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Should You Buy a Refurbished Phone? – Everything You Need to Know About Refurbished Handsets

With a pre-owned handset you can make significant savings, as long as you buy them from a reputable seller with warranty.


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Refurbished phones are becoming increasingly popular with handsets getting more and more expensive. If you don’t know where to start, Half Cooked is here to help. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about refurbished phone deals, their pros and cons, where to get them and more.

Refurbished phones can be a decent option for people looking to make considerable savings on a new handset. As customers, we tend to do thorough research before investing in a new mobile phone. Before purchasing a refurbished phone, you’ll need to do even more research to ensure you’re getting a handset in the quality you’re expecting.

Under the right circumstances buying a used phone can be just as good as buying a brand new one. Read on to work out whether a refurbished handset is for you and where you could purchase one.

What is a Refurbished Phone?

The term ‘refurbished phone’ refers to a handset, which has been returned by the customer who originally bought it due to a fault and has been repaired or traded in for a discount on a new device. However, not every company defines it in the same way. For instance, Apple and Samsung restore the devices they sell with the same parts used in their latest models. Meaning when you buy a refurbished phone from Apple and Samsung, you’ll be getting a new battery, a new outer shell, new cables and sometimes even new accessories. They also perform detailed inspections to confirm all features and functions work properly.

Refurbished phones are always tested and repaired (if they were broken), meaning you’re not purchasing a broken device. Most companies only resell refurbished phones if they pass certain quality tests and they perform as a brand new device does.

You can make significant savings when buying a refurbished phone, but you should accept that you’re probably buying a handset that had a life for a year or two before it reached you.

Another friendly reminder; refurbished phones may come with old batteries, used charging cables and accessories produced by other manufacturers, depending on where you’re buying your device from.

In the UK, Half Cooked strongly recommends purchasing refurbished phones from EE. All the refurbished handsets they sell pass rigorous quality control tests, you can save a lot of money and you can return the device within 14 days if you change your mind. The best part is the carrier’s refurbished phones come with an EE lifetime Guarantee! Read our EE Review to see if their SIM only deals are the right ones for you.

What Condition Are Refurbished Phones in?

The condition of a refurbished phone varies, but thankfully there is an industry-standard to describe what to expect of a handset. Refurbished phones are given grades ranging from A (like brand new) to D (broken in some way, may not function properly). Keep in mind though, while the grading system is common, it’s not an universally applied standard and gradings can also differ between companies.

Most mobile networks and retailers will only sell refurbished phones between Grade A and C, as Grade D phones are unreliable and broken in some way.

Grade A: Refurbished phones, which are Grade A show almost no evidence of previous use. They’re almost brand new. They could have been returned within the first 30-day of purchase. In some cases they can show negligible signs of wear, but will function perfectly fine, no hiccups.

Grade B: If a refurbished phone is Grade B, you should expect to see some scratches here and there. On top of that there’ll be clear signs of previous use. These cosmetic issues shouldn’t affect how the device functions though and they’re usually not massively noticeable.

Grade C: These refurbished phones are fully tested and fully functional, however, they may feature multiple scratches, large paint chips and maybe even a dent on the phone’s case. One look and you’ll be able to tell that they’ve been used.

Grade D: As stated above, a grade D refurbished phone will be broken in some way, won’t fully function and it will definitely look used. Grade D is almost non-existent on the market and we don’t recommend opting for a grade D refurbished phone, unless you really really have to.

As you can guess Grade A refurbished handsets will be more expensive than all the others. But they will still come with a considerable discount compared to brand new ones. Grade B phones usually offer the best value. Most customers think a Grade B refurbished phone is the sweet spot. You get a major discount and the device looks quite new, whilst also functioning perfectly fine.

We usually recommend getting a new handset from O2 because of their huge handset range and you can customise your own phone contract with them, and split your bill into two: an airtime bill and a phone bill. You can get a refurbished phone from O2 by either opting for a pay monthly contract or a pay as you go deal. Plus O2 gives you a 12 month warranty to put your mind at ease.

Keep in mind that some networks use their own grading systems and O2 is one of them. They explain how their own grading system works on the official website. Make sure to read our O2 Review to learn more about their deals, network coverage and other features like O2 Priority.

Refurbished Phones – Pros & Cons

There’s nothing like purchasing a brand new product to keep your mind at ease, but you can’t deny the benefits that come with buying a refurbished phone either. Below, you can find some of the advantages and disadvantages of buying a refurbished handset.

