Refurbished Phones - The Ultimate Guide [2020]

Refurbished mobile phones. You might’ve thought about one, especially if you fancy a new model but can’t stomach the price tag. That said, there are some classic, and common, thoughts that go with that. How reliable is a used phone? Is it worth the price tag? And how can I guarantee the quality? There are all things to take into account when buying refurbished, and truth be told, it can get a little confusing.

In a nutshell: refurbished phones are better for our planet and better for your wallet. But there are a few things you need to know before you take the plunge. So, we’ve compiled this guide to help you get the most from your money when buying a refurbished device.

Let’s take the refurbished iPhone as our starting block.


What is a refurbished iPhone?

A refurbished iPhone, or any other phone, is one that was made and then sent back to the manufacturer. It could have been by a store, a reseller, or a customer for any number of reasons, from technical defects to scratches. There are normally three groups:

  • Old phones that are used but have been fixed with new parts to make them work like new again. 
  • New phones that people have simply opened and sent back to be sold again. 
  • Brand new phones that had technical issues from the manufacturers, but look brand new so were sent back to be sold again after being fixed. 


Refurbished phones are basically damaged or broken phones that have been repaired and sold for 20-40% cheaper. Sounds good, but there are a few crucial tips before you dive in.


The crucial things to look for in a refurbished phone

 Go A gradeRefurbished phones come from all different backgrounds, and are ‘graded’ as such by resellers. Generally, the market grades phones as A, B, C, D or E. Grade ‘A’ refurbished phones are as close to new as it gets, which is the best (and only) choice in our opinion, whereas grade ‘D’ refurbished phones are well worn and broken in some way. Sounds simple, but there are huge inconsistencies and vagueness in the grading policies – like the images below – so you can’t ever be too sure that you’re getting the best deal.

Some sites’ grading guidelines are too simple...


Where others are quite loose...


Our grading system

While most sites offer you a price based on a very broad grading system, which is basically guesswork, at reboxed we score and price each and every phone we sell individually, based on its condition and quality. 

Our grading system, a classic Uber-style ‘the higher the better’ job, looks like this: 

3.0★ - Beyond repair 

3.5★ - Broken but fixable

4.0★ - Some wear and tear 

4.5★ - Almost new 

5.0★ - Better than new


We prefer cold hard data when it comes to grading, not guesswork. So we built TechCheck – our all-seeing, 70-point diagnostics tool spanning battery health, software, screen and more, guaranteeing you a refurbished phone as close to new as humanly possible. It’s a diagnostic test with intuitive 360-degree technology that pinpoints the exact spec and condition of a phone. 

We use it to work out exactly what condition a phone is in when sold to us, and to inspect and certify all our phones before we rebox them. So you’ll have peace of mind when you buy, without frequently changing quotes or three-day turnaround time. 

Every device sold on reboxed has been TechChecked and scored to our ‘strictest in the industry’ standards, so you can be sure of its quality. And we also give each model a TechScore, which tells you what condition the outside of your phone is in (the inside is always guaranteed to be in top shape). Much like grades A-E, we have five categories. 5.0 = A, 3.0 = D. 

3.0★ - Worn

3.5★ - Ok

4.0★ - Some wear and tear

4.5★ - Almost new

5.0★ - Premium  (reboxed as good as new – our reboxed fully certified 15 month guarantee quality.)


Warranty wins: Look for a warranty with your refurbished phone; this is absolutely essential. Let’s face it, you’re basically buying a second hand phone, and if you’re not choosing a truly trusted source then you should be prepared for a few faults. Some sellers will provide a warranty, some may not. Avoid the latter.


Make it official: One of the key things to look out for in a refurbished phone is whether official parts are being in the repair process. If they’re not, you’ll lose out on a fair bit of shelf life and most likely have to take it in to be repaired again fairly sharpish. 


Don’t get locked in: Refurbished phones are best unlocked and available to use on any network, which gives you the freedom to choose a SIM-only deal. Locked refurbished phones mean more excruciatingly long contracts, whereas unlocked devices mean you’re free to roam the market and choose a cheaper network with more flexibility. Winner winner chicken dinner.


Why should I buy a refurbished iPhone?

