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Buying a Refurbished Phone – The Ultimate Guide

Phone advice | by Denise Timmis | Feb 18, 2022

Buying a Refurbished Phone – The Ultimate Guide

What is a refurbished phone?

Refurbished phones are typically second-hand or used devices – meaning they’ve been owned by someone else previously – that have developed a fault or have been returned within a refund-guaranteed period.

These phones are then “refurbished” by the manufacturer or retailer. This means that they’re restored to a re-sellable condition – any faulty or damaged components of the phone are repaired or replaced. So, the big question as a consumer is “What is a refurbished phone, and will I still get a warranty?” Well, let us help you with those questions.


Are refurbished phones any good?

The brand-new handset market is starting to depreciate and with new devices costing more than £1000, It’s a lot of money to part with! Buying refurbished or second-hand phones is the way forward and we’ve seen this with the refurbished market, growing by 10% in the last year. Refurbished phones work just as well as brand new devices – generally speaking, the only thing that sets them apart are cosmetic issues, but excellent quality refurbs won’t even suffer from this.

Phones that are classified as refurbished are tested by whichever party refurbished them – be it the manufacturer or retailer – to ensure they’re ready to be resold. Testing methods can differ from place to place, but generally, the phones are put through different processes to ensure every aspect is working. They’ll test everything from the display, speakers and charging ports right down to whether the phone can complete processes such as open apps and respond to commands quickly.

Based on this testing and the level of refurbishing undertaken, phones will then be graded. While all refurbished phones are sold in optimum working order, they’re not always brought up to “brand-new” cosmetic standards. For example – the phone may work perfectly but could have some scratches on the back. This grading is sometimes done by the manufacturer but is most often done by the retailer.


Each retailer will have their grades, but most commonly, grading is as follows:

  • Grade A: Perfect phone in pristine condition, looks completely new.
  • Grade B: Excellent condition, perhaps a minor cosmetic flaw such as a small scratch.
  • Grade C: Good condition, with a few marks or scuffs.

Grading is a great way to gauge what kind of device you’re buying – the lower the grade the lower the price. If you’re not fussed about the appearance of your phone, you’d just like it to work, then there’s no reason to spend more money than you have to.


Envirofone's grading criteria

Here at Envirofone, we grade our phones slightly differently, as we only supply mobiles which are in good quality cosmetic condition and full working order. All of our devices are tested by a 100-point quality checklist. This test determines the grading they receive:

  • Refurbished Pristine - These phones look brand new, with almost no marks or scratches. Often this is the phone where a customer has taken the device out of the packaging or used the phone for a couple of days and for some reason decided to change their mind about their purchase. One customer’s decision change is another customer’s gain, let’s face it you get a practically new phone at a discounted price.


  • Refurbished Excellent - You’ve got to have a keen eye for this one! These phones are in excellent condition and have very minor isolated wear and tear to the front, back or sides. These phones are fully functional and in excellent working order. This is the phone which may have been used for the last 6 months but has normally been kept in a protective case, so may have a few light scratches.


  • Refurbished Good - OK, this may be the grade that you may seem wary about. But don’t worry as all our refurbished good devices are in perfectly functional working order. This is the phone which you’ve cared for, for the last 12 months but as with anything, there will be wear and tear. So, you will get some scratches and scuffs to the screen, and some pitting around the back and sides of the phone. But there will be no cracks and simply adding a phone case will be all the phone needs.


Our testing processes

All our devices go through a rigorous 100-point testing process through our Blackbelt diagnostic system which tests everything from the touch screen to the mics and speakers. Here are the most important checks included in our tests:

  • Battery Health
  • Live lost/stolen check via GSMA
  • Hardware checks
  • Live call
  • Automated Screen test
  • Sound
  • Mics
  • Speakers
  • Camera / Video
  • Fingerprint scanner


Should I buy a refurbished phone?

If you’re looking for a top-of-the-range device, you could save some cash by buying an excellent quality refurbished phone. That’s because refurbished phones can be restored to ‘as new’ quality, so you could grab a bargain by buying a refurbished device instead of going for a new one.

On the other hand, if you’re not too fussed about spending much at all on a new device – maybe you’re just looking for something temporary or you’re just not much of a phone fanatic – you can get already cheap devices for even cheaper when going with a refurbished phone.

They’re also a really good option if you’re looking for a device outside of a contract. If you’re on a SIM-only deal, prefer pay-as-you-go or want to upgrade your device before your contract allows it, refurbished phones are a great idea. Whilst some refurbs are locked, you’ll find most refurbished devices on the market are SIM-free, so you’re often not restricted to a specific network.

