What is a refurbished phone?

Refurbished phone

I’m told you can save a bit of money if you buy a refurbished phone instead of a brand new one. Sounds decent. But I’m not sure exactly what’s meant refurbished? Does it mean it’s second hand? And is refurbished the same as reconditioned? Tim, Reading

When you buy a phone that’s described as 'refurbished', you’re getting a handset that was returned to the network or retailer for whatever reason.

Most likely it was either returned by its previous owner during the cooling-off period directly after they bought it. Or it was returned because it was found to be faulty.

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

phone in hands

When it comes to how well the phone will work, there’s no difference between a refurbished phone and a brand new one.

Before being offered for resale, all reconditioned phones are thoroughly checked over, tested, cleaned, wiped of data and repaired (if a fault was the reason it was returned). 

But that’s not to say there are no differences at all. When you buy a reconditioned phone you may not get the original packaging and you may not get accessories that originally came with the phone either, such as headphones.

Which means buying them separately or using compatible earphones that you already have at home.

Depending on whether you bought a ‘nearly new’ reconditioned phone or a standard reconditioned phone, you may also notice some cosmetic differences compared with brand new phones.

In the case of nearly new phones, which refers to phones that were returned during the cooling-off period, they’ll be blemish-free and look identical to a new phone that’s just come out of the box.

Does refurbished mean the same as reconditioned?

It does. Reconditioned is just another term for refurbished. It’s just that some networks and retailers favour the term ‘reconditioned’ instead. 

Do you get a guarantee with reconditioned phones?


Provided you buy your reconditioned phone from a reputable retailer or network rather than, say, a personal seller on eBay, you’ll get a guarantee that typically lasts 12 months.

By way of example, reconditioned phones bought from O2, Vodafone, Mobiles.co.uk all come with a year-long guarantee.

What are the pros and cons of reconditioned phones?


  • You can save money. Sometimes hundreds of pounds
  • It comes with a guarantee. So you can buy with confidence.
  • Buying a recycled phone is good for the environment
  • It’s been thoroughly checked before being offered for resale


  • Don’t expect the nice feeling you get from buying a phone brand new.
  • The phone could have minor scuffs or scratches
  • You’ll get a warranty, but it’ll likely be shorter than brand new phones
  • You probably won’t be able to get reconditioned versions of the very latest phones
  • Some insurers won’t let you insure a reconditioned smartphone 
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