Refurbished phones directly tackle our planet’s growing e-waste issue. Of which we clocked up 50m ton’s worth in 2019 alone. Not good. Choosing a refurbished device is a simple step you can take to fight climate change, especially when you get into selling your refurbished phone on and trading up – also known as a circular economy. 

If planetary stewardship isn’t your bag, then you’ll be chuffed to know that refurbished iPhone deals are second to none. For example, Mazuma Mobile recently found that the top eight phone models researched (including iPhone 8 and iPhone XS), were between £100 to £550 cheaper when bought refurbished, with an average saving of £319.

The depreciation effect: But you won’t just save money on the initial cost. Phones lose between 38% and 76% of their original value within one year. So if you’re buying new and planning to sell on, you’re not going to get half of what you hoped for.

Break free from contracts: We’ve all been there – the tiringly long contracts that network providers normally lock you into which seem like forever. Let’s say you want an iPhone 8, with 64gb of storage. On Broadband choices, you could pick one up with 4GB of monthly data for £21 a month. Over the 24-month contract, and with a £99.99 upstart cost, you’re looking at a total of £604. You could get the same model, refurbished for £294.99 on Music Magpie. Plus a £10 SIM-only contract with 10GB on Virgin over 24 months (if you wanted that long in the first place), you’re looking at £534.99. That’s a £69 saving (or £189 if you choose a 12-month deal). Plus more data and the freedom to buy a new handset whenever you like.

Still need convincing? Here’s a little SIM only v contract breakdown from Compare The Market.




How to maximise value for refurbished phones 

Let’s put value into context. If you’re buying a refurbished phone for yourself and you don’t mind a scratch here or there, then grade B is great value for money. Whereas, if you’re buying as a present or gift, or fancy giving yourself the ultimate new experience, then you’ll want grade A. 

That’s what drives us at reboxed. Most online sites don’t offer ‘present-worthy’ refurbished phones. We aren’t into that. So we wanted to offer the very best in refurbished, the creme de la creme. The straight-out-the-box, brand-spanking-new vibe. Like our 5.0 rated iPhone. It’s literally boxfresh, as good as new. Perfect gifts, whether that’s for you, your sister, or just about anyone, really. 


Where can you buy refurbished iPhones?

Almost anywhere. Whether that’s in person at your neighbourhood EE store, online through the miracle of eBay, or even at a specific website like Music Magpie. But be careful about how you make your choice. For example, on eBay, ‘refurbished’ listed items don’t have to be approved by the manufacturer. So, while you might get a good price, you can’t always guarantee quality and it’s highly unlikely you’ll bag yourself a warranty.

Then you have the fair price conundrum. Like we said earlier, grading systems are often vague and unfair. So you’ll get the quality you need, but probably not at the price you want. Overall, buying refurbished from some sellers isn’t the nicest experience – here are some photos from across the market. 


Even the official Apple unboxing experience isn’t the smoothest.

Refurbished phones are good. But they could be better. At reboxed, we’re taking the ‘r’ word one step further.


Choose a refurbished phone from reboxed

Our mission is simple: rehome 100 million new mobile phones by 2030. To reach our goal we need to make buying refurbished phones fast, easy and worth your while – so that’s what we’ve done. No online hagglers or hassle… just a refurbished phone as good as new for a decent price. And that’s just the start. 

All our phones are restored with official parts, each device covered by a 12-month warranty. Plus, with our TechCheck app, we’ll guarantee you a refurbished phone as close to new as humanly possible. 


Join the circle (we don’t bite)

As our planet enters a crucial period in the fight against climate change, we’re determined to create a new normal, a loop whereby you and many others like you can buy and sell phones within a community for a fair price. A space where e-waste is drastically reduced… and we all sleep a little bit better knowing we’ve saved a little bit of cash on a new blower.  

Once you buy from reboxed, you’ll join our circle. It’s our way of pushing the circular economy, and it’s based on the three r’s: rehome, rebox, repeat. So whenever you want to sell or trade up, we’ll buy the phone we sold you back at the market’s best price. Guaranteed. Every time. Without doubt. 

Buying reboxed saves one phone from the scrapheap. And when you’re done with it, reboxing it, selling it back to us and upgrading to another reboxed phone saves two phones in one go.


Image Credit: Mark A Phillips

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