Used and refurbished phones: what to look out for

Used and refurbished phones

Phones are among the most essential gadgets you can own nowadays. Not only do they make calls, but they also act as our personal organisers, internet-surfing devices, and entertainment hubs.

With the rapid increase of smart technology available in modern phones, there’s been a corresponding increase in prices. Handsets from many of the popular brands exceed $1,000 for brand new models, while some flagship phones reach over $2,000. Needless to say, it’s a big investment.

This is where the used and refurbished phone market comes into play. Whether from an authorised seller or a private listing, buying second-hand can potentially save you hundreds of dollars. It’s also an environmentally-friendly practice, as recycling unwanted devices reduces e-waste.

It’s important to understand what to look for when considering a used phone, so here are some important factors to consider:

What’s the difference between used and refurbished?

Although the terms used and refurbished may be thrown about interchangeably, there are some distinctions between the two. Used can refer to just about any second-hand phone, including those listed by individual sellers on community storefronts including Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, and eBay.

Refurbished, on the other hand, indicates that a used device has been inspected by either a manufacturer or specialists retailer and deemed to be in a sellable condition. In some cases, this means making some repairs before selling the phone as a refurbished product. Different retailers may have varying processes and definitions when selling refurbished phones, so it’s worth checking the fine print so you know what you’re getting. Some also offer their own warranties.

Where to buy used and refurbished phones

There are many ways to source a second-hand phone. One of the most common methods is through a private sale, whether from a friend or online via various listings found on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and more. Unless the product is still under its original warranty, private sales generally do not include warranties, and Consumer Affairs Victoria states that the Australian Consumer Law does not apply in these instances.

Used and refurbished phones guide 2
Source: Gabriel Freytez from Pexels.

If for example, you are misled by a product listing from someone selling a used phone on eBay – such as receiving it in a different condition as described by the seller or receiving a different product than advertised – your first port of call is to notify the seller. If this does not resolve the issue, your next port of call is to contact the site’s resolution department to take it further.

Alternatively, some of the bigger online retailers offering refurbished phones include:

(You can also purchase refurbished phones directly from Apple, and while Samsung does sell refurbished devices in the US, it doesn’t offer this in Australia.)

Each of the above retailers has different information on their refurbishing process, which is worth reading before buying anything from them. This also includes their respective warranty policies, most of which offer a minimum six-month period where any defects not caused by you are handled by the retailer.

Tips for buying used or refurbished phones

When buying a second-hand phone, make sure to consider what’s important to you. Some minor cosmetic blemishes might be common among phones that have seen some use, especially from private sellers. Ask if you can see the phone in action or up close before deciding to buy. You might be able to save more money buying from someone you know at the expense of an included warranty.

Battery life is a valid concern when buying second-hand. As batteries age and undergo hundreds of charges, their capacity to hold a full charge diminishes. While there’s no definitive way to determine a used phone’s battery life in a private sale, many refurbished phone retailers guarantee between 80-100% of the original battery capacity as part of their service.

Used and refurbished phones guide 1
Source: Daniel Romero from Unsplash.

Another factor to think about is future software support for the phone. Depending on how far back you go, older phones no longer receive software updates that include new features and important security fixes. Weigh this up if it’s important to you, as buying a more recent second-hand model might be a more future-proof option.

After all of this, if you decide to purchase a new phone, you can always recycle your old device and potentially get store credit for a new one. Major companies like Apple and Samsung have their own trade-in initiatives where you can receive up to hundreds of dollars in credit depending on how recent your previous phone is. It’s also a good way of preventing e-wastage, too.

Overall, you have plenty of money-saving options when buying a phone. Whether it’s used or refurbished, set a budget to stick with, research what each seller offers, and consider which option is best for you.

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