Refurbished vs used tech: What’s the difference?

Understanding the difference between used tech and refurbished tech is really important as it’s often the case that people confuse the two. With this in depth guide, you’ll easily be able to identify not only the difference between the two, but which one is best suited to your needs.

A used device will predominantly come from the previous user. If you buy any kind of tech that is used, be it a phone, ipad or even a laptop, it has most likely come from someone that has used the device and no longer needs or wants it. They could sell this through a resellers platform such as eBay or they could sell it independently through such means as Facebook Marketplace. In most cases, a used device has not had any official fixes or refurbishments performed, although it may have a history of technical issues that you won’t be aware of.

A refurbished device however, will have gone through a detailed refurbishment process which will assess the condition of all areas within the device, including; aesthetic and performance criterias. This is the case for all refurbished tech and brands, including refurbished iPhones and iPads as well as other brands of phones and tablets. A refurbished device may have been returned to the manufacturer without being used or it may have been sold to a refurbishment retailer after they no longer need it. Regardless of this, any credited refurbishment retailer will have taken the device through a specific refurbishment process to ensure the device is not only working but safe to use.

iphone refurbishment

Which is better? Refurbished or used tech?

Understanding which option is best for you will depend on a variety of factors.

These factors will include;

The condition of the exterior of the device

When buying a refurbished device from an accredited retailer you will have the option to select the condition you would like the device to be in. Depending on the retailer you choose, the grading criteria will vary, however, it’s important to identify what that retailers grading criteria is. This will inform you how the device will look externally. This can include; scratches, scuffs, or even cracks of the screen.

iPhone grading

The model of the device you would like to buy

It’s important to know that, depending on the model/how new the device is that you're looking for, buying refurbished isn't always possible. In most cases you will be able to find the devices you’re looking for on a refurbishment website however if the device has only just been released, it may be easier to find a used device (through a private seller) instead of through a verified refurbishment retailer.

You should note though, when buying through a private seller you will not be covered by any form of warranty unless it is still active from the seller's original purchase. This means if something were to go wrong with the device after you’ve bought it, there wouldn't be much you could do to get your money back.

The budget you have for the device that you want

By buying a refurbished or used device, you can save a large sum of money when compared to buying the device new from the manufacturer. Check out our guide on how much you could save by buying a refurbished phone.

You may find that buying a used device is cheaper than buying a refurbished device, however as mentioned previously there is no guarantee that the device will be in full working order. With a refurbished device, you’ll not only save money but you’ll receive a product that has been fully tested and refurbished to be in as good condition as possible internally. Also, depending on the grading criteria you go for, you could even receive a device that looks brand new on the outside too.

pristine iPhone 12

The accessories you want your device to come with

It’s important to note that not all refurbished devices will come with a full set of accessories that you’d receive if you were to buy new. This could include a new charger, earphones, cables or adapters. By doing your research on the retailer you plan to buy from, you’ll be able to identify which accessories, if any, will come with your refurbished device; all of which will be fully operational and in good condition.

If you were to buy a used device from a private seller, none of the above can be guaranteed. Unfortunately, we often see that buyers have purchased a used device from an independent seller claiming to include the original accessories with the device. In many cases, though, this either isn’t the case and they are replicated versions or they simply no longer work.

refurbished iphone accessories

The refurbishment process

To truly understand the difference between a used and refurbished device you need to have a good idea of what the refurbishment process includes. For different retailers this process will vary, but here’s an overview of WeSellTek’s in-depth refurbishment process.

- Step 1 - Preparation, data wipe and diagnostics checks

- Step 2 - Refurbishment

             - Battery

             - Defective parts

             - Screen and back glass

             - Cleaning process

- Step 3 - Final test and preparation for sale

Refurbishment warranty

As mentioned previously, when buying a refurbished device you are much more likely to have access to an official warranty. The warranty available will vary from retailer to retailer but this is something you should look into when choosing who to buy from.

If you were to buy a used device, you are much less likely to have a warranty that you can use if something were to go wrong with the item. You may have access to a warranty if the original manufacturer’s warranty offer hasn’t yet expired; however it’s unlikely that you’d be able to get an independent warranty from the private seller themselves.

Secure buying

Although this may sound like an obvious point, it is unfortunately a mistake we see a lot of people make. When buying from an independent seller for a used device, there is often a lack of security when transactions are made. This could be due to paying in cash or via bank transfer to someone that you might not deem trustworthy. If you were to buy a used device through an independent seller, we would recommend doing so through a trusted reselling platform, an example of this would be eBay which includes it’s own buyer protection - this means if something were to go wrong you are more likely to be reimbursed.

This is something you don’t need to worry about as much when buying from a verified retailer because this will come with it’s own financial protections if something were to go wrong with the device. It is important though to check the specific return policies for the retailer that you choose.

Knowing it will last

Essentially, when buying a refurbished device, you’ll be purchasing an item in as good a condition internally as if you were to buy new. Although the exterior may show signs of use/wear and tear, the performance of the device will be to a high standard. When you combine this with the warranty you receive, you can rest assured that you’ll have a working device long term.

You can’t be sure though that this will be the case with a used device for all of the reasons mentioned above.

Should I buy refurbished or second hand tech?

Overall, there are pros and cons of purchasing both used and refurbished devices. Identifying which option is right for you means looking at all of the variables we’ve covered within this article. We recommend doing your own research on your chosen seller to make sure your transaction is secure and you know what you’re buying. Good luck and enjoy your new device!