Refurbished phones: Everything you need to know

ByKim Staples
Girl on pile of phones

We’re all familiar with refurbished living rooms and refurbished shops, but did you know you can refurbish a mobile phone too?

It doesn't involve tearing down the wallpaper and chucking some throw cushions around, but it can involve you saving a bit of money on your mobile plan. Here's how.

What is a refurbished phone?

You may also know them as refreshed or reconditioned phones. Put simply, a refurbished mobile phone once belonged to someone else, but has been restored to its factory settings and given a thorough check and repair.

There are all kinds of reasons why someone would have got rid of the phone, such as:

  • The phone had a fault and needed to be sent back (and it's now been fixed)
  • The owner upgraded to a new phone and recycled or sold their old one
  • The owner changed their mind a few days after buying the phone, and sent it back
  • It was a company phone which isn't needed any more

And so on.

Refurbished phones differ from 'used' or second-hand models in that they've been checked over and tested by an independent party. You're not just buying someone's used and scratched-up mobile - instead you'll get a phone which has been sent away, repaired, wiped clean, had its OS reinstalled from scratch, and thoroughly tested.

Nonetheless, some refurbished phones will certainly have a 'used' appearance, whether that's just a couple of scratches or some more intense signs of wear.

Recycle phone

Where can I get a refurbished phone?

  • Lots of independent retailers and websites specialise in refurbished phones
  • Most resellers provide refurbs - read more about resellers here
  • Some mobile networks recycle handsets and sell them on, such as O2 Refresh

Refurbs can save you money

The main advantage of a refurbished handset is the money you'll save by opting for one. Because it isn't fresh from a factory, you can get it a lot cheaper than a new model.

But that's just the start of your savings. Purchasing a phone outright means you'll need a SIM-only deal. These usually work out quite a bit cheaper than phone contracts overall, especially as you have more of a chance to upgrade, downgrade, or otherwise change your plan if you pick one with 30-day terms.

See our best SIM-only deals this month

Pros of getting a refurbished phone

  • It's quite a bit cheaper
  • Plans are more flexible, especially as you can go SIM-only
  • It will have been thoroughly tested and should function as new
  • You'll have more control over which mobile network you choose
  • Recycling phones is better for the environment

Cons of getting a refurbished phone

  • Refurbs can still have hardware problems and faulty parts
  • Their quality can really vary - you won't always know if you're getting a pristine handset or one covered in chips and scratches
  • Warranties and insurance aren't as clear-cut
  • Most available refurbished handsets are old models


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