Is a Refurbished Phone Worth the Cost?

Jeff Blevins

With the cost of new smartphones skyrocketing, and the growing market of refurbished devices, buyers now have a decision to make: Buy new or buy used?

Consider a few factors in deciding which phone to purchase:
  • Cost
  • Quality
  • Eco-friendliness
  • Familiarity and comfort


When cost is a concern, refurbished devices are a much less-expensive alternative to just about any new device, especially when you are talking about iPhones, etc. You can get a refurbished iPhone, and similar devices like the Galaxy, for a couple-hundred dollars, even less if you really scour the internet. New devices can be upward of $700 or $800 –- a pretty hefty burden for those on a budget.


Shopping at authorized dealers is more likely to give you a better deal in terms of product quality, warranty options, and return policies. You might find find better deals on places like eBay and other sellers, but buyer beware. What seems like a good deal might, in fact, be a bad one. You run the risk of buying from sketchy dealers or scammers who might be dumping poor-quality devices, devices that are not even refurbished, or even stolen. That is a huge market, so know (and trust) your seller.


Buying refurbished devices is environmentally friendly. Instead of another phone going to a landfill, it is going into your pocket for another round of usage. This may not be your highest priority, but to some people it is a factor.

Familiarity and Comfort

Replacing a phone with a refurbished version might be comforting to someone who does not want to learn all the bells and whistles of a whole new device. Less tech-savvy folks might not want to learn a whole new system. On the other hand, if they just loved the previous phone that much, a refurbished model can be a major bonus.

However, there are also limitations with a refurbished phone:
  • Not technologically current
  • Minimal warranty coverage
  • Higher malfunction probability
  • Carrier locked

Not Technologically Current

Do you replace your annually, or close to it, so you can be current? With refurbished devices, you are not getting the most technologically advanced device. The newest models have the newest technology and the most up-to-date bells and whistles, while a refurbished model won’t.

Minimal Warranty Coverage

Typically you can get a warranty on a refurbished device, but they are generally short term, around 30 days. You cannot buy extra warranty coverage on these devices, as they tend to have a higher technology failure rate.

Higher Malfunction Probability

If you rely heavily on your device, any malfunction can be disastrous. Refurbished devices are used, meaning there is irreversible wear on them. This option can be pushing your luck. Be aware of limitations and buy your device from a reputable dealer or manufacturer, get a warranty, and know what the return policy is, just in case.

Carrier Locked

Make sure your phone isn’t stolen – or carrier locked. Some phones, like the pre-5 model of the iPhones, are locked into a carrier (AT&T). Make sure you can use whatever carrier you prefer prior to buying the phone. You should be able to call your carrier (in some cases you can do it online) to confirm your model is compatible with your carrier. This is generally not an issue with newer devices, which can connect to any carrier.

Jeff Blevins is a published author who's left his footprint in the digital and scripted worlds. An entertainment industry veteran, his writing includes biographies, sports, automotive, education, and pop culture. The Seattle native -- and his keyboard -- live in Los Angeles.