What Are Refurbished Phones? A Complete Guide

An increasing number of UK consumers are opting to buy a refurbished device as their new phone. According to research, a huge 60% of smartphone consumers in the UK would consider buying one as their new handset. We will be answering several frequently asked questions regarding refurbished phones, so that you can be informed when making a purchase.

Here are the questions you may have when asking about refurbished phones, feel free to skip ahead using the links below:

  1. What are refurbished phones?

Let's get the terminology out of the way first. We explain what a refurbished phone is and what happens to phones before they are classed as refurbished.

  1. Should I buy a refurbished phone?

The short answer is yes and we explore two main reasons why refurbished phones should be on your radar when shopping for your next phone.

  1. How are refurbished phones packaged?

There are differences in packaging of refurbished phones compared to new phones.

  1. Pros and cons of buying a refurbished phone

All the things to consider when buying a refurbished phone.

  1. Are refurbished phones good quality?

Talking about grades of refurbished phones and the differences between them.

  1. How is the quality of refurbished phones graded?

  1. Do refurbished phones have a warranty?

Something to look out for so you can buy with confidence.

  1. Where can I buy refurbished phones?

Ready to buy a refurbished phone? Here's where you can bag yourself a good deal.

What Are Refurbished Phones?

Refurbished phones are devices which typically have been traded in by a former user, and then have undergone a refurbishment by certified technicians so that they can be sold on as a fully working refurbished device in the best condition possible.

Refurbished devices undergo a series of tests by the refurbishing company to ensure that they are in full-working order and their cosmetic condition is first-rate. The conditions of mobile phones that recycling companies on our recycling comparison accept for trade in are New, Good, Poor and Broken, and these conditions will determine the level of refurbishment required to make them suitable to be resold on the refurbished phones market.

Not all devices that have been refurbished were faulty before. Many refurbished phones are ones that networks and retailers have received back after the customer has changed their mind during a cooling off period, so many of these devices may show very little signs of use. Nonetheless, they are required to be classified as ‘used’ and subsequently refurbished.

A phone which is working already may only need a cosmetic refurbishment to reduce any signs of wear and tear, whereas a broken phone may need considerable work to fix issues. Sometimes functionality of some hardware features will need to be restored as well as a cosmetic makeover so that it will resemble a ‘like-new’ device.

The Data Protection Act also states that a seller must securely wipe any data on the phone when they receive it. So when you buy a refurbished device, you will receive a clean, data-free smartphone that has been repaired to a quality standard.

Should I Buy a Refurbished Phone?

Getting a refurbished device saves money and protects the environment when compared to buying a new phone. Just take a look at the environmental impact of a brand new smartphone. Many different models of devices get traded in daily, so you are not short of device choices when it comes to picking your next phone from a refurbished range.

How Are Refurbished Phones Packaged?

The retailers of refurbished phones on our site and in general use their own branded packaging to sell devices. The packaging will differ slightly depending on whom from you will be buying, but nevertheless they will all have the necessary paperwork and protection to keep the phone safe in transit. Inside the box the phone will be packaged in a protective sleeve or bubble-wrap. Charging plug and cable will be included.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Buying a Refurbished Smartphone?

Many people ask the question: ‘should I buy a refurbished phone?’, and while we may not be able to give you a straight answer, we can outline the pros and cons of choosing refurbished over brand-new so that you can have a clearer idea.

You Will Save Money

A huge advantage of buying a refurbished phone as opposed to a new flagship device is that you’ll save money. You can save up to 50% and any visual difference would be really hard to spot on the better condition models whilst still saving a significant proportion.

A More Environmentally Friendly Option

Buying a refurbished handset is a more environmentally friendly option than buying a brand-new phone. While smartphones have power efficiency features, usage only equates to a small percentage of its emissions and buying a refurbished phone effectively kerbs the demand on raw materials.

When an old device is resold, it stays in circulation and is therefore not disposed of on a landfill or sent to one of the many e-waste dumps around the world. A better alternative is to keep it maintained and in circulation until e-waste recycling centres become more advanced.

Same Warranty

All of the retailers that we list on Compare and Recycle offer the same standard 1 year warranty on purchases, which is the same as buying brand-new.

You May Not Receive Other Accessories

You may not receive the additional accessories that are usually bundled with a brand-new phone, as it depends on the condition of the refurbished phone you are purchasing. This means that you might miss out on a fast charger or headphones.

They Are Often Not Sent in the Original Packaging

Refurbished smartphones tend to be sent to you in a plain box, branded by the retailer you purchased from.

Are Refurbished Phones Good Quality?

Refurbished phones are tested by the certified retailers to ensure that they are in full working order, so in this respect it means that all refurbished devices are fully functional same as new phones and are aesthetically pleasing.

There are some differences in cosmetics of a refurbished smartphone depending on its condition though. The refurbished devices on our site are classified as either Good, Very good, Excellent or Pristine.

Devices classed as ‘good’ are those which have moderate signs of wear and tear but otherwise work perfectly, while the ones that are ‘excellent’ are in near perfect cosmetic condition with minimal signs of use.

Devices that are ‘pristine’ will appear and function as though they’re brand-new devices (even though someone else may have owned them before).

Refurbished Phone Grading

Refurbished devices are given a ‘grade’ which states their cosmetic condition. This can cause confusion as different retailers have different condition rating guidelines. However, here on Compare and recycle we have simplified this for you by narrowing it down to three categories:


Some retailers have a class for New and a class for Pristine. When you remove this type of phone out of its box, it will be as good as new, without any blemishes or damage.


Again, retailers have similar grade requirements whether they grade a device as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’. These may have been owned for slightly longer, have an ever so slightly used battery, or the slightest of visual marks. Otherwise, they are in near perfect condition.


Everything else is classified as good, as these may have some small scratches or other signs of wear and tear, but will still be functioning as normal.

Do Refurbished Phones Have Warranty?

Many people are concerned that refurbished phones do not come with warranty, however this is actually not the case. On our site, you can buy a refurbished phone which will be covered by a 12-month warranty, so you can rest assured that if for some unlikely reason the device that you’ve purchased presents a fault, it will be covered either by warranty or can be exchanged under the retailer’s returns policy.

Where Can I Buy a Refurbished Phone?

Compare and Recycle

We compare many refurbished phone retailers on our refurbished phones comparison, and that list is growing. The more retailers you can compare from, the more likely you are to find the phone you want for less.

Apple Store

Apple has end of life device processing unlike any other manufacturer out there, they even have a specialised recycling robot called Daisy that decommissions devices. The savings are not as dramatic as those that can be found at other retailers (up to 15% stated by Apple for a devices graded "Like New"), but phones bought from the Apple store are eligible for AppleCare+ plans, which sets this store apart from all others.

High Street Stores

As well as online retailers, you can also go to a high street mobile phone repair shop. This works well if you would prefer a face to face interaction with a member of staff or test out the phone yourself in store. There are many shops that sell refurbished devices that you can visit, including chains such as CEX, Game or local independent shops.

Marketplace Websites

There are many online retailers that sell refurbished devices on marketplace websites such as eBay or Amazon. Our advice is to choose a reputable retailer and always read the description carefully as you can unintentionally buy a second-hand phone from a private seller.

Andrew Marchant

See more posts by Andrew Marchant