Advantages of Buying a Refurbished Phone

– You can save a considerable amount of money, up to a couple hundred pounds depending on the grade of the device.

– You can get the latest iPhone or Android device without paying RRP.

– In most cases you also get a warranty from the company/network you buy the refurbished handset from.

– Refurbished devices usually come with an easy return policy. You can usually return a refurbished phone within the first 14 days, provided it’s not damaged under your care.

– They’re thoroughly tested, all functions and features work perfectly fine. Even if the device was returned due to a failure, it will be fixed by the time it’s on resale.

– Most networks and retailers will give you the same tech support as you would get with a brand new product.

– Unless it’s stated otherwise, refurbished phones are unlocked so they’ll work with every network.

Disadvantages of Buying a Refurbished Phone

– The warranty period can be as short as 15 to 90 days. Given how your device is pre-owned and used, even 90 days is less than ideal. Thankfully networks like Vodafone and O2 give you a 12-month warranty. EE offers a lifetime warranty.

– Your device may have dents, visible scratches and paint chips. Unless you’re buying an A grade refurbished smartphone, you should expect at least some cosmetic faults. You can get lucky, but don’t bet on that.

– Your device might have chronic issues that won’t appear early on. Things can easily go wrong with second hand devices. Since your device had a life before it got to you, there’s no true way of knowing how the previous owner handled it.

– You may be able to purchase a brand new, more affordable phone with full warranty and tech support.

Vodafone is one of the safer networks, if you want to purchase a refurbished handset. The network’s handset range isn’t as rich as some of its competitors, but they have a massive range of price plans to choose from for all types of budgets. If you’re on a tight budget you can choose Vodafone’s Basics Plans or opt for a Vodafone Big Bundle and use the network’s pay as you go service.

All Vodafone refurbished phones are professionally checked, repaired and tested so they’re as reliable as a new phone and come with a 12-month warranty. Don’t forget to read our Vodafone Review to discover more about the UK’s oldest mobile network.

Refurbished Phone vs New Phone – Key Differences

New 4G or 5G mobile phones cost anywhere from £300 to more than £1,000. Let’s face it, a new phone is an expensive purchase, especially iPhone and Samsung’s flagship devices. If you want the latest iPhone or Android, but don’t want to spend a small fortune, buying a refurbished device might be the way to go.

When it comes to refurbished phones, we strongly suggest that you stick to reputable retailers, manufacturers themselves (like Apple or Samsung) or mobile networks that sell refurbished handsets on monthly contracts. You can also purchase a refurbished handset outright from retailers like iD Mobile’s owner Carphone Warehouse.

When you buy your refurbished device from Apple, Samsung or one of the major mobile networks in the UK, you get full customer support as well as full technical support. You also get at least a year long warranty.

Reputable refurbished phone sellers do rigorous testing, before they put the device on sale again. Below, we listed some of the major tests they perform on refurbished devices.

– The battery is tested to make sure it charges. Apple and Samsung usually offer unused batteries with refurbished devices.

– All the buttons, security features and cameras are tested to make sure they function properly.

– The sound and microphone are tested for clear audio. Extra voice call quality tests are performed to see if your device’s 4G CallingWi-Fi Calling & Wi-Fi Hotspot features are functioning as intended.

– The screen is fully tested. All the keyboard layouts, typing related actions, rotation and zoom features are thoroughly tested.

– The WiFi is tested in multiple ways to ensure there are no connectivity issues.

Your refurbished phone should arrive completely clean. All the data from the previous owner, as well as from testing should be wiped.

Refurbished phones may not come in the original packaging. In a lot of cases, chargers, headphones and other accessories are not included, unless stated otherwise. A charging cable is included, but the charger itself can be a rare find, depending on where you’re getting your refurbished device from. If you don’t have compatible old chargers, accessories etc. lying around, you might end up having to pay extra to get them.

Grade A and Grade B refurbished devices should look clean, but at the end of the day, they’re not brand new and they might have minor cosmetic issues. Buying a refurbished handset -even if it’s Grade A – doesn’t feel the same as buying a completely new one.

You can save about £200 when buying a refurbished Apple or Samsung flagship phone. As long as you know and understand the risks, a refurbished phone can be just as good as a new one.

