Buying a refurbished phone

Should I buy a refurbished phone?

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Buying a refurbished phone is a great way to save money and may be a little more sustainable than if you were to buy a brand new one. But is it worth it?

With the variety of bells and whistles now included in smartphones, the associated price tags are higher than ever. So, if you’re looking for relatively new tech at a fraction of the price, refurbished phones may be worth looking into!

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What does it mean for a phone to be refurbished?

A refurbished phone is a smartphone that has been restored to full working condition after either being pre-owned, returned or used as display models. This can include replacing parts such as the battery, screen or charging port. There are usually decent savings to be had, depending on how far past the initial phone release date is and where you’re sourcing the device from.

Are refurbished phones worth it?

There are plenty of benefits to buying a refurbished phone. The biggest one is going to be cost: you can expect to save up to 40% of the original cost price when you buy a reasonably new refurbished phone. Older models can be expected to have an even bigger discount attached.

It also carries less risk than buying a second hand phone from an individual or online marketplace, as reputable refurbished phone sellers such as Belong, Numobile and Boost Mobile put the phones through multiple stages of testing and replace parts if necessary to ensure the phone is in working order.

These sellers usually have some kind of certification process, and you can typically find the guidelines for that certification on the website. This certification process usually involves ensuring the phone you’re buying isn’t stolen and that the previous owner’s data has been completely wiped. Refurbished phones also usually come with a warranty, often up to 12 months, so you can expect the phone to function normally and if it doesn’t, you may be eligible for a replacement.

In addition, buying a refurbished phone extends the lifespan of the device, keeping it out of landfill for at least a little bit longer. With E-waste (electronic waste) being the fastest growing form of waste, clogging landfills and releasing potentially harmful substances into the air and soil, supporting a “circular economy” by giving the phone another life is more environmentally friendly than buying a brand new one. If you want to go the extra step further, once you’re finished with your phone, rather than throwing it in your junk drawer — or worse, the bin — consider recycling it or donating it (after you’ve cleared all of your own data off it of course).

What are the downsides to getting a refurbished phone?

While there are many benefits to getting a refurbished phone, there are downsides as well. For one, refurbished phones might not have the same battery life as a new one, if the battery has not been replaced. Older phones are also naturally going to be a little slower than brand new tech, and you might miss out on some of the features in newer phones, such as better cameras or 5G connectivity.

Now, if you’re just looking for a phone to make calls, send texts and browse the web, then you might not  have an issue. However, if you’re looking for a device for gaming or scrolling on socials, then this might be a little bit more frustrating. Another thing to consider is that when phones get to a certain age, they are no longer compatible for the newest software updates, which can cause issues when downloading some apps. This could form a case for longevity, as you may be better off investing in technology that you know will last, as opposed to going through cheaper phones more quickly.

Talking more superficially, a refurbished phone may not be as pristine as a new phone would be, and it wouldn’t be uncommon for it to have some minor defects such as scratches or dents.

SIM-only plans for refurbished phones

If you have a refurbished phone, you can use it with any SIM-only postpaid or prepaid mobile plan. This gives you a chance to shop around and save money, and avoid being stuck on a lengthy contract while you pay off a new smartphone.

Here is a selection of postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB of data, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use Canstar Blue’s phone plan comparison tool to see a wide range of plans on offer from mobile providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.

Here is a selection of prepaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB of data, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see a wide range of plans from other providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.

Is there a difference between used and refurbished phones?

The major difference between used and refurbished phones is that there is no guarantee that a used phone is going to be fully functional, whereas a refurbished phone generally has been repaired and tested by the professionals, which means you can be confident that it is working correctly.

In addition, most refurbished phones come with a warranty, covering you if it is not working correctly. Used phones on the other hand are more of a gamble, there is little that you can do if there are issues, especially if it has been purchased from an online marketplace such as eBay.

What should I look out for when buying a refurbished phone?

While it is safe to buy a refurbished phone, you need to ensure you’re buying from a trusted seller. Other things to check is whether there is a warranty and what it covers, quality ratings, and make sure you carefully read any documents before making your purchase.

You’ll also want to ask about the returns policy and thoroughly check the phone when you get it, to make sure that there aren’t any major issues with it — cosmetic or otherwise.

Should I buy a refurbished phone?

Ultimately this comes down to whether you’re willing to get slightly older tech to save a bit of money. Ideally, there’s not going to be anything wrong with a refurbished phone, aside from some potential scratches or dents, and it’ll be just as functional as a brand new one. If you’re worried about software or security updates, you might be better off with a new phone as there will come a point where the software will no longer be compatible with the model of refurbished phone that you pick up, especially if you plan on keeping your device for a while.

However, if you’ve not got your heart set on one of the fancier phones, like Samsung or iPhone, there are plenty of other, more affordable, options that will also do the job! To find out more, check out our guide to cheap phones.

Best Cheap Phones


  • iPhones have a simple process to find out whether the phone has been refurbished or not. Go to Settings > General > About > Model Number.
  • If the first letter of the model number is M, it is a new device, meaning that it has not been refurbished. If the first letter is F, the phone has been refurbished. If the first letter is N, then the phone was a replacement for a faulty iPhone and if the model number begins with a P then the device has a special engraving on it.

  • This depends on where you source your refurbished phone from. For the most part, retailers will sell refurbished phones without a SIM card so you can either use a SIM you already have or sign up to a SIM-only phone plan. However, if you’re buying a refurbished phone on a phone-on-a-plan, then this will most likely include the SIM card as well.
  • If you’re after a new SIM-only plan to go with your refurbished phone, you can compare a wide range of SIM-only plans with our free phone plan comparison tool.

Image Credits: Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

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