We are all addicted to a small rectangular box permanently fixed to our hands. We wait eagerly for the dings and buzzes they generate. Our eyes scan them regularly for updates and news. We use them for work and entertainment. 

They aren’t phones anymore. They are calendars, cameras, computers, gaming devices, and portable televisions. 

It is hard to imagine a world without them. In fact, it is hard to imagine working without them.

So when it is time to buy a new one, we nearly cry at the cost. Especially when you have to buy multiple for your family. 

The newest iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max can cost up to $1,400, and that doesn’t include taxes, fees, and protection plans. A Samsung Galaxy S9+ can cost up to $1,600. 

It’s no wonder many of us look for a cheaper alternative to the ubiquitous Smartphone. Whether you are shopping for an iPhone or an Android, browsing affordable pre-owned phones is really important.

What is the Difference Between Used and Refurbished Phones?

If you spend any time online searching for alternatives you will shortly stumble upon two kinds of pre-owned phones – used and refurbished.  But what is the difference between a refurbished and used phone?

Refurbished iPhones & Android Phones

Refurbished phones are returned, damaged or broken phones that have been repaired and inspected.

Repaired damage could be as simple as replacing a cracked screen, or cleaning and repairing a phone from severe water damage.  

Reputable vendors will send refurbished phones through a strenuous inspection and diagnostic process to ensure that they are fully functional and “clean” of any malware, risks, defects, or remaining data from the past user.

A factory-refurbished warranty might be included as well, depending on where you buy the phone. If you buy refurbished, definitely seek a warranty to avoid problems down the road, as it was likely once damaged device.

So refurbished, if done right, is probably ideal. But it is very, very, very difficult for the average consumer to know if refurbishment was done right unless you’re buying from the manufacturer themselves. 

Secondhand or pre-owned resellers are not making any representation of something having been replaced. They are not saying, “Hey look, like Apple did, we tested every cable inside the phone and if it didn’t work we put a new one in.”  Instead, they have run the phone through functional testing with all the original parts.

Refurbished as a category has become ambiguous.

Some retailers are trying to leverage on the term refurbished, because it gives the feeling there is a manufacturer’s seal of approval. It creates a belief that the manufacturer has sanctioned them and has given the green light to say it’s like new or it works better. 

eBay for example, defines manufacturer refurbished very loosely. They allow devices on there that are not actually refurbished by the manufacturer. So the term that they use is meant to imply some sort of quality, but there are no specifics as to what that quality means.

Amazon and Best Buy also have a refurbished category. Many retailers do. Each one will have their own standards regarding the quality and scope of work. Anything that’s being labeled as refurbished in the market, you need to read the fine print to see understand their definition.

In many cases, it does not mean that the device has actually been opened or changed in any sort of factory way. That actually does speak to the idea of a used device that’s just sort of been prepped for resale.

Anything that’s going to be certified pre-owned by the manufacturer means that it was brought back to its original factory-grade settings. 

Used iPhones & Android Phones

Used phones are pre-owned phones that have not been factory repaired, most likely because they were never broken. But, the more important difference is they carry much deeper discounts compared to refurbished phones.

This chart will give a good comparison of the discounts pre-owned phones can have.

Used Phones vs. Refurbished Phones Pricing – iPhone 11 Pro 64GB Comparison

New Refurbished Used
$899 $759 $575

Prices subject to change, of course.

The most important piece of advice when buying a used phone is the source.

Peer-To-Peer Marketplaces

The riskier way to buy a used phone is from peer-to-peer marketplaces like eBay, Swappa, & Craigslist. When you buy on these marketplaces you are taking a risk. You’re buying from an individual, most likely without a guarantee, so no diagnostic tests are run on these phones to confirm they are fully functional. You also need to be very careful about getting good clear images of the products. The screen might be cracked or foggy. There could be scratches, dents, scuffs and other cosmetic issues on the casing.

Glyde changes all that. We’ve launched a peer-to-peer marketplace that solves the problems of the marketplaces of old: Sellers are required to run diagnostics before listing, and they won’t receive your money until you verify those diagnostics were correct. For more on Glyde, head here.

