If you're desperate for an iPhone but your budget doesn't quite stretch to Apple's newest models, buying an old, used or refurbished iPhone is a great way to pick up a bargain. While this might sound like a risky route to take, it doesn't have to be the case, as there are a number of specialist retailers that offer warranties and check all devices before sending them out.

Now that Apple's iPhone 13 range has officially arrived, you can find excellent deals on refurbished models as new as the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 (especially now that Apple has discontinued selling the Pro models on both phones).

We're looking at everything there is to know about buying a refurbished iPhone here – whether SIM-free or on contract.

Apple Refurbished Store

Refurbished iPhone Store

Apple itself sells iPhones in its own Certified Refurbished Store in the UK, something that it's been doing in the US Refurbished Store for some time.

One of the main reasons for buying from the Apple Refurbished Store, aside from the lower cost, is that the devices all come with the same one-year limited warranty that you'll find on the brand-new versions. It's also worth noting that any parts used in the refurb will be official Apple ones and all come with brand-new batteries.

The standard reduction on the Apple Refurbished Store is 15 percent.

Buy Refurbished iPhones

Save extra cash when you buy a refurbished iPhone from musicMagpie! Plus, all iPhones come with free delivery and a 12 month warranty too. It's smart for you, smart for the planet. Up to £120 off refurbished phones.

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Best refurbished iPhone deals now

Buying older models from Apple

If you're not worried about getting the absolute latest kit, an older Apple iPhone is an option and it doesn't have to be second-hand.

Apple may be touting the virtues of its latest iPhone models, but if you look on the Apple Store you'll see that the iPhone XR and iPhone 11 are still on sale.

Of course, you'll miss out on some of the newer features offered in the latest models, but these older iPhones remain an excellent choice if you're happy with the 'old' designs.

Should I buy a refurbished iPhone? What is refurbished?

You might be concerned about buying a refurbished handset, thinking that it would be like buying a second-hand iPhone, but there's no reason to be worried. Remember: refurbished and second-hard aren't the same thing. Refurbished iPhones are pre-owned but are totally wiped, tested and repaired to work like new. 

The iPhones Apple sells in the Certified Refurbished store were returned to Apple for a variety of reasons:

  • The previous owner could have exercised their consumer rights and returned the handset unused within 14-days (as per Apple’s refund and exchange policy).
  • The iPhone may have been used as a demonstration model.
  • The iPhone may have been returned to Apple due to a fault.

This latter point may concern you, however you can be sure that Apple will have identified and fixed any faults before reselling it.

Apple says that refurbished products undergo "full functional testing, genuine Apple part replacements (if necessary)," as well as "a thorough cleaning".

There are plenty of benefits to buying a refurbished iPhone:

  • You will get a one-year warranty
  • You get 90 days of tech support
  • Because you are buying from Apple directly there are no shipping costs and free returns.
  • You are also able to utilise Apple’s 14-day returns policy if you change your mind.

Refurbished iPhone vs second-hand - what's the difference?

If it's not already clear, a refurbished iPhone is tested and repaired so the handset works like new (or as close to new as possible). A second-hand iPhone, on the other hand, is simply sold as is, which means the device may not last as long, particularly the battery.

There are other risks to buying second-hand too. If the previous owner hasn't dissociated their Apple ID from the device you may get permanently locked out of the iPhone. This can happen if you've forgotten your password and have made too many attempts to log in. Unfortunately, Apple's customer service wouldn't be able to help you unlock the phone either, as the company has strict security policies.

Such a situation would be less of a concern if you know and can easily contact the previous owner (and they remember their Apple ID details), but we'd prefer avoiding such complications to start with.

This is just another reason why buying refurbished is a more reliable route to go if you did want to pick up a previously-owned iPhone.

What does the refurbished Grade A mean?

When you shop refurbished you might see grade scores A, B, or C – this indicates the condition of the phone. Is it dinged up? Does it have scratches? Or is it completely blemish-free and pristine? The grade will give you a general idea.

We say "general" because these grades aren't set by an independent body, which means they can vary from retailer to retailer. This is how the grades usually break down:

  • Grade A - Looks like new or has very few signs of wear
  • Grade B - Might have some minor scratches and some wear
  • Grade C - Looks used and has obvious signs of wear

Of course, Grade A refurbished devices will be more expensive than Grade C, but you'll still be paying much less than paying for a brand new device. 

Pay attention to refurbished warranties 

Given the quality of refurbished iPhone devices can vary from retailer to retailer, it's important to pay attention to the warranty. How long is the phone covered? The warranty allows you to get help or free repairs from the seller if you run into any issues after purchase. Most retailers typically offer up to a year. 

Where to get refurbished and pre-owned iPhones - Best retailers

MusicMagpie refurbished iPhone

One of the best ways to get an old or refurbished iPhone at a bargain price, including models such as the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus that are no longer available from Apple, is buying second-hand or refurbished devices from third-party retailers.

There is a wide selection of outlets to choose from, many of whom offer warranties, device checkups before dispatch, and quality gradings so you can save a bit more money by opting for a device that's got a few minor scratches but still works fine.

Check out the following retailers for excellent prices on refurbished and pre-owned iPhones.

