet “the same functional standards as new Apple products” but cost up to15% less.
Both Samsung and Apple offer a one-year warranty with their refurbished devices, so should you run into any issues, you can always get additional help.
The only downside to buying certified refurbished phones directly from the manufacturer is they may not always have stock for the type of device you’re after. In which case you might have to go a reseller.
Seller refurbished is another type of refurbished stock you might see as you’re hunting for a deal. This category applies to devices that may have been damaged or returned to the seller, who has then gone on to repair the product to work like new.
While some of these sellers might call their devices “seller certified refurbished”, this doesn’t mean it’s certified by the manufacturer, so ensure you’re buying from a trusted retailer.
Amazon Renewed is Amazon’s marketplace for seller refurbished handsets. The devices there are extensively “inspected, tested, and cleaned by Amazon-qualified suppliers” and include a one-year warranty.
Benefits of buying from third-party sellers (compared to buying refurbished from the manufacturer) include a greater variety of stock and more competitive prices – but watch out for the grade!
What does the refurbished Grade A mean?
If you’re buying from a third-party seller, you’ll often see A, B and C grades on stock – this indicates the condition of the device. Other resellers, like MusicMagpie, are more direct with labels like Pristine, Very Good and Good.
The gradings aren’t overseen by any external regulatory body, so the standard of what qualifies as Grade A or Pristine will vary from retailer to retailer. In a nutshell, however, here’s what those grades mean:
Grade A – Looks like new and hardly shows signs of wear
Grade B – Expect some minor scratches or signs of wear
Grade C – Looks used and has obvious marks and scratches
Whatever nomenclature the retailer is using, be sure to check out how they define their grades. A better grade mean higher prices. Most resellers offering refurbished phones will also offer a one-year warranty on their devices.
Refurbished vs second-hand or used- what’s the difference?
There’s a difference between buying refurbished and simply buying second-hand. While refurbished devices are technically pre-owned, they are repaired and reconditioned to work like new. Buying a second-hand phone, however, means you get the device as is, which means the lifespan may not last as long.
Refurbished phones often come with a one-year warranty no matter where you buy from – in fact, we’d urge you to take a look at the warranty policy before you buy. Ensure there is one!
Read our full guide to Refurbished vs Used, where we look at which is better and why.
Best places to buy refurbished phones SIM-free
If you just want to buy the handset, there are a number of resellers you can go to:
Best places to buy refurbished phones on contract
You can also pick up refurbished handsets from major network retailers including:
If you’d still prefer to buy new, but are on a budget, check out our round-up of the best budget handsets.