The Refurbished Phone Market Is Booming and iPhones Lead the Way—Here's Why

Old is the new, new

  • The market for refurbished phones and other gadgets is booming.
  • Refurbished phones and other devices offer excellent value.
  • Keep in mind that refurbished tech often comes with shorter than standard warranties.
A black iPhone sitting on a wooden background, showing the Home screen.
Thom Bradley / Unsplash.

Buying refurbished phones and other gadgets can save you a lot of money while still offering peace of mind, experts say. 

Refurbished sales of Apple phones as well as those from other manufacturers, continue to grow, according to a new report. It's a sign of the booming market for used tech gear

"An obvious consideration for many people is that refurbished equipment will always cost significantly less than new models," Jonathan Elster, the CEO of EcomHalo, which offers logistical services to the e-commerce industry, told Lifewire in an email interview. "You could expect to pay 50% or less than the price of a new model if you are prepared to accept a refurbished equivalent."

Older iPhones Sales Boom

According to a study by Counterpoint Research, nearly half of the refurbished smartphones sold worldwide last year were iPhones. India became the largest refurbished smartphone market in 2022, due to China experiencing a 17% decline in refurbished phone sales in the same year, according to the market tracker.

You could expect to pay 50% or less than the price of a new model if you are prepared to accept a refurbished equivalent.

"Supply remains constrained as consumers are holding on to smartphones for longer," Counterpoint's Senior Analyst Glen Cardoza said in the news release. "At the same time, demand for 5G is increasing, especially in mature markets like the US, Europe, and Japan. In 2022, 5G made up 13% of global refurbished sales."

The sales boom in refurbished phones is due to the savings they offer users, Jon Morgan, the CEO of the consulting firm Venture Smarter noted in an email to Lifewire. He said that refurbished equipment is often significantly cheaper than new equipment, which can help you save money.

Don't worry about getting old, broken gadgets when buying a refurbished model, Morgan said. 

"Refurbished equipment is thoroughly tested and repaired to ensure that it meets the same quality standards as new equipment, so consumers can be confident that they are getting a reliable product," he added.

Someone in a restaurant using a smartphone.

Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

There's also a green silver lining to going with refurbished over new, Morgan pointed out. Buying refurbished equipment can help reduce waste and promote sustainability by giving new life to products that might otherwise end up in a landfill. A brand-new smartphone generates an average of 187 pounds in emissions in its first year of use. 

While the savings may be significant, buying refurbished equipment has disadvantages. For one thing, you can't always count on getting exactly what you want. Morgan noted that refurbished equipment may be less widely available than new equipment, making it harder to find the exact product you are looking for. 

The Downsides of Buying Refurbished Phones

Sometimes though, refurbished phones can be more available than the latest and greatest models. 

"We have all seen the panic to buy when new models get released; very often, you are lucky to get one even within weeks or months of the release," Elster said. "Refurbished models, on the other hand, are readily available most of the time."

There's also the potential for hidden defects. While refurbished equipment is thoroughly tested and repaired, there is always a risk that there could be issues that are not immediately apparent, Morgan said. Refurbished equipment may come with a shorter or no warranty at all, making it harder to get repairs or replacements if something goes wrong. 

Refurbished equipment is thoroughly tested and repaired to ensure that it meets the same quality standards as new equipment...

But, said Elster, while you may not get the full guarantee you get with a new model, nearly all resellers will offer a warranty of some kind, usually at least 90 days. 

"This is long enough to ensure that the device is working properly, and if a repair is needed after this time, the seller will usually offer to help with that," he added. 

Refurbished phones sometimes come with an unpleasant surprise. In rare cases, the device may soon be blocked without your knowledge, Yevgeniy Reznik, a lab manager at Secure Data Recovery, said via email. 

Blocking means the phone was reported as stolen or is still on a payment plan with someone else when you receive it, Reznik said. After a carrier blocks the phone, it can't be activated. 

"The best way to combat this is to use a certified payment method like PayPal or eBay, which both have buyer protection," he added. 

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