Best Place To Buy A Refurbished iPhone? Our #1 Picks For 2021

by | 04/03/2021 9:02 am
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What is a Refurbished iPhone?

Refurbished Phones vs. New & Used – What's The Difference_
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A refurbished phone is NOT the same as a “second-hand phone” – one you might buy from eBay, for instance, or Craig’s List.

Refurb phones are returned phones; it might have had a fault or the user might have sold it back to the network/retailer in order to get an upgrade.

At this point, the phone is then fixed and put through a series of tests before being resold to a customer.

The phone, therefore, while used is NOT the same as a used phone you would buy via eBay or some random person on Facebook Marketplace.

It has been vetted and, if there were issues, fixed and returned back to its optimal state.

But because the phone cannot be classed as “new” it automatically loses a large portion of its value which, if you’re savvy, is great news for the end-user. Why?

Simple: you get a phone that functions as good as a new phone for a fraction of the cost.

I mean, what’s not to like!?

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Gazelle: Our #1 Pick For 2021
Why We Love Them?
This is the #1 reason why we recommend Gazelle; all of its refurbished iPhones and other tech products are all certified refurbished, come with warranties, and, in our experience, look and function as good as new. It also has some of the best prices on the market for iPhones, MacBooks, and iPads. Add in rock-solid warranties and great customer service and you're in a very good place indeed!
PROS
Massive Selection of Phones (Inc. Samsung Phones)
Great Prices - 40% Cheaper Than Buying New
Extensive, Market-Leading Testing Process
Rock-Solid Warranty & Returns Policy
CONS
Not As Many Unlocked Options As We'd Like
You Don't Get The Phone In Its "Official" Box
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Gazelle Has Best Prices & Selection
VIEW LATEST OFFERS

For this reason, a refurb phone is infinitely more preferable than a “second-hand phone”; a refurb phone is checked, has had to pass tests before it can be resold. And for all intents and purposes will function as good as new.

Most refurbished phone makers offer a range of options too, based on quality – usually,  excellent (looks good as new); good (there might be some cosmetic bumps/scratches); and, finally, average (wear and tear likely).

Obviously, the better the condition, the higher the price.

You can buy all kinds of refurbished tech too – from refurbished headphones to refurbished MacBooks and iMacs.

You can see a video of me unboxing my refurbished iPhone XS Max later on in the post too.

Be sure to check out our iPhone 12 vs iPhone XR comparison!

The Best Place To Buy Refurbished iPhones?

So what is the best place to buy a refurbished iPhone from? Right now, you have several solid options when buying refurbished iPhones in the UK and USA. And they are as follows:

RETAILERRATINGMONEY-BACK GUARANTEECOUNTRYLATEST OFFERS
Gazelle★★★★★USADEALS
Music Magpie ★★★★★UKDEALS
MRESSELL★★★UK DEALS
Amazon Renewed★★★USA/UK/EuropeDEALS

  • Gazelle (Our #1 Pick) Gazelle is a US company that specializes in refurbished iPhones, as well as iPads, MacBooks, and Samsung phones. All phones bought via Gazelle have been vetted and passed its 30-point process test, meaning they always look and function as good as new. But the best part? The prices – you can save upwards of 40% on iPhones buying through Gazelle. This is why it is our #1 recommended place to buy refurbished iPhones.
  • Verizon – If you’re in the US and you want a great deal on a refurbished iPhone, Verizon has some great offers. You can pick up the iPhone XR for less than $250 right now.
  • Amazon Renewed – Amazon’s a big deal these days; you can buy everything from Amazon. And now that includes refurbished iPhones. Whether you’re looking for an iPhone X or an iPhone 6, Amazon has plenty of options inside its Renewed program. Prices are good too, though not quite as low as Gazelle. On top of this, I’d rather support a smaller company too – Amazon makes enough money as it is, and Gazelle does have better prices and options for unlocked iPhones.
  • MResell (Another Good UK Option) – If you’re in the UK and are looking for refurbished iPhones, MRESELL would be our #1 choice right now – it carries a range of refurbished iPhones, from new models down to older models like the iPhone 6 and iPhone 7. On top of this, MRESELL also does tablets and Samsung phones too.

If you’re based in the US, it’s simple: Gazelle. You can browse thousands of phones, some carrier-branded, others unlocked, from all the biggest brands in technology. Gazelle carries both Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S and Galaxy Note range handsets. It also has iMacs, MacBooks, and iPads – both standard and Pro models.

