Compare and Recycle

What Are Refurbished Phones? A Complete Guide

Selection of smartphones

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.

In this article:

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 works perfectly may only need a cosmetic refurbishment to reduce any signs of wear and tear, whereas a broken phone may need considerable work to repair the damage. 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 mobile phones get traded in daily, so you are not short of choices when it comes to picking your next phone from a refurbished range.

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 smartphone 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 discount.

  • A More Environmentally Friendly Option to Upgrade

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.

Relevant reading:

When a used mobile phone 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 material recovery from e-waste scales and becomes more efficient.

  • Same Warranty as Brand New

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 cable (gone are the days when new phones came with headphones in the box).

  • 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.

Relevant reading:

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 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.

Mobile phones 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.

Smartphones that are ‘pristine’ will appear and function as though they’re brand-new (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. Our recommended retailers sell refurbished phones which are covered by a 12-month warranty, or even a 24-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.

Relevant reading:

Where Can I Buy a Refurbished Phone?

Compare and Recycle

We work with many recyclers that refurbish phones they buy from our customers, and resell them. So take a look at their refurbished ranges where you will definitely 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 impressive as those that can be found through Compare and Recycle (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.

Image: Apple

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.


Refurbished phones are a great way to save money and the environment. They can be just as good as new phones and are a reat way to get a high-quality without breaking the bank. With anything, it's important to do your research when buying a refurbished phone and ensure you are purchasing from a reputable retailer. This will ensure that you get a quality phone that will last!

Andrew Marchant

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