Compare and Recycle

What to Look For When Buying a Refurbished Phone

Woman excitedly looking through a magnifying glass

Buying a refurbished phone is a great way to get a recent smartphone without breaking the bank. Getting a refurbished phone has many advantages, both financially and environmentally.

There are many reasons why you might choose to buy a refurbished phone over a brand new one. The biggest factor being a lower price because let’s be honest, prices on brand new phones have spiked in recent years. The idea of being tied in by a contract doesn’t sound that appealing either, especially when you can have the cheapest SIM only deal and own the phone outright. Whatever your reason is for going refurbished, there are things that you should look out for in order to get the most value for your money.

In this article:

Choosing a Future-proof Model

When you purchase a refurbished phone, and even a brand new phone, you have to consider future software support. Without regular security and software updates, the phone will be behind on newest features and safety configurations. Therefore, to avoid these problems, choose a phone from a previous generation that will still get updates in the next few years and allow you to get the most up-to-date technology.

We advise not focusing on a 2+ year old Android phone or 3+ year old iPhone if you want to focus on the most future-proof choice.

How Long Do Manufacturers Offer Software Support For?

Software updates help keep any problems or errors fixed and ensure things are running smoothly. Different manufacturers offer varying periods for software and security support which starts from the phone's release date, not when you purchase it.

  • Apple offers iOS support for about five to seven years. This means that getting an iPhone 11 will guarantee that your phone will have software updates until 2024, whereas an iPhone 14 will have software updates until 2029.

  • Samsung devices released before 2021 will have software updates for 3 years after the release date, whereas the Galaxy S21 and S22 series come with 4 years of Android support and 5 years of security updates.

  • Google promises a minimum of three years of OS updates and five years of security updates. This means the Pixel 7 will receive Android updates until at least July 2025 and will receive security updates until at least July 2027. Whereas the oldest version Google Pixel 4a that was released in 2020, will receive support until at least August 2023.

  • OnePlus has confirmed that all its phones will get Android updates for 2 years and 3 years worth of security updates.

Relevant reading:

Warranty Is Key

Some people are hesitant to purchase a refurbished phone because they think that it might have some kind of hidden defect and ultimately be left with a damaged phone with no option to have it fixed or exchanged. But the truth is, refurbished phones come with the same warranty as new phones.

When it comes to warranties, recyclers usually provide a 12-month warranty on their refurbished devices and some offer even longer warranties. What’s covered under the warranty depends on the retailer, but the majority cover hardware malfunctions which is the same as brand new devices. It's best to take extra time to learn about the retailer's warranty before you click 'add to cart'.

Finding The Best Deal

It’s not always easy finding the best deal on a refurbished phone. The prices are usually discounted by at least 20% off the brand new price, but there are many factors that can make one phone more expensive than the other - for example, where you shop and what condition the phone is in. There’s a wide array of retailers selling refurbished phones, so the best way to grab a decent deal is to compare prices.

On our website, we make it easy to compare high-quality refurbished phones at a glance. A simple search for your desired model will show you a list of retailers with that model in stock, making it easy for you to pick the cheapest offer.

Buying From a Reliable Company

The rule of thumb is to avoid places like Facebook Marketplace or any other peer-to-peer marketplaces which have listings claiming to be selling professionally refurbished devices. Buying a phone is a big decision, and you want to make sure that you’re not wasting your money on a phone that only claims to be refurbished.

It's important that you try to avoid buying from unreliable retailers with a poor track record. Paying attention to reviews from verified customers, retailer’s transparency about conditions of the phones and testing and refurbishment policies is a great way to get yourself a high-quality smartphone.

We put together a Refurbished Phones Explained guide where we recommend a few established retailers who professionally refurbish and repair smartphones to a high-standard. Purchasing directly from Apple or an Android manufacturer’s refurbished range is a good alternative, but the price might be higher than that of a retailer’s and more often than not manufacturers outsource the refurbishment from those same retailers.

Understand Mobile Phone Grading

When buying a refurbished phone, it is important to check the description of the retailer's grades before you settle on the condition of your next phone. The condition depends on the quality of the refurbishment and how it was used by its previous owner. It's important to keep in mind that conditions relate to the physical appearance of a refurbished phone, and not the functionality. All refurbished phones sold are in working order according to the original manufacturer’s specifications.

Refurbished phones come in various conditions which describe the level of wear and tear of the phone:

  • New: A refurbished phone that has no signs of wear and is like new.

  • Pristine: Fully working, with a 90-100% battery health and has no visible signs of use.

  • Very Good / Excellent: Fully working, with battery health no less than 85%, might feature light scratches and scuffs on the housing and screen, which generally are not visible during daily use.

  • Good: Fully working phone with noticeable wear and tear such as scratches and scuffs and no less than 80% battery health.

If you are on a tight budget, going for a 'Good' condition refurbished phone will save you a significant amount and cosmetic imperfections can be covered with a phone case. If you prefer like-new looking phones, then your option would be Pristine. It really depends on how much money you want to save with your next phone and how much wear and tear you can tolerate. Always read the condition descriptions to know what you can expect.

Check Return Policy

It is important to be aware of the return policy when buying a refurbished phone, as they can differ from one retailer to another. The standard is 14 day returns from the day you received the device. Going over the retailer’s return policy before clicking “buy” will ensure you know your rights and in case you’re not happy with the purchase, a full refund or an exchange can be sorted out before it’s too late.

Where To Buy a Refurbished Phone Online

Shopping around for a refurbished phone will guarantee you get the best deal. If you're looking to buy a refurbished phone online, you can start by looking at:

  • Amazon’s Renew Marketplace where you can find a bargain during the Prime sale.

  • Refurbished section on Apple or Samsung websites.

  • Compare and Recycle where we break down the good about refurbished phones and feature established online retailers.

  • eBay’s Refurbished Hub offer professionally refurbished electronic products, guaranteeing peace of mind when purchasing your next tech gadget.

Wherever you find your next refurbished phone, remember to trade in your old one to keep phones circular and fight e-waste.


Finally, when it comes to buying a refurbished phone, the price is often the first thing that people think about and it’s important not to get carried away hunting for the cheapest model. There’s more to the process of buying a refurbished phone than just the price. While refurbished phones have passed rigorous testing and have been professionally refurbished to meet grading standards, you still need to obtain information on warranty, returns and most importantly choose a phone that you can use at least for a couple of years.

Relevant reading:


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