Now, back to normal used marketplaces. The phone may look perfect, but could have software changes that void the manufacturer warranty. The most common cause of changes to the phone voiding a warranty is the practice of jailbreaking a phone, a big problem for iPhones.

Some owners will “jailbreak” the phone, allowing them to make modifications to the software, which will immediately void Apple’s warranty. Apple’s iOS software does prevent large-scale customization that is often done to Android devices. While this provides greater security against malware and viruses, it limits how users can modify their phones. 

When buying on a peer-to-peer marketplace, it’s also best to verify that the owner has paid off the phone in full and it’s not stolen. If they provide you an IMEI number, there are many websites that let you check if a phone is on a blacklist but know they’re not fool proof.

Direct Used Phone Sellers

Alternatives to peer-to-peer marketplaces are websites like Glyde and Gazelle. They sell phones that are often sourced from manufacturers and retailers who are liquidating phones their customers trade in when they upgrade. They can also be from a customer who purchased a phone, opened the box, and returned it to their carrier or retailer.

These phones go through comprehensive diagnostic tests to make sure they’re fully functional, as well as extensive quality inspections to assign a cosmetic grade – often positioned to consumers as fair, good and excellent.

Purchasing a used phone can save you the most money – as long as you know what to look for. That is why you should buy from a trusted source that offers a money-back guarantee and a warranty of at least a few months to ensure you don’t get stuck with a lemon.

advantages of refurbished phones vs. used phones

Advantages of Refurbished Phones vs. Used 

At the end of the day, we always recommend purchasing used or refurbished phones from a reputable dealer that takes the time to ensure your phone will last longer, and be safe for you to use. Generally speaking, if you do this, either option is a good choice. However, there are a few advantages of used phones vs. refurbished ones. 

1. You’re Getting A Huge Discount On A New Phone

Premium used phones have gone through cosmetics screening and internal testings without the need for repairs. Refurbished phones, on the other hand, have been completely repaired and reset to like-new condition with new batteries, screens, and other needed components. 

Used phones with be dramatically cheaper than refurbished because there are no parts to repair or cost to repair them. Because of the work needed to make refurbished phones workable or like new, companies are unable to significantly discount them.

Premium Pre-Owned Phones are usually 30-50% cheaper than retail. Refurbished phones tend to only be 15% cheaper.

2. Warranties Are Often Better than New Phones

Believe it or not, you can get warranties for your used phone that are often the same or even better than the ones you get when purchasing a new phone. This is because the industry is far more competitive than the few carriers selling new phones, so the competition requires resellers to provide more value in order to retain loyal customers. 

This results in a better experience for many people who are looking for the best choice in a new phone. With the newest models of iPhone, Galaxy, and Android phones, at a fraction of the cost, used phones are a great option for someone looking to save money on a new phone without sacrificing quality.

3. Get the Exact Phone You Want

Maybe you really liked the iPhone 6s for its large screen size, but the fact that it still had the home button before Apple did away with it. But you can’t seem to find it in stores anywhere – and if you do, it is used. 

Well, the beauty of used phones is that the best online resellers tend to have massive inventories of perfectly good, practically brand new, and insured phones that pass standards. This includes the old models that can be hard to find, and can even include phones that have the body of an older model with features such as the audio jack.

4. The Best Prices on New Phones

At the end of the day, phones are very expensive. At the same time, they are literally a phone that fits in your pocket – something thought to be impossible just a few decades ago, and they are also an integral part of our daily life in the modern world.

However, they can seem a bit pricey, especially if you are the type of person who goes through phones quickly. Used phones are great because they allow you to have the newest model iPhone or Android, while still paying the same prices you would for models that are a few years old.

5. A More Environmentally Conscious Way to Purchase Phones

Another important, yet overlooked benefit to buying a used phone is the positive environmental impact. They are green-friendly. This cuts down on tech waste which is growing enormously. 

EPA data says that 90% of phones purchased in a single year will be thrown out without proper disposable. Electronics account for 70% of toxic material in the nations landfill. 

