Refurbished Apple products are second-hand, really, but the fact they've been refurbished by Apple means you can be a little more confident in the quality and reliability of what you're getting. It's a nice halfway house between new and second-hand, in effect, and you can save loads of money by opting to buy a refurbished iPad from Apple rather than splashing out on a brand-new iPad.
At time of writing, the Air 2, mini 2, and iPad Pro 9.7in are only sold refurbished (again depending on availability), but the iPad mini 4, iPad 9.7in (2017), iPad Pro 10.5in, and iPad Pro 12.9in are sold both refurbished or brand new.
Here, we weigh up what it means to buy a refurbished iPad, the difference between buying refurbished versus buying new, and which models are available, so you can work out which option is best for you. You can also check out our comprehensive iPad buying guide 2018.
What does refurbished mean?
Refurbished Apple products are technically pre-owned, but they undergo such a rigorous refurbishing process that it's unlikely you'll even notice. In fact pre-owned may mean only used once, perhaps it's a unit that was loaned to a journalist, or it was returned by a customer who decided they wanted a different model, or maybe there was a fault with it - a fault that Apple will have rectified as part of its refurbishment when it got it ready for sale. Read on for more information about the differences between the new iPad and a refurbished iPad, and what you can expect if you buy a refurbished iPad from Apple.
What's the difference between a refurbished iPad and 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 about the contents of that box that indicates that it is not a new iPad.
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 warranty that's included, you can buy AppleCare+ for your refurbished iPad (if you're wondering, AppleCare+ is just the mobile device version of Apple Care Protection, which is the the additional warranty service for Apple's iMac, MacBook, and Apple TV devices). 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 though.
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 Apple product you're after isn't available. (Note: Apple does not currently offer refurbished iPhones in the UK, but do in the US.)
At time of writing, Apple has various iPad models available (Wi-Fi only or with Wi-Fi and Cellular). The stock may vary depending on whether you're buying from the UK or US however. The UK refurbished store offers the Air 2, Pro 9.7in, Pro 10.5in, Pro 12.9in, mini 4, and the iPad (2017). In addition to this selection, the US refurbished store offers the iPad mini 2 and Apple Pencil, which is now compatible with the iPad 9.7 (2018).
To give you an idea of what you can save by opting for a refurbished iPad, a brand new iPad mini 4 with 128GB storage and Wi-Fi alone costs £399/US$399. You can get the same model for £339/$339, refurbished. UK buyers willing to downsize to 64GB storage – an option that is not available if buying new – can get a refurbished iPad mini 4 with both Wi-Fi and Cellular for £399 .
The refurbished store is also a way to get hold of models no longer sold by Apple like the discontinued iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro 9.7 (2016). It no longer sells 16GB models of any iPad models either - so the Refurbished Store is the only place you could find a 16GB iPad mini 4, for instance, directly from Apple now.
You can also pick up the base Wi-Fi only iPad Pro 12.9in for £569/US$589 with 32GB, again a storage size not available if you're buying new. This refurbished model will save you £100/$110. View the iPad Pro on the Refurbished Store here.
A Refurbished iPad Air 2 with WiFi + Cellular and 128GB capacity is available for £419/$449 from Apple's Refurbished store, which saves you £170/$180. By comparison, that's actually £120/$110 cheaper than a new iPad (2017) with WiFi + Cellular with just 32GB storage.
If you are looking for a good deal on an iPad, also check out our dedicated best iPad deals page.
So, should I buy a refurbished iPad?
We think it is absolutely worth considering buying a refurbished iPad from Apple's Refurbished store before purchasing a brand-new one. It'll look as good as new, so you won't notice the difference anywhere other than in your bank balance and that giveaway packaging as mentioned above.
Right now, anyone looking for one of Apple's latest iPads has no choice but to buy brand-new from Apple or a third-party reseller, but if you'd be 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 than it would cost you for a new model with less impressive specs.
Here in the Macworld office, we've purchased Apple products from the Refurbished store and have been completely happy with them, so we can recommend the option first hand.
Buying and selling iPads second-hand
We think that the Refurbished store is a strong option offering good deals on iPads. But it's not the only one.
Macworld itself offers a service for buying and selling iPads and other Apple products: Macworld's mResell service. It's worth taking a look to see if this is right for you.
And of course there are numerous other options for buying and selling second-hand iPads. Here are just a few:
We look at the process of selling an iPad in far more detail in a separate article: How to sell an iPad.
To help you with your buying decision, check out our library of iPad reviews and comparisons, though you can also select specific models from below: