Refurbished Phones vs Used Phones – how are they different? Here’s everything you need to know about buying refurbished phones and why they’re a better…

Key Takeaways:

  • Difference Between Used and Refurbished Phones: Used phones are devices previously owned and sold by individuals, often without warranties or returns policies. Refurbished phones, on the other hand, are sent back to manufacturers or refurbishing specialists, fixed, and rigorously tested before being resold with warranties and returns policies.
  • Reliability and Quality: Refurbished phones are more reliable and of higher quality compared to used phones. Refurbished devices undergo thorough testing and repairs, ensuring they function as good as new. Used phones may have hidden issues, potentially leading to costly repairs or performance problems.
  • Warranty and Returns Policy: Refurbished phones come with warranties and returns policies, providing consumers with protection in case of defects or dissatisfaction. Used phones sold by individuals often lack such assurances, leaving buyers with limited recourse if issues arise.
  • Pricing Consistency and Fairness: Refurbished phones have competitive pricing set by companies, while used phone prices can vary significantly based on individual sellers. Consumers can expect fair and consistent pricing from reputable refurbished phone retailers.
  • Rights and Consumer Protections: Buying from reputable refurbished phone retailers offers consumers greater rights and protections compared to purchasing from private individuals. Dealing with established companies ensures better customer support and problem resolution.
  • Wide Range of Refurbished Tech: Refurbished products extend beyond phones, including laptops, tablets, and headphones. Consumers can find various refurbished tech items at substantial discounts, saving an average of around 40%.
  • Recommended Retailer: Gazelle is recommended as a top refurbished tech retailer in the USA, and in the UK, you’re best off with REBOXED. Both offer a vast selection of quality products with competitive pricing and reliable customer support.

If you’re looking to save some money on your next phone, you might have head about buying “refurbished” or buying a “used” phone. Both of these ways of buying a phone will save you a considerable amount of money.

But they are both very different in how they work and, importantly, how the phone you get will function. In this guide, we’ll take a detailed look at both used and refurb phones, so you know exactly what they are and how they’re different.

And once you know the difference between a used phone and a refurbished phone – or a reconditioned phone, as they’re sometimes known – you’ll be able to make a better decision about which is the best option for you.

Me personally, I only EVER buy refurbished. And the reason why will become clear in a moment…

Refurbished Phones vs Used Phones – How Are They Different?

best refurbished phonePin

What is A Used Phone?

Let’s start with used phones first. A used phone, as the name suggests, is a phone that has been used by someone, usually for the length of a contract, normally 12-24 months, and is then sold onto someone else.

The user may sell the phone on Facebook Marketplace or eBay or even inside the classifieds of your town’s local paper. Either way, when you buy a used phone from another person, the phone your getting is USED – it will have bumps and scratches in most cases and it could have potential issues.

There could be problems with its CPU, for instance, to it could have battery issues or a non-functioning camera.

The point here is that you will not know until you switch it on and start using it. And if it does have a problem, you don’t really have any recourse – individuals seldom give warranties.

Plus, the phone you bought – especially if it is over a year old – could have some performance issues or serious battery issues that will not rear their head until you’ve begun using it.

These types of issues are expensive to fix and are common on older phones. You do not want this, basically.

So, to recap:

a used phone is a phone that has been used by someone for an extended period of time, wiped and had all of their data removed, and is then sold on to a third-party.

There is no warranty and you cannot return the phone if something goes wrong with it.

You could complain to the platform you brought it from, but they seldom care about this kind of thing.

What is A Refurbished Phone?

A refurbished phone is NOT a used phone, although it is not a NEW phone either.

A refurbished phone starts its life like any other phone. It is shipped from a carrier or network or retailer out to its new owner. If something isn’t right with the phone, however, it is sent back or swapped for another model.

If this is the case that phone now exists in a kind of limbo; it isn’t new but it isn’t used in the traditional sense of the world either.


Now, depending on who sold the phone, most retailers, carriers, and networks will then simply offload the phone onto a refurbished phone specialist – Gazelle or Amazon Renewed.

These specialists will then fix the phone, ensure it has zero faults, and then resell it as a refurbished phone.

With a reseller like Gazelle or Amazon, you also get things like a 30-day returns policy and a warranty for your phone . They also put the phone through a battery of tests before it is resold onto you, the consumer.

For this reason, refurbished phones are infinitely more preferable to used phones. A refurbished phone will not have any issues and look and function as good as new, whereas a used phone could have all kinds of problems, including things like malware.

You also get a full returns policy with a refurbished phone as well as a water-tight warranty.

Best Refurbished iPhone Retailer In USA
Gazelle: The US’ #1 Refurb iPhone Specialist

Gazelle is the USA’s biggest and most trusted refurbished tech retailer. It sells everything from iPhones to MacBooks and Samsung phones. All Gazelle phones are extensively tested before they’re sold, meaning they look and function as good as new. If you’re in the US, Gazelle is the one to go for. 

  • 30-Point Test on ALL Products
  • 40% Cheaper Than Buying New
  • Sells Phones, Tablets, MacBooks & More
  • Excellent Warranty, Prices & Delivery Times
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
Best Refurbished Phone Retailer In UK
REBOXED: The Best For UK & EU

REBOXED has a massive selection of refurbished iPhones, Samsung phones, Apple Watch devices, AirPods, and more. If you’re after quality, reliability, and the best prices on the market, REBOXED is where it is at for users in the UK and Europe. 

  • 70-Point Test on ALL Products
  • 40% Cheaper Than Buying New
  • Sells Phones, Tablets, Headphones & More
  • Excellent Delivery Times & Packaging
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Which is Cheapest?

Both refurbished and used phones are cheaper than new phones, for obvious reasons. But the prices of “used” phones are usually set by individuals, not market forces, as is the case with refurbished phones.

This means a person selling a used phone, say an iPhone 6, can charge way more than its worse and basically wait for a sucker to come along and then rip them off.

With a refurbished phone, you’re dealing with an actual company and this company is in competition with other companies, so its prices are competitive.

They have to be, otherwise the company wouldn’t make any money.

This means the price of an iPhone X will be similar at ALL major refurbished phone retailers, whereas the price of a USED iPhone X on Facebook Marketplace will fluctuate massively.

And because you’re dealing with an actual company, you tend to have more rights as a consumer should something go wrong.

With a private individual, you basically have none and would have to settle the dispute in small claims court or with PayPal or whichever merchant handled the payment.

Bottom Line?

Refurbished phones are better than used phones . You’re less likely to run into problems dealing with actual companies versus individuals, and you’ll get a phone that has been tested and scrutinised careful by experts before being resold as a refurbished phone.

You also get a warranty and the option to return the phone if something is wrong with it.

You do not get any of these things with a used phone.

Also, keep in mind that you can buy lots of different types of refurbished products too – from headphones and phones, to MacBooks and iPads.

On average, consumers tend to save around 40% when they buy refurbished tech. And right now – and for the past several years – the retailer we recommend above all others is Gazelle.

If you’re in the market for a refurbished phone, tablet, laptop, or MacBook make sure you check these guys out first – they’re great.