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Can You Trust Refurbished Phones and Laptops? 5 Questions to Ask Before Buying


Refurbished devices can save you a bundle.

Angela Lang / CNET

Buying a used phone or laptop is an easy way to save some money. While there are plenty of sites where you can buy a used gadget directly from the current owner, it is difficult to know exactly what you will get when you do this.


7;s not to say buying a used device from someone on Swappa or eBay isn’t a good idea – both sites have buyer protection policies to make sure you get what you paid for. However, you have another option: buy a refurbished phone or laptop.

There are some important questions you should ask yourself when browsing a refurbished store, whether it’s Apple or Gazelle. Here are the main factors to consider.

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What is the company doing to refurbish devices?

When you sell or trade in your old gadgets to a company like Gazelle, Best Buy, or even your wireless network provider, it goes through an evaluation process. If it’s a newer device and in good working order, chances are it will go through a refurbishment and eventually be sold as a used or refurbished device.

But every company approaches how it refurbishes and keeps a phone or laptop running. For example, Apple classifies all of its refurbished devices as “as new” after each device has been cleaned, any defective parts have been replaced, and the device has been thoroughly tested. A refurbished iPhone ($ 900 at Boost Mobile) comes with a new battery and housing.

Amazon’s revamped remanufactured product program takes a similar approach by inspecting, testing, and repairing broken parts. Amazon guarantees that the battery has 80% capacity and warns that you can see scratches on the outside of renewed products.


Numerous refurbished options are available.


Is there a return policy for refurbished phones, laptops, etc.?

Whether a device is brand new or refurbished, lemons happen. A device may not turn on or work as expected. Some companies like Gazelle and Amazon don’t replace a device’s case, so you end up with a phone or laptop with some cosmetic damage. Gazelle explains well what to expect when buying a phone in reasonable condition and even provides sample photos.

To be clear, the photos are not of the device you will be buying, but serve as examples of what the different levels of wear look like on the devices it sells. But what happens if you get a phone that has taken more damage (although it still works fine) than you expected?

In most cases, you should be able to return a device that you are not satisfied with. I suggest going through the site’s FAQs or policies, often referenced at the bottom of the site, to find the return policy. If you are having a hard time finding it, a Google search with the site name and return policy (eg “Gazelle return policy”) will usually take you to the right place.


Extended warranties might be a good idea.

Josh Miller / CNET

Which warranty applies to refurbished electronics?

Just because a device has been refurbished doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have a warranty. Things happen, components stop working and if a company wants you to feel confident with your purchase, it has to provide some sort of warranty after the return period.

All Apple refurbished products come with a one-year warranty as standard. Gazelle has a 30-day return policy that is also considered a warranty, but sells an extra year of protection with an extended warranty that also covers accidental damage. Prices start at $ 55, depending on the device. In comparison, AT&T wireless charges $ 8.99 per month for a comparable service.

Amazon offers a 90% Satisfaction Guarantee where you can return a renewed device for a refund.

As you can see, the warranties for second hand gadgets vary a lot. Take a few extra minutes to research a supplier’s policy before clicking that checkout button.

sim cards

Does the phone work with your carrier?

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Will a refurbished phone work with my provider?

When browsing refurbished phones, pay close attention to carrier restrictions. Refurbished sites such as Apple, Amazon or Gazelle clearly state which provider the device is intended to be used on, or whether it is unlocked and can be used on any provider.

This is an important step when shopping for a new or used phone. If you buy a phone locked to Verizon and want to use it on T-Mobile, you’re likely to run into issues. You may be able to call a carrier to unlock a phone for you, but you can save yourself time and buy a phone that works with your carrier of choice.

Are accessories supplied with refurbished products or do I buy them separately?

If a product listing doesn’t list everything included with your purchase, such as a charger or cable, I recommend contacting the company or seller and asking what’s included.

Apple supplies everything you need to use the device. The most important of these is a charger. Like Amazon, but the charger may not be the official charger that would come with the phone or laptop if it were a brand new purchase.

If you are comfortable with the idea of ​​buying a refurbished phone or laptop, remember that you can save even more money by selling your device to the very companies that sell refurbished products. Can I give personal advice? Never buy or sell these seven used tech devices.

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