Before you continue onwards, we’d recommend checking out giffgaff’s wallet-friendly refurbished phone deals. The carrier is powered by O2 and offers super-flexible SIM Only deals. giffgaff’s refurbished handsets are under warranty for 12 months, you can return them within the first 14 days, and they have a wide handset range. Do you want to learn more about the carrier’s competitively priced deals? Read our giffgaff Review for more! If you can wait a little longer, Black Friday Sales are just around the corner. You might also want to check out giffgaff’s Black Friday Phone Deals and find out what you should expect from the network this year.

Refurbished Phone vs Used Phone – Are They The Same?

A refurbished phone is a pre-owned device, which is thoroughly tested by the retailer or the network selling it. If you’re buying a refurbished smartphone from an established retailer/trader/network you know for a fact that your device will function as intended. You’ll have a clean slate on it. Plus the device will be covered under warranty. Basically you’re covered.

On the other hand, buying a second hand/used phone is a bit trickier. Worst case scenario you might get scammed. The seller might hide a defect or a feature that’s not functioning properly, and you might not realise it until it’s too late. You have to be extremely cautious when buying a used handset.

Companies like eBay and Amazon offer some protection services, allowing you to return a faulty device within 30 days, but some sellers find loopholes, or know of a few tricks to fool the system.

It doesn’t necessarily mean a used handset is bad, and you shouldn’t buy one, we’re just saying be extra careful. Needless to say, if you don’t get a proof of purchase the warranty will not carry over and your device won’t be protected, unless you return it to the seller and they RMA your phone.

At the end of the day, buying a used phone can bring on a major headache, so unless you find a great deal from a reliable seller, we’d say avoid it.

Alternatively, rather than purchasing a used phone you can search for a more affordable handset. You might find a suitable phone deal and a SIM plan to go with it on Three or VOXI. Whilst they don’t offer refurbished handsets, their phone deals, tariffs and contracts are still worth checking. Plus, both networks have no credit check SIM Only deals. You can also get 5G Coverage at no extra cost with both Three & VOXI. Make sure to read our Three Review and VOXI Review, you might like what they’re offering.

Where Can I Buy a Refurbished Phone? Who Sells Them?

We have been covering where you can get a refurbished phone throughout the article, but we’ll still make a shortlist here too, don’t worry.

In the UK, only a few mobile network operators sell refurbished phones: EE, O2, Vodafone and giffgaff. Reliable retailers like Carphone Warehouse also sell refurbished devices with warranty. Alternatively you can check out auction sites and high-street retailers to find a suitable refurbished handset.

You can also buy refurbished phones directly from the manufacturers. Both Apple and Samsung sell refurbished devices online and in-store.

Do Refurbished Phones Come with a Warranty?

If you buy your refurbished phone from a mobile network, established retailer or the manufacturer itself, then the short answer is yes. EE gives lifetime warranty for the refurbished phones they sell. Meanwhile if you buy your refurbished handset from O2, giffgaff and Vodafone you’ll get a 12-month warranty. Carphone Warehouse also gives a year long warranty, so you’re usually covered when you get a pre-owned handset.

Having said that, if you purchase a refurbished device from a trader like Amazon or eBay, the length of warranty will vary. If you’re purchasing your device from a private seller, the warranty process will be quite complicated.

If you’re buying a handset from a private seller, because you failed to pass a mobile phone credit check, read our guide first and find out what other options you have.

Refurbished Phones with SIM Only Deals

Almost all refurbished phones are unlocked, unless stated otherwise. If you find an unlocked refurbished phone that you fancy, you’re in luck, because your device will work with every network in the UK.

This also means you’re contract-free, when you first purchase your phone. You can choose any deal you like on the market. Just find out how much data you need and browse through network operators. If you’re not sure which network to go with yet, we can recommend SMARTY’s commitment-free, 30-day SIM only deals, because they’re competitively priced, offer great 4G coverage and come with other benefits. Read our SMARTY Review and you can discover what exactly you’ll be getting if you join the network.

Another great contract-free network is VOXI powered by Vodafone. The carrier offers four different plans to choose from, and three of them come with 5G at no extra cost You also benefit from great features like VOXI Endless Video and VOXI Endless Social Media.

If you wish to join a network which is powered by Three, you can also choose iD Mobile or Superdrug Mobile. Both networks offer cheap, 30-day lasting unlimited data plans in the UK, but their other features differ greatly from one another. Read our iD Mobile Review and Superdrug Mobile Review to see which one fits your needs better.

If you’re not a heavy or medium mobile data user, you might want to have a look at our Best Pay As You Go SIM Deals in the UK guide. You might find the best SIM deal for your refurbished phone.