Battle of the iPhones: how much could refurbished really save? - WeSellTek

The feeling of unboxing that new iPhone - one of the most addictive you can experience. Unpackaging the phone, peeling the screen protector off and getting everything synced across is certainly a dream-worthy experience. You’re set up on a two-year contract and convinced that this phone will be your baby that you will love and cherish for the rest of your life.  

Now think of what you feel two years later; with your iPhone cracked in several places, your mates owning the newest model and you being quite frankly bored of what you purchased all those moons ago, you are ready to fork out for your next handset right?

If you’ve been around this proverbial cycle a few times, you might be getting a bit travel sick (as well as having your wallet screaming at you to stop).

Instead of buying a new phone, many are starting to find that they much prefer to choose the refurbished route instead. But what if we told you that opting for a refurbished iPhone could save you a fair whack? Getting curious as to how much? So were we! So we ran a study comparing the iPhone contracts from the biggest UK operators and retailers, against a refurbished device on SIM-only to reveal the difference. 

Read on for some savvy savings from our study.


Savvy Savings

How much can you really save then from opting for a refurbished iPhone? We’ve done the maths for you, and can reveal that the average saving by buying a refurbished iPhone over a contracted brand new one is £126.

The study found that the average iPhone on contract in the UK sets you back £859.10 over the period, including upfront device costs. In comparison, buying a refurbished iPhone and taking up a SIM-only deal - which costs £13.33 on average - will pocket you £126.23 instead. 

Or to put that differently; that’s 28.5 pints or almost 51 Happy Meals!


Biggest savings by device

On average, the biggest savings could be found on the iPhone SE 2020 model.

An iPhone SE as a refurbished handset could save you £132.76. An XR is the second most cost-effective to opt for refurbed on, saving you £130.15, and a refurbished iPhone 11 on SIM-only will save you £115.90.

The biggest individual iPhone SE refurbished saving came from opting for this instead of Three’s 24-month contract of £33 per month.


Biggest savings by contract

Our number crunching can also reveal where the biggest cost savings will come from too.

If you’re toying with the idea of a second-hand iPhone and different operators, it’s important to consider just how much you could save by device, and also which operator or retailer you’re considering a contract with too: 

  1. Choosing a refurbished iPhone 11 on EE’s 24-month contract will set you back £476.85, compared to a refurbished handset
  2. The second most expensive iPhone on contract is EE’s iPhone XR on a £39 per month contract - where opting for refurbished could save you £376.85
  3. The third biggest saving to be made on contract is by considering a refurbished iPhone instead of Three’s 24-month offer, which could mean £359.85 extra in your pocket


Why are people choosing refurbished?

Paul Walsh, our director at WeSellTek says: “From customers telling us how much money they were saving, we knew how much of a difference it was making to their disposable income. What we didn’t know was quite how much money an iPhone customer could save across almost every model in a refurbished context!

We were surprised to see that there wasn’t really any order to the savings in terms of how old the model of the iPhones were too. For example, the iPhones which people have been saving the most money on (the SE, 11 and XR) aren’t in order of age, with the XR being older than the 11. This is again another myth that we hear all of the time: in order to save really big on refurbishment, you need to get a really old phone. The study shows that this just isn’t the case.”

“One of the most common things we hear is that people can’t actually tell the difference between a brand new iPhone and a refurbished one. Quality is a common misconception that comes from the days of dodgy second-hand phone shops, from which the phones break after two days and you are left with nothing except a wasted trip and a hole in your pocket. It’s great to be able to dispel this misconception every day, and spread the word that you really can save money without being taken advantage of. We confidently offer a 12-month warranty and every single handset we sell goes through a rigorous testing and refurbishment process before they become available.”

In terms of the environment, the constant production to feed the masses of their new phones is taking a toll. The air miles accumulated from importing and manufacturing all of the phone parts stack up, and this is all before the phones have to be shipped around the world to the waiting arms of customers. As well as cost savings, there are also huge positive environmental impacts you could be making too: “People are starting to realise the environmental impact that the increase in new gadgets and phones being manufactured and sold every year are having. With each phone being so small in size, it’s hard to comprehend straight away, but when people are taking a moment to think about just how many phones there are in the global population, they quickly understand the scale of the problem manufacturing these devices are contributing to. Choosing refurbished means that there is no additional contribution to the number of phones being produced, as well as reducing the demand,” adds Paul.



We compared the cost of iPhone contracts from seven of the UK’s biggest operators and phone providers for some of the UK’s most popular models, against the WeSellTek refurbished handset price (coupled with the average UK SIM-only costs) to reveal the difference in lifetime cost over each contract period.

This study takes into account differing contract lengths, upfront phone costs and each operator’s average SIM-only deals too. Effort was made to ensure we were comparing similar phone contracts by data, minutes and text offers. 

We took the contract details and offers and SIM-only costs from each operator’s website in July 2021.