Where to buy a refurbished iPhone SIM-free

  • Music Magpie (Decluttr in the US)- Music Magpie is a popular destination for refurbished devices, often with sales that slash even more money off. You can also trade in any of your old tech, gadgets, and media (including books and CDs) to get steeper discounts.
  • The iOutlet or The iOutlet on eBay - Like Music Magpie, the iOutlet offers competitive pricing for refurbished devices and also accepts other gadgets such as iPads, Apple Watches, and gaming consoles. 
  • Amazon Renewed Store - While you can't really sell on Amazon Renewed unless you're a business, those looking to buy a refurbished iPhone Amazon Renewed have plenty of options to choose from. Its greatest benefit is that purchases are all backed by Amazon's standard returns policy and its "Renewed Guarantee" lets you get a refund or replacement within 1 year of receiving your product.
  • Envirofone - Envirofone also allows you to trade-in your old phone for cash towards purchasing a refurbished phone. However, it mostly specializes in phones so you won't be able to trade in your DVDs or books for cash.

The following refurbished retailers are also worth checking out:

Where to buy a refurbished iPhone on contract

You can pick up refurbished phones on contract as well from the following carriers and resellers:

Outside of specialist retailers, there's also eBay (just be sure to check the seller's feedback and read the descriptions carefully), and CeX.

Buying older iPhones new on contract

Another way to dampen the financial impact of buying a new iPhone is to go down the tried and tested route of contracts offered by mobile providers. You'll find older iPhone models in the online stores of various UK carriers, such as the iPhone 7 or iPhone 8, on much cheaper tariffs than the iPhone 12 range.

Prices change all the time, so we'd recommend reading our Best iPhone deals guide on a regular basis to see which offers are currently available.

We're also looking at the best iPhone 11 deals of the month (across the full range).

Best refurbished iPhone deals right now

1. Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (128GB, refurbished)

From: MusicMagpie

Was: £1,099

Now: £774.99  (£324 off)

If you don't mind buying refurbished, you can save over £300 on this 128GB iPhone 12 Pro Max in 'Pristine' condition from MusicMagpie (additional discount automatically applied at checkout). See our full guide to buying refurbished iPhones.

2. Apple iPhone 12 (64GB) - Refurbished

From: Reboxed

Was: £679

Now: £614  (£50 off + extra £15 off with MACWORLD15)

Reboxed has a total of £65 off the iPhone 12 in Pristine condition when you add our exclusive code MACWORLD15 at checkout. The code applies sitewide, so you can apply it to any refurbished iPhone you wish!

3. Refurbished iPhone 12/SE/11/X/XR/8/7

From: Laptops Direct

Now: From £109.97

Laptops Direct is a great destination for refurbished iPhones. Most devices are Grade A listed which means you should hardly see any signs of wear if any at all.

Get the iPhone 11 for £449 (£40 off) and the iPhone SE (2020) for £249 (that's £140 off!).

4. Apple iPhone X (refurbished) with 30GB data

From: Mobiles.co.uk

Was: £26 per month

Now: £21 per month  (£120 cashback)

Grab a refurbished iPhone X from Mobiles.co.uk with a solid 30GB of data on Vodafone for just £21 per month with no upfront costs.

5. Apple iPhone X (256GB SIM-free, refurbished)

From: Apple Refurbished Store

Was: £1049

Now: £629  (£420 off)

You can't get a better refurbished iPhone if you're shopping at the Apple Refurbished Store – you'll pay slightly more than elsewhere, but you'll get total peace of mind – and £420 off.

6. Apple iPhone XS (256GB) - Certified Refurbished

From: Apple Refurbished Store

Was: £1099

Now: £679  (£420 off)

Pick up a refurbished iPhone XS directly from Apple - which means it's exactly like a new handset, but with £420 off the RRP.

7. Apple iPhone 11 Pro (64GB) - refurbished with 30GB data

From: O2

Now: £30 upfront, £41.22 per month  (with 6 months of Disney+ for free)

This offer from O2 includes Disney+ free for six months, or 12 months of another streaming service, along with 30GB of 4G data to use every month. 

8. Apple iPhone XR (Certified Refurbished)

From: Apple Refurbished Store

Was: £499

Now: £369  (£130 off)

The Apple Refurbished Store now has £130 off the iPhone XR –on both 64GB and 128GB options. Check it out.

9. Apple iPhone XR (256GB, refurbished)

From: 4Gadgets

Was: £899

Now: £349.99  (£549 off)

A brand new 256GB iPhone XR had an RRP of £899 directly from Apple. 4Gadget's price on a refurbished GB iPhone XR is just £299.99 (unlocked, "Very Good" condition) - offering a saving of £549.

Like MusicMagpie, 4Gadget offers a 12-month warranty and free next-day delivery. You also get a new genuine Apple Lightning cable.

10. Apple iPhone 8 (64GB, refurbished)

From: MusicMagpie

Was: £174.99

Now: £157.80  (10% off)

MusicMagpie has one of the cheapest prices for a refurbished iPhone 8. It's backed with a 1-year warranty for additional peace of mind.

11. Apple iPhone 8 (64GB, refurbished)

From: The iOutlet

Was: £199.99

Now: £174.99  (£25 off)

iOutlet also has the iPhone 8 for under £175, a £25 reduction of its usual price.

So, if you want an iPhone but the price has been holding you back, hopefully, one of these solutions will meet your needs without draining your bank account.

More refurbished Apple guides