Should you buy a refurbished phone?

If you’re thinking of getting a refurbished phone but don’t know where to start, this guide can help. Here’s where you can get one, how much you can save, and what to check before you buy.

What is a refurbished phone?

It’s a pre-owned handset that’s undergone any repairs needed and passed a set of tests to prove it’s in working order.

There are different circumstances a phone might be refurbished, the main ones are:

  • It’s been traded in for an upgrade
  • It’s not ready to be recycled
  • It’s been returned due to a fault that can be easily fixed
  • It’s been returned due to the customer changing their mind

What condition do refurbished phones come in?

Some refurbished phones are like new, while others are much older with obvious signs of wear and tear. The condition of the phone should be clear from the grade it’s given.

For example, an A - C type grading system may be used where A is Like New, B is Very Good condition with minor signs of wear and tear, and C is Average condition with greater signs of wear and tear.

Grading systems vary seller to seller so check what each grade means before you buy.

Where can you buy a refurbished phone in Ireland?

There are lots of online retailers that sell different makes of refurbished phones, including iPhone, Samsung and Huawei, here are just a few of them:

They all offer a 12 month warranty on their refurbished phones, except for GetTech which includes a 24 month warranty.

All these retailers are still operational during the current coronavirus restrictions - although delivery timeframes may be longer.

What to check before you buy

You may be tempted by a potential bargain but it’s worth checking what you’re getting for your money before you buy. Here are a few things to check:

  • The technical specification of the phone: This includes things like the SIM type, model, display type, storage, camera, battery etc.
  • The warranty: The longer the warranty the better so you’re covered if something goes wrong with the phone.
  • Delivery timeframe and cost: Make sure you can get the phone when you need it, and factor in the delivery cost to the total cost of the phone.
  • The grade of the phone: Grading systems vary so check the details and make sure you’re happy with the condition of the phone.
  • What tests have been done: Not all retailers share this information but some detail the tests they run. Phones should be sold in good working order, and have had a factory reset.*
  • How much you’re saving: Make sure it costs less than a new phone first and then shop around to see if another retailer is selling an equivalent refurbished phone for less.
  • Payment options: See what methods they accept and check for card charges. Some retailers offer the option to pay for the phone in instalments but check if you’ll be charged interest.

*A factory reset is where all the data on the phone is permanently deleted and the device is restored to its original manufacturer’s settings - the same state as when it was new.

Refurbished handsets are sold unlocked and SIM free, so you’ll need to get a SIM-only deal to suit your usage habits when the phone arrives.

How much can you save?

The same make and model refurbished phones can vary in cost a lot between retailers which affects the potential savings you could make.

We’ve compared two different model refurbished iPhones in the examples below - the iPhone 8 (discontinued in April 2020) and the iPhone XR (still available to buy).

*Only the retailers offering the exact same specification handsets and condition have been used.

iPhone 8 example

In the iPhone 8 example below, the phones were all ‘as new’ or A Grade, Black or Space Grey and with 64GB storage.

Here’s what each of the handsets cost in May 2020:

Costs Creative IT BuyItDirect phonezone GetTech
Handset €399 €345 €399.99 €439
Delivery charge €7.50 0 0 0
Total cost €406.50 €345 €399.99 €439

The table shows that it would be cheaper to buy the iPhone 8 from BuyItDirect - a €94 saving on the most expensive handset from GetTech.

No comparison could be made against the cost of a new iPhone 8 as it’s no longer available to buy.

It’s worth noting that although GetTech was the most expensive, it offers a two year warranty which is an extra year to all the others.

iPhone XR example

In the iPhone XR example below, the refurbished handsets were all ‘as new’, Black and with 128GB storage. The handset from Apple was brand new with the same specification.

Here’s what each of the handsets cost in May 2020:

Costs Creative IT phonezone GetTech Apple
Handset €679 €649.99 €699 €779
Delivery charge €7.50 0 0 0
Total cost €686.50 €649.99 €699 €779

The results in the table show that it would be cheaper to get the iPhone XR from phonezone in this instance - saving €49.01 against the most expensive refurbished phone from GetTech, and saving €129.01 or 16.5% against the brand new handset from Apple.

