Refurbished iPhones: They're Cheaper, But Are They Worth It?

If you need a new iPhone but don't want to pay close to $1,000 for one of the latest models, you may want to check out refurbished models—you could save yourself hundreds of dollars.


Verified.org
Updated 2 December 2021
Refurbished iPhones: They're Cheaper, But Are They Worth It?
Sections on this page
  1. What Are Renewed or Refurbished iPhones?
  2. Benefits of Refurbished iPhones: Saving $
  3. Downsides of Refurbished iPhones
  4. Where to Buy Refurbished iPhones
  5. Can I Get My iPhone Refurbished?
  6. The Bottom Line: Are Refurbished iPhones Worth it?
  7. Frequently Asked Questions

If you need a new iPhone, it can be shocking to see the price tag on a new one, especially if you're not after all the bells and whistles. The good news is, even if you can't find an iPhone within your price range from Apple, there are plenty of older, refurbished iPhones that may be more suitable for your budget. 

So what are refurbished iPhones (also referred to as "renewed"), and are they any good?

What Are Renewed or Refurbished iPhones?

Renewed or refurbished iPhones are used iPhones that have had certain parts replaced, been cleaned, and updated, so they are in good working condition. However, there may be some differences depending on where you bought the refurbished phone from.

Although there is technically a difference in meaning between "renewed" and "refurbished," when talking about iPhones, these terms are generally used interchangeably. They both mean that they're pre-owned iPhones that have been restored to like-new condition. 

Apple Refurbished iPhones

According to Apple, all refurbished iPhones:

  • Come with a new battery
  • Are given a new outer shell
  • Have undergone testing to ensure they are fully functional
  • Have had broken or faulty components replaced
  • Are cleaned
  • Come repackaged, including all cables and other accessories that come with new iPhones (if supplies allow)

Additionally, all refurbished iPhones include a one-year warranty. 

Refurbished iPhones should come "like new" if they're bought from Apple directly. While you may be more likely to get a better quality pre-owned iPhone from Apple, third-parties like Amazon and Best Buy also sell iPhones that Apple has refurbished.

Amazon Renewed iPhones

You can buy refurbished iPhones from Amazon, which come with the "Amazon Renewed Guarantee," which means they have been tested and inspected by "Amazon-qualified and performance-managed suppliers" (which may include Apple). 

These iPhones have:

  • Undergone a full diagnostic test
  • Had defective components replaced
  • Been cleaned
  • No noticeable cosmetic imperfections if held a foot away

Much like Apple, Amazon promises that these renewed iPhones are sold "like new," however, there have been plenty of unhappy customers who have left negative reviews. The good thing about Amazon-renewed iPhones is that you can get a full refund or replacement if you return them within 90 days. 

Best Buy Refurbished iPhones

Best Buy also offers refurbished iPhones that have been restored to like-new condition. These have been renewed by Best Buy's Geek Squad®, Apple, or a third-party company. 

Who Refurbished the iPhone?

When buying from a third party, like Amazon or Best Buy, you can't tell who has refurbished the phone, whether it's Apple or a separate refurbishment company. So if you want the iPhone to be restored by Apple, buy from Apple directly. 

Walmart Refurbished iPhones

Some of Walmart's refurbished iPhones are certified by its "industry-leading software" and are 100% functional, although they will show signs of wear and tear (e.g., scratches) on the outside. 

Other iPhones are sold as 100% functional, in excellent condition (showing some signs of wear and tear) but are not certified. 

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Benefits of Refurbished iPhones: Saving $

The main benefit of buying a refurbished iPhone is to save money—even hundreds of dollars, especially on newer models. 

For example, here are the savings of buying refurbished iPhones from Apple (as of December 2021):

  • Refurbished iPhone 11 Pro: $250
  • Refurbished iPhone 11 Pro Max: $250
  • iPhone XS: $250 - $410
  • Refurbished iPhone XS Max: $250 - $410

With brand new iPhones costing as much as $1,599 (iPhone 13 Pro Max 1TB), buying a refurbished older model may be more appealing, thanks to the discount. 

Refurbished iPhone X reviews on Amazon
Many refurbished iPhones on Amazon have an average star rating of 4/5.

Buy Older Models

Another benefit of buying a refurbished iPhone is that you'll be able to buy older models that are no longer in production or available for sale completely new. For example, Apple currently only sells new iPhones from the iPhone 11 or more recent, but still sells older models that have been refurbished, such as the iPhone XS. 

If you're not a fan of the newer iPhone models, you can still find older and more affordable second-hand models. For example, buy a pre-owned iPhone 7 from Best Buy for just $179.99.

Downsides of Refurbished iPhones

There are many more negatives to buying refurbished iPhones than positives, so you'll need to decide what makes more sense for your situation. 