This is ALL it does, so the entire service is geared around getting you the best refurbished iPhone for your exact needs. Amazon Renewed is also excellent; it offers full warranties (up to one year) and all of its renewed iPhones are fully tested and rated before being sold. This means the phone you get looks and functions as good as new.

Check out our iPhone 11 Pro vs iPhone XR: How Do They Compare to see which iPhone might be right for you.

Benefits of Using Refurbished Tech

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Refurbished iPhones: Price Breakdown

How much do refurbished iPhones cost? As always, it depends on where you look. Out of all the retailers online, we tend to use Gazelle the most as it has the best selection of product and, for the most part, the lowest prices, as you can see below:

How Much Are Refurbished iPhones?

  • iPhone 8 – From $269
  • iPhone 8 Plus – From $359
  • iPhone X – From $429
  • iPhone XS – From $544
  • iPhone XS Max – From $504
  • iPhone XR – From $449
  • iPhone 11 – From $499

>> Check Out All Prices & Models Here. 

Do Refurbished iPhones Look As Good As New Ones?

The main thing most people worry about when considering a refurbished iPhone is that it won’t look good – that it’ll have bumps and scratches. This is not the case, though, especially if you pay a little more for a phone that is in mint condition, as I always do.

I recently bought myself an iPhone XS Max via Gazelle. I wanted a new phone, I wanted it to be an iPhone, and I’ve always liked the XS range, so I decided to pick myself up a gold iPhone XS Max, Apple’s flagship phone from 2018.

In the video below, you can see that the iPhone XS Max is in very good condition; there’s no bumps or scratches. The display is in perfect condition and, for all intents and purposes, it looks as good as new.

Check Out Gazelle’s Latest Deals Here

I’ve been using this phone for a few weeks now and it hasn’t missed a beat. The battery life is brilliant and the performance, thanks to Apple’s amazing A12 Bionic SoC, is phenomenal. I ditched my Pixel 3a XL for the iPhone XS Max and it is not a decision I regret. With an iPhone, I know I’m going to get iOS updates well into the mid-to-late 2020s. With Android, I’ll be lucky if I get two years of support. And that goes for ALL Android phones, even ones that cost over $1000.

Are Refurbished iPhones Fake?

This is a common concern with first time refurbished buyers. But it is completely unfounded: refurbished phones are not FAKE. When you buy a refurbished iPhone, for instance, it is no different – with respect to its physical design and components – to a brand new iPhone. The only difference is that it has, for whatever reason, had to be returned to Apple for fixes.

Refurbished iPhones are not fake. And refurbished doesn’t even always mean there was something wrong with the phone either. If a user cannot keep up with payments for their iPhone, for instance, the phone will be collected by the carrier or retailer that sold it and then sent back to Apple to be tweaked for resale in the refurbished market.

If you’re concerned about the “quality” of refurbished phones, you really shouldn’t be – all refurbished phones, unlike second-hand and used phones, go through extensive testing before they’re resold to the consumer. In this respect, they’re more like an “approved used vehicle” than a standard “used vehicle” if you’re familiar with how the car market works.

When you buy a refurbished iPhone, or any type of refurbished phone, the phone you will get has been tested and re-tooled by the manufacturer. If it does not pass the refurbished retailers’ tests, it is sent back to the manufacturer and not sold. This means that every refurbished phone you see on sites like Gazelle are 100% legit and function just as good as new phones.

The same, however, cannot be said for used phones bought via Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and Craig’s List.

Certified Refurbished iPhones – Why It Matters

When you buy a refurbished iPhone, you need to make sure you’re buying one that is certified. Why? Because a certified refurbished iPhone has been through a battery of tests to ensure its quality. In this respect, certified refurbished is essentially a badge of quality – something you actively look for.

This is the #1 reason why we recommend Gazelle; all of its refurbished iPhones and other tech products are all certified refurbished, come with warranties, and, in our experience, look and function as good as new. It also has some of the best prices on the market for iPhones, MacBooks, and iPads.

If you buy a used iPhone, you do not get any of these things. The phone will not have been tested, will likely have issues, and might not have been wiped correctly. And you do not want that. With a certified refurbished iPhone, you’re getting a phone that looks, functions, and boots up as if it were brand new, so make sure you ALWAYS buy certified refurbished iPhones.

What is The Best Refurbished iPhone To Buy In 2021?

Apple’s software support is excellent, so even if you go with an older model like the iPhone 8 Plus, you’ll still get iOS updates for a good many years. However, I’d always advise that you go with an iPhone that is no older than three years. This means, in 2021, the best iPhone to buy refurbished is probably the iPhone XS or the iPhone XS Max.

