Why You Might Want to Buy a Refurbished Phone

There are perks to buying a phone that’s already been used

Key Takeaways

  • Refurbished phones could become a better value for customers looking to buy newer devices, but who aren’t interested in the most expensive new phones.
  • Not all refurbished devices are created equal. Experts recommend doing research on where you buy a refurbished phone before purchase.
  • Environment waste reduction is another reason the refurbished phone market has continued to grow and offer new types of devices to consumers.
Close-Up Of Hands Working On a Smartphone

Alexander Egizarov / EyeEm / Getty Images

Experts say buying refurbished devices instead of more expensive, newer phones can save you money, as well as help cut down on the amount of waste being made by the smartphone industry.

Refurbished phones have been available on third-party resellers for years now, and in more recent generations of smartphones, even wireless carriers and manufacturers have started to sell refurbished versions of their most popular smartphones. There are a lot of benefits to refurbished phones being available, experts say, even though it can be very tempting to get the biggest and best anytime you decide to upgrade. 

"Price and value are arguably the most influential factors in the rise of refurbished," Lauren Benton, the general manager at Back Market, a refurbished electronics dealer, told Lifewire in an email. 

"Consumers are historically price sensitive, especially for devices that can cost upwards of $1,000 new. More consumers are weighing the differences between new vs. used, and are finding that there are few reasons to buy new, especially when they can get a refurbished device for up to 70% off the price of new."

Closing the Upgrade Gap

As phone manufacturers like Samsung, Apple, and others continue to release yearly updates to their most popular smartphone lineups, the differences between these devices have started to slow. Now, these changes are less apparent, especially for everyday consumers who aren’t looking for the best camera a smartphone has to offer.

Consumers are historically price sensitive, especially for devices that can cost upwards of $1,000 new.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for users who enjoy buying refurbished devices instead of new ones. And this closing of the upgrade gap also has helped the refurbished market thrive, because users who choose to purchase an older device aren’t necessarily putting themselves at a disadvantage by buying outdated tech.

Additionally, the rise of refurbished devices has opened a door for more people to help in the fight against environmental waste. Smartphones and other devices like laptops have helped cause a surge in e-waste, with the United Nations reporting a 21% increase between 2014 and 2019. A lot of times, when people buy new smartphones, they either throw the old ones away, or chuck them into a drawer and forget about them. This leads to the precious metals inside not being recycled, which means manufacturers have to pull more of those materials from the earth to fuel future phone creation.

Budget Conscious

While the reasons for going refurbished might be different for most people, there’s no denying the possible budget advantages. New smartphones have become more and more expensive—though those prices can fluctuate some. When you choose to buy refurbished, though, you often can get a device from the last generation or two without having to pay full price.

"Generally speaking, [refurbished] smartphones are a great way to get a newer model smartphone at a dramatically lower price than buying brand new at regular retail price," Andrea Woroch, a budgeting expert explained in an email. 

"Considering today’s smartphones come with price tags that exceed $1,000, buying a refurbished one can provide serious savings and help many consumers avoid taking on monthly payments or racking up a credit card bill they can’t afford to pay off."

Apple's own certified refurbished page


However, Woroch warns that not all refurbished devices are created equal, a sentiment that Back Market’s Benton also shares. Users looking into buying a refurbished device always should check how the seller they’re buying from goes about refurbishing devices, as well as how the price stacks against the normal price of a new device. Some companies, like Apple, will sell their refurbished devices with brand new parts installed. This can lead to a slightly more expensive cost, but lessens the chances of your phone coming with defective parts.

"Just remember to review a few things first, including the return policy and warranty. For instance, eBay offers a certified refurbished program, which means you get a 30-day money-back guarantee if you aren’t happy with your purchase and a two-year warranty," Woroch noted.

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