Top 8 Tips for Buying a Refurbished Phone

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Last updated June 6, 2023

Not sure what to look for when choosing the right refurbished phone? Here are some tips to get you started.

Buying a brand new phone can be a confusing enough experience, but if you are buying a refurbished handset, then there are plenty of additional factors to consider. Can you trust the refurbished phone vendor? Will the handset be up to scratch? So many questions!

Fortunately, SellCell has the answers. There are big savings to make when buying a refurbished phone versus a new one, so if you need some pointers for finding the best refurbished phone, read on…

1. Choosing the Right Seller

When you are looking for a refurbished phone, you need to have confidence in the seller. You need to find one that is credible, and that has experience in trading refurbished phones. But how do you know if a seller has an excellent reputation?

Review sites are a great way to check out a website’s credentials. If a seller features on the likes of Trustpilot or ReSeller Ratings, and it has positive reviews and ratings, then you know you can trust it. Reviews will tell you if the handset was as described, or if the service was good, and how well delivery went.

You can also check out social media and see what comments previous customers have made about the site. Facebook, Twitter, and even Reddit can all help when you’re researching a seller.

2. Selecting the Right Type of Refurbished Handset

OK, so you’ve found the perfect reseller, but now you have to deal with selecting the right refurbished handset. If you look at the refurbished handsets on SellCell.com, you’ll see that it grades each handset based on its condition.

Some websites will grade the handset using a five-point system, which ranges from “Fair” (lowest score) to “Like New” (highest score), others will use a simpler three-point scoring scale, using A-C to grade the cosmetic appearance of the handset.

This acts as a guide to help you decide which phone is right for you. But it only tells you about the phone’s cosmetic appearance. When you buy a phone, it should be fully functional in terms of how well it runs, and if you buy from a reputable seller, you can expect this to be the case.

If you’re unconcerned about the cosmetic appearance of the phone, and more about what it can do, then you can pick up a really cheap deal on a perfectly functional handset. It may just have signs of use.

This is perfect if you want to buy the kids their first phone. The handset will already show some signs of use, so it might not matter so much if your child accidentally scratches the screen, for example.

You’ll still get a good deal on a “like new” handset (which means it looks like it did when its original owner unboxed it) if you worry about how your phone looks. Be aware that a like-new handset will carry a much higher price than one in fair condition.

3. Is the Phone Compatible With Your SIM Card?

If your SIM isn’t from the same network as a network-locked, refurbished handset, then it may not respond when you insert it. You’ll know if a phone is locked, as the seller should tell you on the product page. There are several ways around buying a locked phone.

You can buy a phone locked to your network (so, if you have a Verizon SIM, get a handset locked to Verizon), that way you can avoid the issue. Your SIM will work when you insert it. Or, you can get a new SIM card for a phone that is locked to a certain network. This normally means you can enjoy cheaper prices from a SIM-only deal.

You can also request an unlock code from the previous provider, meaning that you can unlock a locked handset. Finally, you could get an unlocked handset, meaning that it isn’t locked in to any network, so any active SIM will work when you insert it.

4. Warranty and Aftercare

Just because you are buying a refurbished handset doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get a warranty. Many sellers will offer a guarantee that your phone will work for a set period after buying it, just like when you buy a new handset.

Some sellers will offer a warranty that covers three months, while other sellers will offer a warranty of up to a year. Some offer repair, some offer replacement. So selecting the seller with the right warranty for you is important. Always check the terms of the warranty to ensure it provides the correct cover.

Likewise, you can often return a phone, but before you buy it make sure you check the returns policy. Sellers will have a return policy for each phone they sell you, however, that policy may say you can’t return a certain phone, so make sure you check before parting with your cash.

5. Check Quality Assurance

When a company sells you a brand new phone, they will carry out rigorous testing to ensure that your handset is in full working order.

Any refurbished phone seller worth its salt will carry out its own checks prior to selling you a handset. These checks can cover up to 40 points, ranging from battery life, screen performance and picture quality, and responsiveness (how long it takes the phone to complete an action after you have instructed it).

If a seller doesn’t have quality checks, then you should avoid it at all costs and certainly don’t give them any of your money. You might find the earpiece doesn’t work properly, or the microphone doesn’t perform.

6. Review the Payment Options Available

Before you buy your phone, make sure you check what payment options are available. Everything might look fairly normal if the seller is offering regular card payment methods, but the options available can be very telling about a seller.

Does the seller offer PayPal as a payment option. If not, there may well be a reasonable explanation. However, it could also mean that the seller doesn’t want to be stung with a refund, knowing that the phone it is selling you isn’t up to scratch.

The same goes if the seller doesn’t offer credit card purchases, which can protect you if your phone doesn’t work properly.

Also, check if they offer Klarna or a similar credit service (PayPal Credit works here, too). If a financial brand will let a seller use its services, then you will know you’ve found a trustworthy seller.

7. Compare Phone Prices

Don’t just plump for the first reputable seller you find. It is always a good idea to shop around and see if you can find a better deal elsewhere. Obviously, this can mean trawling sellers, which can be a time-consuming pursuit as there are lots of options out there!

Not only that, but prices across different seller sites can vary wildly, sometimes with a difference of hundreds of dollars. Having all the information in one place would be easier.

Fortunately, websites like SellCell.com are here to take care of that for you. We compare a wide range of sellers and will list your chosen handset in order of the best deals. This means you can instantly see which seller is offering you the best price on the smartphone you want.

8. Get Someone Else to Vet the Seller for You

If you really want to know you’re getting the best deal on your refurbished phone, with a seller that has already gone through the vetting process, then you can rely on some websites to do these checks for you.

Sites like SellCell.com vet every single one of their sellers, meaning that you can buy with confidence from any of the sellers on their websites. SellCell even displays trust scores next to each seller, giving you even more peace of mind.

The significant thing about buying through a comparison service, like SellCell, is that the site can act as an intermediary between yourself and the seller, should any problems arise. Comparison services use their expertise to ensure you, the buyer, get the best deal.

Now You Can Buy a Refurbished Phone!

With all the tips above, you should now feel confident that you can buy a refurbished phone. While it can be a daunting experience, it needn’t be, as sites like SellCell are always on hand if you need expert guidance. Check out our buying pages to find out more.

If you feel you could do with expanding your knowledge of refurbished phones and the process of buying them, you can find out in our Ultimate Guide to Buying a Refurbished Phone.