It’s also a lot more environmentally conscious to purchase refurbished phones. As smartphones become more advanced and more popular, consumers are encouraged to upgrade far more frequently than ever before – a study from United Nations University revealed that in 2016, electronic waste was growing faster than any other kind of waste – including plastic refuse. At the time of the study, electronic waste in landfills was equivalent in weight to 4,500 Eiffel Towers. The recoverable parts sent to landfill are estimated to be worth £40 billion.

Refurbishing mobile phones allows us to reduce this waste by restoring devices to be resold or reusing the materials in phones which we cannot repair for use in repairing other phones.




  • Cheaper than brand-new devices
  • Work just as well as brand new devices for a lower cost
  • Refurbished phones are better for the environment as they prevent mobiles being needlessly disposed of
  • Many companies offer refurbs with a decent warranty or unlocked
  • If you’re looking for a discontinued phone you can usually find refurbished models
  • Some refurbs don’t always come with all the accessories in the box – such as a charger or headphones
  • Some can have cosmetic damage, if you’re looking for a pristine phone you’ll have to ensure there’s a top-grade refurb in stock
  • Some insurance companies don’t cover refurbed devices


How much do refurbished phones cost?

Refurbished phones completely range in price from retailer to retailer, but you’re guaranteed to spend significantly less on a refurbished mobile than a brand-new one.  

For example, at Envirofone, we’re currently offering Samsung Galaxy S21 5g in Pristine condition for £599.99, while they are currently selling for around £819 – that’s a difference of £220, where both phones are in an unused condition.


Top tips for buying a refurbished mobile phone

  1. Go to a reputable source: If you purchase a refurbished phone from an unheard-of or unestablished retailer, it’s possible you won’t receive a true refurb, but just a second-hand or counterfeit phone. Always go to a trusted retailer to ensure you’re purchasing an authentic refurbished device.
  2. Read the retailer or manufacturer’s grading guidelines: This is particularly important if you’re looking to get your hands on a refurb in pristine condition. Some retailers have lower/higher grading standards, so ensure you understand the standard of each grade according to that specific retailer.
  3. Look up the warranty: Tying in with tip 1, most reputable retailers of refurbished phones will include a warranty with their devices. If a retailer sells refurbished phones without a warranty, this is a cause for concern.
  4. Read about the device testing: Make sure you purchase a refurbished phone from a seller that tests their devices before selling them – and endeavour to find out exactly what these tests involve. Most good retailers will boast about their strenuous testing to demonstrate the quality of their refurbs.
  5. Check if your device comes with accessories: It’s quite common for refurbished devices to be sold without the accessories that would be included with a new purchase, such as a charger or headphones. Make sure you double-check whether or not you’ll get these with your device – it would be disappointing to open up your new phone to realise you can’t charge it up!


Your rights when buying a refurbished phone

In theory, you should have the same rights when buying a refurb as when buying a brand-new phone. If the phone develops or has a manufacturing fault that the seller didn’t disclose at the time of purchase, you’re entitled to send it back for a full refund.

Most reputable sellers will also provide a warranty with a refurbished phone – it’s probably best to avoid sellers that don’t, as this doesn’t demonstrate reliability.

In terms of insuring your refurbished phone, most gadget insurance companies will insure these devices just the same as they would a brand-new device. There may be a select few that don’t, but they’re few and far between. Most insurers just treat refurbs as any other device and don’t differentiate between refurbished and brand-new.

Here at Envirofone, we’re so confident about our devices that we offer a FREE 12-month warranty on all our devices to give you that added peace of mind when buying from us.

Why Envirofone?

We’re huge ambassadors of refurbished phones. They provide the opportunity to purchase top-tier devices for a much lower cost, decrease the environmental impact of buying and disposing of phones and provide a wider range of choices – if you love the look of a discontinued device, chances are you can find it refurbished.

Here at Envirofone, we’ve been recycling phones since 2005, so we’ve got a lot of experience as one of the UK’s top refurbished phone retailers. Our devices are super affordable, SIM-free, quality guaranteed after passing our extensive 100-point quality checklist and come with all of the accessories you need to use your device straight away.

We won’t bog you down with contracts, but we do offer competitive SIM-only deals if you’ve not got one already. We provide a free 12-month warranty with all of our phones and we also offer insurance plans at the checkout if you’d like to protect your device from the get-go.

Better still, if you do decide to get a refurbished phone with us, we’ll get your phone to you quickly with our free next-day delivery. We’ll even give you your cash back if you change your mind within a month under our 30-day cooling-off period.



If you’re looking to upgrade your phone, head over to our search page to view the latest devices which include iPhones, Samsung’s, Huawei’s and HTC’s. If you need any more information or help with making a purchase, visit our advice hub or get in touch – we’re always happy to help!

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