Apple's tablet portfolio has grown dramatically in recent years. The latest line-up includes the new M1 iPad Pros and 2020's 10.2in iPad (8th gen) and iPad Air (4th gen). With so many options, the refurbished market for Apple's tablets seems to be ever-expanding, with newer and newer devices to choose from. But which is the best way to buy an iPad: new, second-hand, or refurbished? And what's the difference? In this article, we walk you through your options and point you to some of the best deals around too.

What does refurbished mean?

First of all, let's clarify that refurbished, or reconditioned, Apple products are second-hand, really – but they've been rigorously tested and repaired to work just like new.

In contrast, buying second-hand and not refurbished, say off eBay or GumTree, means that you're buying the device as is with no after purchase protection, which makes it slightly riskier if you don't know the seller. If the previous owner has forgotten to dissociate their Apple ID from the device, you may potentially be locked out permanently from the device. Apple's customer service won't be able to help you unlock it without the original Apple ID details due to their strict security policies.

To avoid such troubles, buying refurbished is a nice halfway house between new and second-hand.

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If the device is factory refurbished or certified refurbished, as in the case if you buy an Apple-certified refurbished iPad, you can be confident the quality and reliability will match a new device. Refurbished prices are up to 15% cheaper at the Refurbished Store compared to prices from the standard Apple store.

Apple Refurbished products undergo a rigorous cleaning, testing, and repairs process. Parts that don't work or are damaged are replaced so that the final product works just like new.

Some of the pre-owned iPads at the Apple Refurbished Store may have only been used once. Perhaps it's a unit that was loaned to a journalist, or it was returned promptly by a customer who decided they wanted a different model, or maybe there was a minor fault with it, but Apple has now rectified this as part of the refurbishment process.

Best refurbished iPad deals right now

What's the difference between a refurbished (or reconditioned) iPad vs. a brand-new iPad?

If you buy a refurbished iPad from Apple, you'll get the same one-year warranty as if you bought a brand-new iPad, all of the manuals and accessories that come with a new iPad, a brand new battery and outer shell and a new white box for it too.

The new box is not the same as the box you would get if you purchased a new iPad, and we assume that this is to prevent people from buying a refurbished iPad and attempting to sell it on as new. However, we think you'll struggle to spot anything different about the contents of that box.

Apple promises that all refurbished iPads it sells are in full working condition, and they have each been fully tested to ensure this. Any parts that were defective when the iPad was returned by its previous owner will have been replaced, and the entire iPad will have been cleaned and inspected to make sure it's in top-notch condition.

If you'd prefer to have a longer warranty than the one-year version that's included, you can buy AppleCare+ for your refurbished iPad. AppleCare+ extends your warranty to two years, allows additional technical support, 24/7 access to Apple experts, and hardware coverage for up to two accidental damage incidents. Each damage claim will cost an additional £39/$49, though.

Should I buy a refurbished iPad?

What iPad models can I buy from Apple's Refurbished store?

The products in Apple's Refurbished Store can change quite frequently, so you'll want to check back regularly if the particular product you're after isn't available. Stock may vary depending on whether you're buying from the UK or US, too.

At the time of writing, there aren't any models available at the Refurbished store. Be sure to check back often.

Should I buy a refurbished iPad? Is it worth buying a refurbished iPad?

We think it is absolutely worth considering buying a refurbished iPad before purchasing a brand-new one. Even if you don't buy it directly from Apple, there are plenty of other retailers that offer refurbished iPads that are worth checking out. If you're happy with an older generation of iPad, you may find you can get a bigger capacity model or a Wi-Fi + Cellular model for less money.

There are just a few things to keep in mind before you hit purchase – especially if you do opt for a third-party reseller.

First off, look at the refurbished grade. Often you'll see this noted as Grade A, Grade B, and Grade C. As you've guessed, this correlates with the condition of the device. It's not an exact science, as each retailer will have its own standards for each grade, but it generally indicates what to expect (especially if you're buying online).

Grade A refurbished device should look just like new or have very, very faint signs of use. Meanwhile, Grade B devices may have minor scratches or wear, while Grade C devices will show obvious signs of wear.

Second, ensure the refurbished iPad comes with a warranty. This shouldn't be too difficult as most resellers will tout coverage for at least one year. A warranty allows you to get repairs and other technical help should the device have any issues.