Negative refurbished iPhone review on Amazon.
There are plenty of negative reviews on refurbished iPhones, so the best option is to only buy refurbished iPhones that come with a warranty.

Cons of refurbished iPhones include:

  • Not always working correctly: Many customers have complained about their iPhones not working properly soon after receiving them. 
  • Noticeable damage: You run the risk of getting a phone that has significant damage to it (more than just minor wear and tear). 
  • Minimal warranty: Although some refurbished iPhones come with a warranty, many do not. 
  • No option for the newest models: If you're after the latest and greatest iPhone, then you won't be able to go the refurbished route. 
  • No guarantees: Not all refurbished iPhones come with a warranty or guarantee, so if you end up with a dud, you're stuck with it. 
  • Bad battery health: Depending on who refurbished the iPhone, it may not come with a new battery. (Apple does replace batteries on refurbished iPhones.)
  • Non-original packaging: Many renewed iPhones won't come in their original packaging or even Apple-branded packaging. Although this probably won't matter to many people, if you're giving the iPhone away as a gift, it may not make the best impression.

When buying refurbished iPhones online, you're never shown the actual phone before purchasing. Instead, websites use generic images of the iPhone model vs. real pictures of the phone being sold, so it's impossible to know what kind of condition the phone is in, whether it'll have dings and dents, or if there'll be a scratch in the middle of the screen. 

Where to Buy Refurbished iPhones

There are several places that you can buy refurbished iPhones, however for the best quality and warranty, the best place is to buy one from Apple directly. 

Apple logo
Apple
  • 1-year warranty
  • New outer shell
  • Full functional testing
  • Genuine Apple parts (for required replacements)
  • Cleaning
  • Includes accessories and cables
Apple logo
Amazon
  • Inspected and tested by qualified suppliers
  • Amazon Renewed Guarantee: 90 days to return the iPhone for replacement or full refund.
  • Renewed Premium products can be returned for a full replacement or refund within 1 year.
Walmart logo
Walmart
  • Tested and "100% functional"
  • Some iPhones certified by Walmart's "industry-leading software"
Best Buy logo
Best Buy
  • Refurbished by Best Buy's Geek Squad®, Apple, or a third-party company
GameStop logo
GameStop
  • 1-year limited warranty
  • 30 days to return iPhone
  • 27-point inspection
  • Cleaned and sanitized
Gazelle logo
Gazelle
  • 30-point inspection
  • Key features checked (e.g., WiFi, camera, screen, buttons, ports)
  • Check individual descriptions before buying
eBay logo
eBay 
  • eBay Refurbished iPhones: 1-year warranty from Allstate (U.S. only)

You can also buy refurbished or renewed iPhones from cell phone carriers, such as Boost Mobile.

Can I Get My iPhone Refurbished?

Refurbished iPhones come from trade-ins, usually when people send their old iPhones in for trade-in credit on a new iPhone. However, if you're not interested in trading in your current iPhone and just want it to be refurbished, you can send it in to get repaired. 

It may not go through the same refurbishing process, but you can get any damage and non-functioning parts fixed. 

Note, however, that getting your iPhone fixed can be extremely costly, and in some cases, fixing it may not be an option. For example, replacing a cracked iPhone 8 screen will set you back $149 (without AppleCare+). Additionally, "vintage" iPhones can no longer be repaired or serviced (i.e., iPhone 4S and older). 

The Bottom Line: Are Refurbished iPhones Worth it?

There's always a risk with buying second-hand goods, especially with electronics, such as iPhones. However, if you need a new phone and aren't bothered about imperfections and just want a  working phone, a refurbished iPhone could be the way to go. 

However, before you go out and buy any old pre-owned iPhone, look closely at the product description and return policy. Only buy a refurbished iPhone that comes with a warranty or some kind of guarantee so you can return it (or get it fixed) if it doesn't work correctly. For the best quality, buy a refurbished iPhone from Apple directly.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if an iPhone has been refurbished?

Check the model number within your iPhone’s settings to see if it has been refurbished or not. Go to Settings > General > About and look at the “Model” number. 

The first letter of the model number will tell you more about the iPhone:

  • M = New
  • N = Apple replacement
  • F = Refurbished

Does Apple sell refurbished phones?

Yes, Apple sells refurbished iPhones (with limited stock). Apple's refurbished iPhones come with a 1-year warranty. 

Can you trade in a refurbished iPhone?

Although devices eligible for trade-in will be dependent on the retailer or carrier, most refurbished iPhones are accepted. Always check with the carrier/retailer before you trade in your iPhone.

Where do refurbished iPhones come from?

Most refurbished iPhones come from people who have traded in their iPhones to receive a gift card or credit for a newer or different model. Sometimes, refurbished iPhones are just old phones that people no longer need/want that they’ve sent in for recycling. 

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