The market for refurbished and second-hand phones is only getting bigger. An IDC report that forecasted the demand for refurbished and used phones projected device shipments to reach 332.9 million, globally, by 2023 – growing at an annual rate of 13.6% from 2018.
But why are people buying refurbished? Well, first off, unsurprisingly, it’s cheaper. Second, there are loads of handsets to choose from.
As customers upgrade to 5G, many may want to trade-in or sell their old, perfectly capable, 4G phones – which means refurbished buyers can pick up devices that are anywhere from 6 months to a year old for a stunningly low cost.
Finally, as any environmentally-conscious shopper will tell you, refurbished phones are a part of a circular economy and keeps electronic waste out of landfills. There really isn’t a drawback to buying refurbished if you think about it.
Now, with Apple poised to release a new iPhone on 14 September, we’re expecting to see even more discounts on past iPhone models – including the iPhone 12 range. In fact, we’re starting to see discounts already. Of course, if you prefer a Samsung, there are plenty of offers around now too given the S21 range phones are nearly a year old.
In this article, we’re looking at just what buying refurbished means, how that differs from second-hand, where to get the best refurbished phone deals, and some of the best refurbished phone deals available now.
Best refurbished phones deals of September 2021
Here are some of the top offers and sales we’re seeing at the moment on refurbished phones, on contract and SIM-free.
1. OnePlus 9 Pro (8GB RAM/128GB storage) – Renewed
Now: £649.99 (£149 off)
2. Apple iPhone 12 (64GB) – Refurbished
From: Music Magpie
Now: £569.99 (£229 off)
The cheapest price for a brand new iPhone 12 64GB is £679 right now. If you buy refurbished from Music Magpie, you can get it for even cheaper at £639.99 for a handset in “Pristine” condition.
3. Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (128GB, refurbished)
Now: £859.99 (£239.01 off)
If you don’t mind buying refurbished, you can save a whopping £239 on this 128GB iPhone 12 Pro Max in ‘Pristine’ condition from MusicMagpie (additional discount applied at checkout). See our full guide to buying refurbished iPhones.
4. GiffGaff Refurbished Sale
Now: From £69
GiffGaff carries a massive range of refurbished handsets from top brands. Apple fans can choose from the 11 Pro Max, SE 2020, XR/XS, and older, while Android fans can pick up last year’s Galaxy S20 5G, Note10+, S9 and other handsets in the Galaxy range. You’ll also find options from Google, Huawei, Motorola and Sony. Prices start at just £69.
5. Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus 5G (128GB) – Refurbished
From: Music Magpie
Now: £469.99 (£529 off)
Pick up 2019’s S20 Plus 5G for nearly £470 cheaper than the launch price from MusicMagpie. This refurbished handset is graded in a “Very Good” condition.
6. Samsung Note 20 Ultra 5G (256GB) – Refurbished
Now: £604.99 (£569 off)
There’s £569 off this Note 20 5G handset from Music Magpie in “Good” condition. You can buy it new too for £689 from Amazon but this is still an £84 saving on that price.
7. Apple iPhone XS (256GB) – Certified Refurbished
From: Apple Refurbished Store
Now: £759 (£340 off)
Pick up a refurbished iPhone XS directly from Apple – which means it’s exactly like a new handset, but with £340 off the RRP.
8. OnePlus 8 Pro (128GB) – Refurbished
Now: £429.99 (£269 off)
4Gadgets has £269 off the OnePlus 8 Pro with 128GB storage. The price narrowly beats Amazon’s Renewed price of £443 for the same model though its price for the 256GB model offers even more value at £489 (that’s a £410 saving on the RRP!).
9. Apple iPhone 11 (64GB) – Refurbished
Now: £399.99 (£199 off)
Save nearly £200 on the iPhone 11 from 4Gadgets. This handset is marked in “Excellent” condition.
10. Apple iPhone 11 Pro
From: Apple Refurbished Store
Now: £759 (£163 off)
The iPhone 11 Pro is under £800 at the Apple Refurbished Store, where the handset is indistinguishable from new.
