How to buy a refurbished iPhone

iPhone 8 Product (RED)
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Apple’s iPhones are some of the best smartphones around, and they can last a long time when properly looked after, but they’re also very expensive. Stir these factors together and you get a roaring trade for used and refurbished iPhones.

When Apple releases a new line of iPhones many people upgrade, and they generally get rid of their old iPhones. We have guides on how to sell your smartphone and how to sell your iPhone specifically, but what if you’re looking to buy?

You could always take your chances buying directly from another individual, but it’s less risky to buy a refurbished device that comes with a warranty. That way, if something goes wrong with it, you have some chance of getting a replacement or a refund. We’ve looked at refurbished electronics before, but today we’re going to examine how to buy a refurbished iPhone.

What is a refurbished iPhone?

Because the term refurbished covers a lot of different scenarios, it’s important to take your time and understand what you’re buying. A refurbished iPhone is an iPhone that the manufacturer or a trader has tested and repaired where necessary. It should come with a warranty, but it may not have the original packaging or accessories, and it might have some signs of cosmetic damage.

Some refurbished iPhones will be devices owners returned because there was a fault or simply because they decided they didn’t want them. Others will have been used and then sold by the owner, perhaps to raise funds for a newer model.

To help buyers understand the difference, a grading system is often used. The precise meanings may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer or trader to trader, so read listings carefully, but these are generally accepted definitions:

  • Grade A — Near mint condition, so the iPhone should look like new.
  • Grade B — Minor cosmetic damage, such as light scratches, or small chips.
  • Grade C — Looks used with clear signs of wear.

Best places to buy

apple store opens in kyoto japan trevor mogg dt 30
Trevor Mogg / DT

You can find deals on refurbished iPhones at a wide variety of retailers and carriers. There are also many online services that buy used iPhones and refurbish them for sale. You can also buy refurbished iPhones directly from Apple now in some countries, including the U.S.

Here are some of your top options with our thoughts on the pros and cons.

Buy a refurbished iPhone from Apple

Where better to buy your refurbished iPhone than Apple? Every handset is fully tested and in working order. They come with a brand-new battery fitted, a new outer shell, in a fresh white box. You get a 12-month warranty and Apple support is generally excellent if you should run into any problems. You also have the option of going into an Apple Store.

The downside to buying from Apple is the discounts tend to be quite shallow. You may only be saving $50 compared to a new device.

Buy a refurbished iPhone from a big retailer

Big stores like Walmart and Best Buy offer a wide range of refurbished iPhones and they tend to offer deeper discounts than the manufacturer. The iPhones they sell are fully tested and usually come with a cable and charger, but there’s no battery or outer shell replacement like Apple offers, so expect scratches and other signs that the device has been used.

A 12-month warranty is standard, but it may be provided by a third-party. You can sometimes get further discounts for picking your iPhone up from a local branch. That may also prove handy if you need to return it for any reason, but check the terms of the warranty to make sure you can take it back to the store where you bought it if something goes wrong. For example, Best Buy uses CCR Warranty and you’ll have to contact them about any issues.

Buy a refurbished phone from an online service

There are various services online like Gazelle, Decluttr, and Back Market that buy iPhones from people, refurbish them, and then sell them. You’ll often find bigger discounts here than the manufacturer or big box retailers will offer, but all iPhones are shipped and these services lack physical locations you can visit.

They all fully test iPhones and offer some details on the condition of the device you’re buying, but the specifics of their terms differ. For example, Decluttr offers a 12-month warranty and Back Market offers 6 months. With Gazelle, you get 30 days to change your mind and return postage is covered.

Buy a refurbished phone from your carrier

Carriers tend to prefer the term “certified pre-owned” for their refurbished wares, but they amount to the same thing. They fully test used iPhones and repair them where necessary. You’ll get a charger with each one, but there could be signs of wear and tear.

The discounts aren’t generally that good unless you go for an older device. There might be certain incentives and discount offers for existing customers and you can potentially pick up and return devices in store, however, warranties are usually limited to 90 days.

Best time to buy

apple announcements tim cook iphone 8 x 12 2017 event

Most people sell their old iPhones when Apple releases new iPhones and that’s in September every year. You’ll likely find the best deals between August and October. Lot’s of different factors impact the prices and they fluctuate daily, so it’s worth shopping around and doing your homework to find the best deal.

Always check the warranty

Selecting the right iPhone is about more than being happy with the price and condition — you must check the details of the warranty being offered. If your refurbished iPhone develops a fault, a good warranty allows you to arrange a replacement or refund. Look for a minimum 12-month warranty, make sure that you understand what is covered, and consider who is responsible — the retailer, trader, or manufacturer — as that’s who you’ll have to deal with if something does go wrong.

Keep in mind that even when you can return the iPhone for a replacement or refund, it will likely be your responsibility to pay for postage. You should also consider performing due diligence by checking out reviews of the service you’re considering using. Find out how other people’s experiences have been and what kind of customer service you can expect should you need it.

Now that you know how to buy a refurbished iPhone, it’s time to snag yourself a bargain.

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