Both examples show that it pays to spend some time shopping around as the savings vary depending on the make, model and condition of the phones.

Once you’ve found a handset you like, you’ll still need to choose a SIM-only plan with the data and calls you need. Our guide on: Switching to a SIM-only deal can help.

What if you change your mind?

If you buy a refurbished handset and then change your mind, a 14 day cooling off period applies. This means you can get your money back if you advise them within 14 days of receiving the device.

You then have another 14 days to return the phone in the same condition you received it in - this includes any accessories and packaging it was sent with.

You usually have to pay to return the handset, and depending on its value, you might want to insure and track the item in case it goes missing.

Always check the supplier’s returns policy as there may be conditions to follow, such as:

  • Notifying them by email
  • Completing a returns form
  • Quoting your order number with your returned goods
  • Sending by tracked mail

If you don’t follow their procedure, they may not be able to trace your order or process your return.

Are refurbished phones worth it?

It really depends what you’re looking for, here are a few things to consider to help you decide:

  • Your budget: If you’re on a tight budget and aren’t bothered about a few scratches and signs of wear and tear, you can get a cheap low grade refurbished handset. You could also get a higher spec refurbished phone for the same price as a new older model.
  • Your time: You’ll have to do your research to get the biggest saving you can on a refurbished phone but if you have the time, it pays to shop around.
  • SIM-only vs bill pay phone: With a refurbished phone, you’ll need a SIM-only plan which costs less per month and there’s no contract but you’ll have to buy the handset upfront. Some bill pay phones come with free handsets but you’ll pay more per month for up to 24 months.
  • ‘As new’ vs new: You can get an A Grade (like new) refurbished phone for around 15% less than the same new phone - but new doesn’t mean latest model.
  • Functionality vs innovation: If you lean more towards functionality in a phone and aren’t worried about the extra frills, then a refurbished phone is definitely worth considering. For the latest innovations and features, you’ll probably have to buy new as refurbished phones tend to be at least a model behind.

Refurbished phone FAQs

Do refurbished phones come with a warranty?

A reputable retailer should include a warranty with any refurbished phones but you should check this before you buy.

A warranty usually lasts 12 months, but they can vary between 6 and 24 months.

How is a phone refurbished?

It usually has to pass a number of tests and checks to ensure it’s working as it should be. Any repairs needed are carried out and this may include replacing certain parts.

Some retailers replace batteries as standard but not all.

The phone is then restored to its original factory settings which wipes any data from it so that it’s in the same state as if it were new.

Should I buy a refurbished iPhone from Apple?

Although it might seem like the obvious place to buy a refurbished iPhone, you can’t buy them from the Irish Apple website.

You’d have to buy it on the UK Apple website and arrange delivery to a destination in the UK and then on to Ireland, which could be tricky and costly.

Apple refurbishes its phones to an ‘as new’ standard and as well as undergoing the same testing as new iPhones, they also come with:

  • A one year warranty
  • Genuine Apple replacement parts
  • New battery and outer shell
  • Brand new white box
  • Free shipping and returns

Should I insure my refurbished phone?

It can be more difficult to get insurance for a refurbished phone so you’ll have to shop around.

If you’ve bought an expensive device it’s definitely worth considering getting cover. Our guide: Do you need mobile phone insurance? can help.

What happens if something goes wrong with my refurbished phone?

The phone should be sold in full working order but occasionally something goes wrong.

If a problem does arise and it’s within the warranty period, you can check the retailer’s returns policy and follow their procedure.

What refurbished mobile phone brands can I get?

You can find refurbished phones from most of the main manufacturers such as Samsung, Huawei and Apple.

Refurbished iPhones are much more common than any other brand though, with some retailers only offering this type.

What’s the difference between a new and refurbished phone?

A new phone hasn’t been owned or used by anyone else. You’re buying it in a brand new state, straight from the manufacturer.

Refurbished phones are pre-owned devices that undergo tests, checks and repairs as necessary to ensure they are in full working order before being sold on. They are graded and priced according to their condition.

Get a SIM only deal with the calls, texts and data you need for less.

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