If you want something cheaper, go with the iPhone XR – that model is one of the most popular iPhones Apple has ever released and it is still a great option in 2021. If you don’t mind spending a little more cash, you can pick up Apple’s iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro refurbished now, so if you want a modern iPhone at a lower price, and you don’t mind not having 5G, go with the iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro – you can get them for about $200 less than a new model.

What About Amazon’s Renewed Program? 

If you have Amazon Prime, another option would be to go with Amazon Renewed. You’ll get a great price for a refurbished iPhone and, with Prime, you can get it delivered the very next day. If you don’t have Prime, Gazelle is still a solid option. I’ve had a bunch of phones via Gazelle over the years and they’ve always been great.

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You Might Think An iPhone X is Out of Your Price Range, But Did You Know That You Can Pick Up A Refurbished One For 40% Less Than Normal?

But the really cool thing about Gazelle is that you’ll get your iPhone (or Samsung Galaxy phone) for around 40% less than normal. Yes, it is a used handset, but no one will know – they look good as new.

>>> Click Here To View ALL Gazelle’s Latest Offers…

Which brings me to my next question: why isn’t everybody doing this? I honestly don’t know. I’ve been a technology journalist for over 10-years, and I ALWAYS buy my iPhones – when I use them – refurbished. Ditto MacBooks and iMacs.

Why? Simple: I don’t like spending a TON of money on something that will be about 50% cheaper 12 months after its release. It makes ZERO sense. Plus, I’d rather avoid phone contracts, own my phone outright, and pick out my own plans to get the best deals on data and calls. Owning a phone outright affords you this option.

What Happens When You Buy An Old iPhone? 

With Android phones, you get a MAX of two years of software support. Even if your phone costs $1000. This is obviously a terrible deal. It gets worse though if you buy an older Android phone because, depending on its age, it could already be out of its update cycle, leaving you stuck on an old version of Android and exposed to all kinds of security issues.

You don’t want this, obviously. This is why an old iPhone is infinitely preferable to an old Android phone. Apple’s software support for the iPhone is incredible. Case in point: I have an iPhone SE, the original one from 2016, and it is still getting iOS updates as soon as they’re released. I cannot say the same thing for any of my older Android phones. Most of them are just now collecting dust in my office cupboard.

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This is the #1 reason why I’d always recommend a refurbished iPhone over a refurbished Android phone. You’ll just get way more mileage from an iPhone than you would an Android handset. Android purists will argue that you can get around all of these issues by rooting the phone and installing your own ROM but, as I often like to counter, not everybody is going to want to do that.

Bottom line: if you want a hassle-free phone experience, and you’re buying refurbished, you are infinitely better off going with an old iPhone, say the iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X, even the iPhone XR, you can get excellent deals on all of them, over a similar specced-and-priced Android phone. This is the reason why people that use iPhones tend to keep on using them for years to come. They just work. And you get updates as soon as they’re ready.

What About Amazon Renewed For Refurbished iPhones? 

Amazon’s Renewed program is a great place to buy refurbished iPhones. As with Gazelle, you’re going to save a fortune going this route. And best of all? The refurbished iPhones look and function as good as new. On top of this, you can also leverage Amazon Prime to get your refurbished iPhone the very next day, so if you order one today, you could be using it by this time tomorrow.

Amazon has a renewed program in the USA and Europe too; access the USA version here and the UK/Europe version here.

Amazon’s Renewed program covers all makes and models of iPhone, but if you want to make BIG savings, you’re best off going with a slightly older model – think the iPhone X or iPhone 8 Plus. This is where the biggest savings are because these phones are older and have lost most of their appeal to customers that want and demand everything to be new, new, new!

Running an iPhone 8 Plus (or iPhone X) in 2019 is not going to cause you any issues. Apple builds its iPhones to last and while it would rather you buy NEW iPhones every year, the company’s rise and command over consumers is built on the simple fact that iPhones, unlike Android phones, will last and get support for years at a time. An iPhone X, for instance, will be perfectly adequate and totally functional until well into the mid-2020s.

Can you say that about Samsung’s Galaxy S10? Probably not. That phone will stop getting Android updates inside 2020. Why? Simple: Samsung wants you to buy a new phone. Why? Because that’s how it makes money. Conversely, Apple makes money when you use ANY iPhone, so it doesn’t care if you’re holding on to your phone for years at a time, just so long as you’re buying and doing stuff inside the Apple ecosystem.

