There are two good reasons to buy a refurbished phone rather than a brand new one. First, it's better for the environment. Making new phones means more carbon emissions (among other things) and although many companies are moving towards being carbon neutral, they're not there yet.

The second, and probably the reason you're reading this article, is that refurbished phones are considerably cheaper than new ones.

Why buy a refurbished phone?

Clearly, you don't want to pay over the odds for a new phone. A refurbished phone costs less than a brand new one, but it can be a preferable option to simply buying a used one on ebay, Gumtree or from your mate down the road.

That's because refurbished phones often come with warranties, so you have some recourse if something goes wrong after you've bought it.

Second, companies that sell refurbished phones will (usually) thoroughly check that everything works as it should, so you don't end up with a dud.

Generally, refurbished doesn't mean that parts have been replaced or repaired. Instead, used phones are graded so you can see at a glance what you're getting. If you want something that's as close to new condition as possible, then Grade A is what to look for. If a few scrapes and scratches don't bother you, then a lower grade could save you even more money.

Where do refurbished phones come from in the first place? They're usually from owners who are upgrading to a new phone and have traded in or sold their old, perfectly good phone.

Refurbished devices aren't always old. They might be almost new, and there might be nothing wrong with them at all. In some cases, you can even find brand new devices with damaged boxes or missing accessories at knock-down prices.

When looking, do make sure that you check to see if the phone is locked to a particular network. Ideally, go for one that's unlocked as you'll be able to pop any SIM in it and use any network.

Where to find refurbished phone deals - SIM-free

Here are the best places we've found to buy a refurbished phone.

Where to buy refurbished phones on contract

You can also pick up refurbished handsets from major network retailers including:

Best refurbished phones deals available right now

Listed below are some of the top offers and sales we're seeing at the moment on refurbished phones, on contract and SIM-free.

1. Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (128GB, refurbished)

From: Amazon

Was: £1,099

Now: £649.99  (£449 off)

The iPhone 13 Pro Max superseded it last autumn, but this chunky discount on a refurbished 12 Pro Max is pretty appealing. You can also save £459 on the 256GB option.

2. Apple iPhone 12 (64GB) - Refurbished

From: Apple Refurbished Store

Was: £679

Now: £579  (£100 off)

Apple's refurbished iPhone 12 comes in at £100 cheaper compared to when it was on sale. 

3. Apple iPhone 12 mini (64GB) - Refurbished

From: GiffGaff

Was: £579

Now: From £399  (£180 off)

This price is a £180 saving compared to the iPhone 12 mini's original RRP. 

4. Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (128GB) - Amazon Renewed

From: Amazon

Was: £679

Now: £439  (£240 off)

The price on last year's Galaxy S21 has dropped a long way now that the S22 range has arrived – and you can save even more when you buy refurbished from Amazon!

5. Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus 5G (128GB) - Refurbished

From: Amazon Renewed

Was: £999

Now: £345  (£654 off)

Pick up 2019's S20 Plus 5G for £654 less than the launch price from Amazon.

6. OnePlus 9 Pro (128GB) - Refurbished

From: Amazon

Was: £829

Now: £699  (£130 off)

Amazon has taken £130 off the starting price of last year's OnePlus 9 Pro with its refurb.

7. Motorola Moto G 5G Plus (64GB) - Refurbished

From: Amazon

Was: £299

Now: £210  (£89 off)

While Motorola's Moto G 5G Plus was already budget-friendly with a launch price of £300, this Amazon Renewed model costs £89 less, bringing it down to a very tempting £210. 

8. Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max (64GB, unlocked) - Refurbished

From: MusicMagpie

Was: £839

Now: £494  (£345 off)

musicMagpie has over £340 off the iPhone 11 Pro Max with 64GB storage compared to its cheapest price brand new. The iPhone 11 Pro Max is no longer available from Apple, but cost £1049 at release, which means this deal saves you over £500 on an unlocked, refurbished phone in 'Pristine' condition.

MusicMagpie also offers free delivery and a free 12-month warranty. 

What is a refurbished phone? Should I buy a refurbished phone?

A refurbished phone is one that's been cleaned (physically, and with contents wiped) and repaired to work just like new. But not all refurbished phones are made equally.

Manufacturer certified refurbished

At the top of the hierarchy, we have manufacturer certified refurbished phones. These are phones that are thoroughly repaired and tested to work and look just like new by the manufacturer's own standards – so you can be sure there will no difference between new and reconditioned. Parts that no longer work or are damaged are fully replaced, so the end product is effectively just as good as new. 

Samsung's Certified Pre-Owned Store states that its refurbished phones are "completely rebuilt from scratch by the same engineers who build [its] new devices", while Apple's Refurbished Store states its refurbished products meet "the same functional standards as new Apple products" but cost up to15% less. 

Both Samsung and Apple offer a one-year warranty with their refurbished devices, so should you run into any issues, you can always get additional help.

The only downside to buying certified refurbished phones directly from the manufacturer is they may not always have stock for the type of device you're after. In which case you might have to go a reseller.

Samsung Refurbished Phone Deals

Seller refurbished

Seller refurbished is another type of refurbished stock you might see as you're hunting for a deal. This category applies to devices that may have been damaged or returned to the seller, who has then gone on to repair the product to work like new.

While some of these sellers might call their devices "seller certified refurbished", this doesn't mean it's certified by the manufacturer, so ensure you're buying from a trusted retailer.

Amazon Renewed is Amazon's marketplace for seller refurbished handsets. The devices there are extensively "inspected, tested, and cleaned by Amazon-qualified suppliers" and include a one-year warranty. 

Benefits of buying from third-party sellers (compared to buying refurbished from the manufacturer) include a greater variety of stock and more competitive prices – but watch out for the grade!

Amazon Renewed Refurbished Phones

What does the refurbished Grade A mean?

If you're buying from a third-party seller, you'll often see A, B and C grades on stock – this indicates the condition of the device. Other resellers, like MusicMagpie, are more direct with labels like Pristine, Very Good and Good. But you might also see Grade A1, A2, A3, representing excellent, good and average.

The gradings aren't overseen by any external regulatory body, so the standard of what qualifies as Grade A or Pristine will vary from retailer to retailer. In a nutshell, however, here's what those grades mean:

  • Grade A - Looks like new and hardly shows signs of wear
  • Grade B - Expect some minor scratches or signs of wear
  • Grade C - Looks used and has obvious marks and scratches

Whatever system the retailer is using, be sure to check out how they define their grades. A better grade mean higher prices. Most resellers offering refurbished phones will also offer a one-year warranty on their devices. 

Laptops Direct Grade A refurbished

Refurbished vs second-hand or used – what's the difference?

There's a difference between buying refurbished and simply buying second-hand. While refurbished devices are technically pre-owned, they are repaired and reconditioned to work like new. Buying a second-hand phone, however, means you get the device as is, which means the lifespan may not last as long.

Refurbished phones often come with a one-year warranty no matter where you buy from – in fact, we'd urge you to take a look at the warranty policy before you buy. Ensure there is one!

Read our full guide to Refurbished vs Used, where we look at which is better and why.

If you'd still prefer to buy new, but are on a budget, check out our round-up of the best budget handsets