Here’s another staggering statistic: 1.5 Billion phones are sold each year, which means that many will be tossed in the trash. Buying used phones create a demand for consumers to re-sell and recycle their devices rather than tossing them in a landfill. 

6. Known Source of Origin

With a premium pre-owned phone, a reputable dealer will know the source of origin. They work with manufacturers and retailers closely on the details of the product they receive.

The source of refurbished phones is often murky. More hands have touched the product. The original user-traded sold or donated a broken phoned. Eventually, it lands in with a refurbisher who will fix the device. Multiple entities could have touched the phone prior to the refurbisher getting the phone. Once the refurbisher fixes the phone, it is usually sent to a reseller. 

You don’t have any clear data on how the phone was broken and what needed to be fixed. It could have dropped in someone’s toilet, or could have fallen down a flight of stairs. You have no way of knowing. 

Knowing the origin gives confidence in the product and in the retailer providing you with the phone.

What Are the Best Refurbished Phones to Buy?

The highest quality refurbished phones are ones that have been refurbished by the manufacturer, and often sold via phone carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile. These may be the only refurbished phones where you can guarantee reliability. Because they were repaired by the factory, you know the standards of repair will be higher. 

The drawback with these phones is that they will be the highest priced refurbished options. You also could be forced into a contract with those carriers with your phone locked and tethered to their network.  

Instead, we recommend that you shop for used phones online, and only purchase from a reputable dealer. When purchasing a used phone, safety, security, and longevity should be your three main concerns. At Glyde, we work hard to ensure you get all three.

why buy refurbished phones from Glyde 4

Why Purchase Your Next Pre-Owned Phone from Glyde? 

1. Know that the phone you pay for is the one you get 

On the Glyde Marketplace, each seller has to run a diagnostics check on their phone before listing. This is a comprehensive test that’ll let you – the buyer – know what works on the phone before you buy it!

The seller won’t get your money until you receive the phone and run the same diagnostics check – ensuring it’s the same phone you signed up for! No more questionable deals or shady sellers. At Glyde, you can feel safe knowing you’re getting the phone you’re paying for.

2. Sell your phone to trusted buyers

With the smart contract system that we’ve created, listing your phone on Glyde is the safe way to sell your phone online. Like mentioned above, you and the buyer will run the same diagnostics check to make sure there’s no unscrupulous business going on.

Plus, we cover shipping and are the only Peer-to-Peer marketplace to offer a 3-month warranty! You can sell your phone on Glyde here.

Refurbished Phones vs. Used Phones – Takeaways (TL;DR)

So why do refurbished phones cost more than used phones? 

This is simple. Refurbished phones cost more because of the cost to repair the phones. 

The cost of the repair and replacement parts increases the price. 

You don’t get that with used phones. Properly sourced used phones from a reliable vendor who can guarantee that the phone has never been damaged is your best option. 

Should I purchase a refurbished phone over a used one? 

You can choose to purchase a refurbished phone, but will only see about a 15% discount over new phones. If you are looking to save more money, you can find premium used phones at a 30-50% discount over new.

What should I look out for when purchasing a pre-owned phone? 

Get details on warranty information. If you choose to buy refurbished, realize the savings will not be much lower than a brand new phone.

Premium used phones will be a much cheaper option. 

Consider the source. Make sure the vendor has access to high-quality, damage-free phones. Understand their testing and grading procedures.

Read their terms and conditions. Inside the terms and conditions, the company will define their criteria and terminology. If they brand their phone as excellent or premium or good, the terms and conditions will give you a detailed description of what that means.  

What is the best way to purchase a pre-owned phone?

Find a reliable vendor, such as Glyde, that can guarantee the source and quality of the phone. The more data the vendor can give you about the phone the more secure you feel about the transaction.

What are the next steps?

View the wide variety of iPhones and Android devices available on our online marketplace. Or, contact us and ask questions about our inventory and the details on our buyback program. Visit our FAQ page to learn more details about Glyde and future innovations.