Be sure to check out our iPhone 12 mini vs iPhone 12 Pro comparison!

Reconditioned iPhone: The Best Time To Buy A Refurbished iPhone?

The best time of year to buy a used iPhone is in the months of September to October. That’s because a glut of used devices flood the market as people rush to sell last year’s model so they can make some cash to buy the new iPhone.

Apple’s iPhones are VERY expensive, especially new ones. This is why plenty of people buy second-hand or reconditioned units, as they’re often a hell of a lot cheaper. Plus, once a new iPhone lands the price of older models goes down considerably cheaper.

Chuck in Apple’s excellent track-record with software-support and investing in a year-old iPhone X makes a lot of sense. Also, if you’re not 100% sold on Apple’s iPhone XS but need an upgrade if you’re running an older handset, say, the iPhone 7, a reconditioned iPhone X makes a ton of sense as it will be a huge upgrade on your older iPhone.

Why Refurbished iPhones Are A SOLID Buy

Plus – the used phone market is a very popular choice with consumers.

“The worldwide market for refurbished phones that are sold to end users will grow to 120 million units by 2017,” notes Gartner, “with an equivalent wholesale revenue of around $14 billion. This is up from 56 million units in 2014, with an equivalent wholesale revenue of $7 billion.”

“With consumers in mature markets upgrading their smartphones every 18 to 20 months the inevitable question is what happens to the old device?” said Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner. “While only seven percent of smartphones end up in official recycling programs, 64 percent get a second lease of life with 23 percent being handed down to other users and 41 percent being traded in or sold privately.

“This rise in smartphone reuse will impact not only the sales of new units but also the revenue streams of all those involved in the smartphone supply chain,” continued Ms. Escherich. “Stakeholders that are already participating in take-back or trade-in programs need to have a strategy for turning used devices into a positive asset. Others — particularly high-end phone original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) — need to take a closer look at this market in order to evaluate the impact these secondhand devices will have on their market positions and revenue streams.”

You Can Get Refurbished iPhone X, iPhone XR & iPhone XS Phones 

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When you think about refurbished iPhones, you tend to think of old, knackered models that have been used and abused by someone. But that’s simply not the case. You can now pick up modern iPhones via places like Gazelle that look and function as good as new.

You can get the iPhone X, the iPhone XR, even Apple’s 2018 flagships, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max refurbished for around 40% less than it’d cost from Apple. And when you consider that the iPhone XS looks identical, more or less, to the iPhone 11, the idea of buying a refurbished iPhone starts to look more and more compelling.

This is the #1 reason why I have bought multiple refurbished iPhones over the years – the cost savings. Sure, the phone isn’t brand new. But when it’s $300-$400 cheaper, who cares!? As long as it looks new and works like new that’s all that matters. And with these types of refurbished phones from Gazelle, that’s exactly what you’re getting.

DO NOT Buy 32-Bit iPhones (Avoid Anything Older Than iPhone 7)

iOS 11 will not be available on 32-bit iPhones, or any iOS updates following it. This means ALL iPhones below the iPhone 5s will not get the update. Why? Simple: Apple’s pretty good at supporting old hardware, but there comes a time when people have to move on. Apple developed iOS to be a 64-bit platform. All of its iPhone since 2013 have been 64-bit. It’s not 2017, and this is easily a long enough grace period for old hardware users to update and move forward.

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In Order To Get The Best Value For Money, Make Sure You Buy No Older Than The iPhone 7 – Anything Before That Just Won’t Cut The Mustard… View Latest Deals Here!

If you’re looking for a solid 64-bit iPhone that will be supported for another few years, the best option is an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus – if you’re on a budget, but want something that really cooks.

So how do you find a good deal on an iPhone?

It then comes down to the simple law of supply and demand: the more people selling used iPhones mean the prices for these used devices drop in order to entice buyers to buy theirs and not someone else’s. However, horror stories abound about people getting ripped off when buying a used device.

While there’s no guarantee you won’t be ripped off, we’ve put together this simple guide to help you minimize your risk when buying a used iPhone from a stranger.

Tips For Buying Used iPhones From Amazon & eBay

Amazon and eBay are also great options, though here you’re going to be buying directly from a consumer, in most cases.

If there’s a legitimate dispute between a buyer and seller on Amazon, for example, the site will almost always side with the buyer. This goes doubly for eBay. They also mandate that sellers must offer a 30 day return period–so if your used iPhone stopped working a week after you buy it, it’ll be easy to get a refund.

eBay also offers powerful buyer protection thanks to its seller rating system and its integration with Paypal. If you get ripped off, Paypal makes it very easy to get your money back.

