What You Need To Know When Buying A Refurbished Phone

If you’re eyeing up the latest iPhone or Samsung but can’t quite bring yourself to part with the cash, there’s always the handy option of a refurbished model instead. Not only could you save hundreds of pounds, but you’ll also get a product that – depending on grading – still looks fairly new and works just as well as one that’s fresh out of the box.

Refurbished phones are usually handsets that customers have sent back to retailers because they changed their mind about the purchase or discovered a minor issue with. It might not come with all the accessories like headsets, chargers or the sleek original packaging, but rest assured every product that goes back on sale has been checked over and restored if necessary.

Here’s what you need to know to get the most bang for your buck.

Know the grading system

There are three main grades for the standard of refurbished phone you can expect from retailers. As they’re not independently set by anyone, these can vary in quality and definition, but they do provide a useful guideline for the pricing of the model. These are:

Grade A – Will appear as close to new as you can get with only minor signs of being used. Also labelled as “pristine” or “like new”.

Grade B – Will likely feature some cosmetic damage and light wear, like chips and scratches. Can be known as “very good”.

Grade C – Will look like it has been used before and show some signs of wear, but will be at the most cost-effective end of the scale.

Only buy from reputable retailers

There’s a myth that only second-hand stores sell refurnished phones. Even leading phone companies will sell consumers models that have been returned to them and restored. As with all tech purchases, it’s important that you shop around for the best deals. Make sure you opt for a reputable seller. Check out any feedback left by customers, and the rating of the retailer on sites like TrustPilot and Feefo.

Check the returns policy

It’s important that you can send the handset back if you’re unhappy with it for any reason. The last thing you want is to be lumbered with a phone you don’t want, that doesn’t work, or that you don’t like the look of. Reputable retailers, as above, should have a clear returns policy for this. If they don’t, keep shopping around until you find one that does.

Make sure it comes with a warranty

Warranties are guarantees that mean you can get a full refund for your phone – or a replacement – if it becomes faulty or breaks within a certain timeframe. Especially for refurbished phones, we wouldn’t advise parting with your hard-earned cash unless they offer one. Major phone network retailers like Phones4U and Vodafone tend to offer cover for around 12 months, as do internet traders like Amazon or eBay, and specialists such as Sala Phones*. Private sellers tend to have much more complex returns processes, so we advise sticking with the bigger names for this.

Ask about the battery life

Phone battery performance slows down over time, and while handsets themselves can be refurbished, this doesn’t usually mean that the original batteries have been replaced. Again, this is another example of why going to reputable retailers is better – they will always check battery life and should be able to describe the condition of the battery so you can make sure that it has a practical charge time. If this isn’t clear, ask.

Make sure the phone you are buying isn’t stolen

Every phone is uniquely identified by something called an IMEI number. A decent retailer should be able to reassure you that your phone has been sent back to them from a genuine customer, and has not been stolen, by giving you a handset with a clean IMEI. If you do decide to buy a model privately, you can liaise with the network carrier and conduct an IMEI check yourself using a website to double check everything is above board.

Save more with a SIM-only deal

Once you’ve splashed out on a cut-price handset, continue your saving spree with a savvy SIM-only deal. According to Money Saving Expert, you can get 3GB of data – more than adequate for normal usage – for around £5 a month. This is much cheaper than the alternative – opting for a contract deal with your refurbished handset, which can sometimes end up costing you more than if you bought a box-fresh model. If you buy a SIM-only phone plan separately, just check that your SIM works with your phone. Go for one from the same provider, or get the handset unlocked beforehand.


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*Please note – Taurus Insurance Services Ltd is the parent company of Sala Phones. By clicking the link you will be redirected to the Sala Phones website operated by SmartPhone Group Limited. We have no control over other external sites or retailers that are mentioned within this article.