Finding a good refurbished mobile phone deal

What is a refurbished phone?

Refurbished phones range from those that have clearly been used every day for some time to those known as "buyer's remorse" phones, where they were taken out of their original box, studied, then returned. The phones listed in the table above are all of this last type, sent out to a new user but then returned very soon afterwards for some reason.

The key is that once returned - either direct from a customer or through a handset recycling scheme - the phone will be checked over by a professional, repaired if necessary, and restored to as close to factory condition as possible before being resold. They may not come with the original packaging, or a full complement of accessories, but they will be in full working order and come with a warranty.

Why do none of these phones have a grade?

Broadly speaking, there are three kinds of mobile phone refurbishment.

Manufacturer refurbished mobiles are guaranteed to be of the highest possible standard, because they've been checked over by people at the company that built them originally, with the same standards of care and expertise as we'd expect to find with a brand new handset. They're hard to find however, unless the company also has their own retailer.

Then there are refurbs of the type listed above, which are generally "buyer's remorse" stock. Different operators will have slightly different criteria, but most will only recondition and resell handsets that have been returned to them within the 14 day cooling off period - so they really are practically brand new, and more "factory reset" than true "refurbished" models.

By contrast, reconditioned handsets that are sold with a "grade" have been refurbished by other retailers or third parties, so they're not guaranteed to be of the same exacting standards. As all refurbished mobile phones have to be in full working order to be sold, the grade only really refers to the device's cosmetic appearance: Grade A means it looks brand new; Grade B may have a few scuff marks or chips - usually on the corners; Grade C phones have clear signs of wear and use.

What about warranties and guarantees?

Depending on where we buy a brand new mobile phone, we can expect it to come with a guarantee for one or two years, and to be under warranty for at least a year.

Refurbished phones should also be covered by a warranty, from whoever did the refurbishment. These warranties usually last for a year from purchase, although it's to be expected that older or more worn models will come with a shorter warranty. Check with the seller to be sure - and remember that any warranty comes in addition to our rights with the retailer under the Consumer Regulations Act should something go wrong.

In the case of refurbs like those listed above, where the phones have only been out of the box once or twice before being returned, most networks offer to honour the original warranty conditions, or offer their own - but again, do check.

How much can I save?

One of the reasons refurbished phones appeal is that they're cheaper than shelling out for a phone in a box that's never been opened. In the case of the contract deals listed above, most operators offer a discount of £5 or more per month. Over a 24 month contract, that's a saving of £120 compared to getting the same tariff and a box fresh version of the phone.

With pay as you go refurb deals, where we pay for the handset outright, the savings can be even greater. To see what we mean, find a pay as you go handset deal from above and note the upfront cost - then compare that with the price for the brand new version of the phone on the pay as you go tab. Expect to find the refurbished mobile phone deal to be at least 20% cheaper, and up to almost 40% cheaper in some cases.

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