Keep The Following In Mind When Buying Second-Hand Phones Via Amazon & eBay

  • Meet The Seller In A Public And Secure Place – I like to believe that most sellers are honest people, but there have been instances where someone agrees to meet a seller from Craigslist or Gumtree, only to turn up and be mugged by them. for this reason, I always suggest meeting a seller in a public and secure place. A packed coffee shop, and Apple Store, or even the parking lot of a police station. A place with CCTV cameras is good too, just in case something goes down.
  • Ask To See The Original Receipt – While some sellers may not always have this, it’s a good thing to ask for. If they can provide a receipt for the iPhone, you know there’s a good chance it’s not a stolen device. However, not being able to provide a receipt doesn’t necessarily mean it is stolen.
  • Get Two Forms Of Contact Info From The Seller – I always recommend getting two or more forms of contact for the seller. Email is good and a phone number is better. As for their name and see if you can identify them on social media. Getting as much contact info from the seller as possible means you have a better chance of contacting them if the used iPhone you bought dies a week later.
  • Ask What The Seller’s Return Policy Is – Most sellers will probably have a “no returns accepted” policy. When I sell on sites like Gumtree I usually have this policy. However, if you are buying a high-value device like the iPhone, I usually offer them a week to return it–but only if something is seriously wrong. I also show the buyer that the phone works well and keep detailed pictures of the device in case the buyer damages it and wants to return it.
  • Test The Used Phone – Needless to say, you should thoroughly test the used iPhone you plan to buy. If you’re about to hand a stranger £400, he should have no qualms about you using the phone in front of him for about 10 minutes to test out all its features.
  • Make Sure No iCloud Account Is Signed In To The Device – While testing the device, make sure that no user is signed into the iCloud account on the iPhone. If they are, this could prevent you from restoring it, may suggest that it’s been stolen, or even means the seller can screw you over later and lock you out of the device you’ve bought.
  • Check Out The Device’s IMEI Number – An IMEI number is a unique 15-digit number assigned to cellular devices. The IMEI can be used to block a mobile phone from being used by others if it has been lost or stolen. To find the iPhone’s IMEI go to Settings > General > About. Once you have the IMEI you can copy and past it and then go to iPhoneox.com to enter it and check its warranty and activation info, if it’s locked to a carrier, or if it’s been reported lost or stolen. Also, be aware if you accidentally buy a stolen iPhone, the original owner can remotely brick it by using the Find My app.

It sounds like a lot of work, right? It kind of is. For this reason, I’d go with a professional service instead – and right now, our #1 pick for reconditioned iPhones, Samsung phones, MacBooks, and iPads is Gazelle.

Or, if you’re in the UK, Music Magpie – especially if you’re after other things like consoles, iPads, Apple Watch or gaming peripherals, and console games.

Refurbished vs Used Phones – What’s The Difference?

The main difference between a used phone and a refurbished phone is that a used phone is usually bought direct from a user. For instance, you might go to Facebook Marketplace and search for an iPhone 8.

You’ll see listings from local people nearby. If you choose to buy one of these phones, you’re getting a phone that has been used for a year or more – and will likely have some physical defects.

You also have NO comeback if something goes wrong with the phone. If it has an issue, you cannot really do anything once you’ve paid for the phone.

You’re basically stuck with a dud or broken phone.

You can contact the site you bought it through but it is never guaranteed that you’ll get your money back.

With a refurbished phone, you’re dealing with a registered company, a company that specialises in selling and acquiring phones, and all good refurb companies run a battery of tests and, where appropriate, fixes on all of the products it sells before reselling them onto customers.

You also have a 30-day returns policy with most places, and, with the best refurbished retailers, you get a warranty on your phone too. This way, you’re covered for all eventualities, including issues with the phone and anything that could go wrong in the first few months of using it.

Another issue with “used” phones is how much they cost. Because the price is set by the seller and not dictated by the market, you can – and in some cases will – pay more for a used phone simply because the seller is asking for too much money.

With a refurb phone, this doesn’t happen thanks to the magic of economics that ensure all refurbished phone retailers compete with one another to give the best prices possible in order to remain competitive.

The bottom line here is pretty simple: refurbished phones are better, safer, and an infinitely better way to buy a phone when compared to used phones. 
And right now, this is our #1 recommended place to buy them. 

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