The Do’s and Don’ts of Buying a Refurbished Smartphone

The Do’s and Don’ts of Buying a Refurbished Smartphone

The prices of flagship smartphones keep climbing higher and higher. At this point, if you want to buy the latest and greatest, you need to shell out more than a thousand dollars. But before you do that, it’s a good idea to take a look at refurbished smartphones. Refurbished smartphones — especially those sold straight from the manufacturer — offer you the same flagship device (that is not even a year old) at a discounted rate.

Read on to learn what refurbished smartphones are, what you need to know before buying a refurbished iPhone or Android smartphone, and the trusted sources to purchase from.

What is a “refurbished” smartphone?

Although there’s no official definition for “refurbished” products, it generally refers to a smartphone that has been used (even if just to take it out of the box), and then returned to a company (manufacturer, carrier, or retailer), that then performed some checks and fixed things that needed to be fixed (if any).

That’s why it’s important to note the words “refurbished,” “certified refurbished,” and “renewed,” are used interchangeably. “Manufacturer refurbished” means that repairs or upgrades were done by the manufacturer themselves (which is better than it being done by third-party companies).

Other than that, there is no fundamental difference between a new or refurbished smartphone.

What to check before buying a refurbished phone

Now that you know what a refurbished smartphone is, here are a couple of things you need to know before making purchase to avoid defective devices.

  • Check for a warranty. Just because you’re buying a refurbished device, doesn’t mean you don’t get a warranty. In fact, some devices come with a one-year manufacturer warranty (with an option for an extended warranty as well). Make sure your device at least has a couple of months of warranty before making the purchase.
  • Buy from the manufacturer. While you won’t get the best bang for the buck, it’s safest to buy refurbished devices directly from the manufacturer. Many popular companies like Apple and Samsung have their own certified-refurbished programs. These devices would be checked, and repaired directly by the manufacturer, making them a safer bet for longterm use.
  • Read the fine print. Before buying, make sure that everything is on the up-and-up. Take a look at the details of the warranty, the description of the state of the device, and the year the smartphone was manufactured. Most refurbished smartphones are unlocked, but it’s something you should check before buying.
  • Don’t buy a device that’s too old. Deeply discounted sales for what used to be a flagship device sound very tempting. But it’s best to buy a smartphone that’s a year old (or two, at the most). Older devices, even if refurbished, won’t be a good investment for the longterm (especially because most Android smartphones get something like two years of updates, if you’re lucky).
  • Skip the lowball offers. If you see a refurbished smartphone selling for less than half of its sticker price, there is probably a catch. While refurnished phones are cheaper compared to new models, the good ones won’t be that cheap.

Where to buy refurbished iPhone or Android smartphones

You should buy a refurbished smartphone from a trusted and verified source — that means staying away from the places like Craigslist for this purchase. Thankfully, there are many trusted and verified sources for buying refurbished devices, including places that offer warranty and extended support.


The best place to buy a refurbished iPhone is, unsurprisingly, Apple itself. Their “Certified Refurbished” program offers the same one-year warranty (with an option to upgrade to AppleCare+ for an extended warranty), a new battery, and all accessories. All repairs are done by Apple themselves.

Because of this, you won’t be saving a lot of dough (there’s no 50% discount here), but you do get an iPhone that’s basically as good as new, at around a 20% discount, which is nothing to scoff at.


Samsung has a similar certified “Re-Newed Smartphones” program. These smartphones are refurbished to a like-new condition, and they come with a one-year warranty.

Amazon Renewed

Amazon also has its own refurbishment program. Under Amazon Renewed, you’ll get refurbished devices at competitive rates — and a 90-day warranty period. Amazon Renewed products are professionally inspected and the batteries are more than 80% capacity.

Mobile carriers

If you’re on a contract, you should check to see if your carrier has a refurbished devices program. You’ll get the same flagship device at a lower rate, with an easy monthly payment option.

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