Pros and cons of buying a refurbished iPad

Pros

  • Much cheaper than buying new
  • Includes after purchase warranty services (vs simply buying second-hand)
  • Some retailers like Music Magpie and Handtec offer money-back returns within 14 days

Cons

  • Refurbish quality can vary from retailer to retailer
  • Might be difficult to get additional tech support after the warranty expires
  • Resale value of a refurbished device won't be very high if you want to sell the iPad after purchase

Best places to buy (and sell) iPads refurbished or second-hand

While the Apple Refurbished Store is an excellent place to buy a reconditioned iPad, you may find stock is limited – and in some cases, other retailers offer newer models second-hand or refurbished at better prices too. Here are a few retailers worth checking out (in alphabetical order):

  • Amazon - Amazon has a rigorous refurbishing process (see our Tech Advisor's explainer) which ensures that devices look and work just like new. Most importantly all devices from Amazon Renewed are backed with a 1-year Guarantee, which means you can get a refund or replacement within a year of receiving the iPad.
  • Music Magpie (Decluttr in the US) - Music Magpie is an excellent destination for refurbished tech. Not only does it often have competitive prices, you can also reduce prices further by trading in your old tech, books, CDs and other media. You can also find discounts on new iPad models from 2020.
  • The iOutlet - The iOutlet is similar to MusicMagpie: you can trade in your old gadgets such as gaming consoles, phones, tablets or watches to earn cash towards other purchases. You may not find the absolute latest iPad models, but the iOutlet has an extensive range of Apple products and prices that are pretty much on par with MusicMagpie
  • Envirofone - Envirofone also buys your old phones and tech, including damaged devices. If you choose to get paid in Envirofone credits called "Envirocash", you can get an extra 12% back to spend towards a refurbished device.
  • 4Gadgets - 4Gadgets often has sales on refurbished tech including iPads. You won't find the 2020 models but you can find options from 2018 and 2019 at competitive prices.

We'd also suggest checking out the following refurbished retailers:

Where to get refurbished Apple iPad deals

Some of the best iPad offers available right now are from Music Magpie, which also has up to 10% off select refurbished iPads with code SUMMER10. The iOutlet also has competitive offers, though may not have the latest iPads in stock.

If you still want to pick up the device brand new, see our article on the best iPad deals of the month, along with the best 10.2in iPad (8th gen, 2020) and iPad Air (4th gen, 2020) deals right now. 

1. Apple iPad 10.2in (32GB, 2020, Refurbished) Wi-Fi + Cellular

From: MusicMagpie

Was: £459

Now: £389.99  (£69 off)

MusicMagpie has a total of £69 off the latest iPad (8th gen) with cellular connectivity in 'Pristine' condition, compared to buying new.

2. Apple iPad Pro 11in (2018, 64GB) Wi-Fi + Cellular

From: The iOutlet

Was: £669

Now: £449.99  (£219 off)

One of Apple's best iPads yet, with its high refresh-rate display and Apple Pencil 2 support, is now up for grabs with a hefty £109 discount from the iOutlet, compared to Apple's price for the same refurbished model.

3. Apple iPad Air 4 (64GB, 2020, Refurbished) Wi-Fi + Cellular

From: MusicMagpie

Was: £709

Now: £484.99  (£224 off)

Save a massive £224 on the newest iPad Air (64GB) with Wi-Fi and 4G connectivity. It's graded 'Pristine' in condition.

4. Apple iPad Air (2020, 64GB, Wi-Fi + Cellular) - Refurbished

From: MusicMagpie

Was: £709

Now: £484.99  (£224 off)

Music Magpie's price on a refurbished iPad Air (4th gen) with 4G connectivity – in Pristine condition – is now £484.99!

5. Apple iPad Mini 4 (2015, 64GB) Wi-Fi + Cellular

From: MusicMagpie

Now: £219.99

MusicMagpie has the best price right now on the last-gen iPad mini. Its price for the same model beats Amazon's.

6. Apple iPad Pro 11 (Wi-Fi + Cellular, 512GB) - Refurbished

From: Apple Refurbished Store

Was: £1,119

Now: £859  (£260 off)

Pick up the last generation iPad Pro 11 with 4G and 512GB storage directly from Apple but with £260 off the RRP. Delivery is free.

7. Apple iPad Pro 12.9in (Wi-Fi, 512GB) - Refurbished

From: Apple Refurbished Store

Was: £1,169

Now: £849  (£320 off)

You can also save an incredible £320 on the 12.9in iPad Pro (2018) from the Apple Refurbished Store!

Further reading

All being well, the advice above has helped you reach a decision about how to buy your iPad. If you're still not sure which model to go for, take a look at our iPad buying guide, as well as our guide to the best iPad deals.

We look at the process of selling an iPad in far more detail in a separate article: How to sell an iPad.