11. Samsung Galaxy S9 (64GB) – Amazon Renewed (refurbished)
Was: £739 (launch price)
Now: £179 (£560 off)
The entry-level S9 cost £739 when it launched a few years ago. It received 4.5/5 stars in our review despite the steep asking price. Now pick it up at a fraction of the original cost when you buy refurbished from Amazon, where it’s under £200.
Argos also has the S9 for £349.99 if you buy new.
12. Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max (256GB, unlocked) – refurbished
Now: £749.99 (£79 off)
musicMagpie has nearly £100 off the 11 Pro Max with 256GB storage. The iPhone 11 Pro Max is no longer available from Apple, but costs £1149 from other retailers, which means this deal saves you £399 on an unlocked, refurbished phone in pristine condition.
MusicMagpie also offers free delivery and a free 12-month warranty.
There’s also an option graded in Good condition for £629.99.
What is a refurbished phone? Should I buy a refurbished phone?
A refurbished phone is one that’s been cleaned (physically, and with contents wiped) and repaired to work just like new. But not all refurbished phones are made equally.
Manufacturer certified refurbished
At the top of the hierarchy, we have manufacturer certified refurbished phones. These are phones that are thoroughly repaired and tested to work and look just like new by the manufacturer’s own standards – so you can be sure there will no difference between new and reconditioned. Parts that no longer work or are damaged are fully replaced, so the end product is effectively just as good as new.
Samsung’s Certified Pre-Owned Store states that its refurbished phones are “completely rebuilt from scratch by the same engineers who build [its] new devices”, while Apple’s Refurbished Store states its refurbished products meet “the same functional standards as new Apple products” but cost up to15% less.
Both Samsung and Apple offer a one-year warranty with their refurbished devices, so should you run into any issues, you can always get additional help.
The only downside to buying certified refurbished phones directly from the manufacturer is they may not always have stock for the type of device you’re after. In which case you might have to go a reseller.
Seller refurbished is another type of refurbished stock you might see as you’re hunting for a deal. This category applies to devices that may have been damaged or returned to the seller, who has then gone on to repair the product to work like new.
While some of these sellers might call their devices “seller certified refurbished”, this doesn’t mean it’s certified by the manufacturer, so ensure you’re buying from a trusted retailer.
Amazon Renewed is Amazon’s marketplace for seller refurbished handsets. The devices there are extensively “inspected, tested, and cleaned by Amazon-qualified suppliers” and include a one-year warranty.
Benefits of buying from third-party sellers (compared to buying refurbished from the manufacturer) include a greater variety of stock and more competitive prices – but watch out for the grade!
What does the refurbished Grade A mean?
If you’re buying from a third-party seller, you’ll often see A, B and C grades on stock – this indicates the condition of the device. Other resellers, like MusicMagpie, are more direct with labels like Pristine, Very Good and Good.
The gradings aren’t overseen by any external regulatory body, so the standard of what qualifies as Grade A or Pristine will vary from retailer to retailer. In a nutshell, however, here’s what those grades mean:
– Looks like new and hardly shows signs of wear
Grade B – Expect some minor scratches or signs of wear
Grade C – Looks used and has obvious marks and scratches
Whatever nomenclature the retailer is using, be sure to check out how they define their grades. A better grade mean higher prices. Most resellers offering refurbished phones will also offer a one-year warranty on their devices.
Refurbished vs second-hand or used – what’s the difference?
There’s a difference between buying refurbished and simply buying second-hand. While refurbished devices are technically pre-owned, they are repaired and reconditioned to work like new. Buying a second-hand phone, however, means you get the device as is, which means the lifespan may not last as long.
Refurbished phones often come with a one-year warranty no matter where you buy from – in fact, we’d urge you to take a look at the warranty policy before you buy. Ensure there is one!
Read our full guide to Refurbished vs Used, where we look at which is better and why.
Best places to buy refurbished phones SIM-free
If you just want to buy the handset, there are a number of resellers you can go to:
Best places to buy refurbished phones on contract
You can also pick up refurbished handsets from major network retailers including:
If you’d still prefer to buy new, but are on a budget, check out our round-up of the best budget handsets.