Reconditioned vs refurbished: The difference and which one is better?

reconditioned vs refurbished cover image

You are browsing Amazon, looking for a piece of tech and you come across a phone or a laptop with an utterly low price tag, nearly half the other similar phones. And then you see the tag “refurbished”. What is the meaning of this refurbished and reconditioned? And what do we get if we put reconditioned vs refurbished?

What makes the two different for a device such as a laptop or a phone? Reconditioned and refurbished are very different and they should affect your buying decision directly. The two processes are completely different, resulting in major quality differences. 


Refurbishing is the cosmetic and aesthetic improvement of a used phone. The refurbished phone is a used, working phone that has been cleaned carefully, packed and then sold. Any reseller can refurbish used phones and sell it. 

Suppose you own a phone and after one or two years of usage, the phone has slowed down. You plan to buy a new phone. You can either keep the old phone or sell it, either to a person or go for an exchange program. The exchange program gives you $75 off on your purchase of the new phone. 

The seller who bought the phone from you for $75 refurbishes the phone. This includes cleaning the surface, covering any deep scratches, cleaning the ports and then packing up the phone to  make it look as new as possible.

The whole process takes around $25. So the overall cost the seller had to pay was about $100. The cost of the same phone brand new is $400. The seller can sell the refurbished phone at $250-$300 and make a good profit off of it. 

This is the entire process of refurbishing. So when you are buying a refurbished phone, you’re buying a used phone that looks good and is packed well.

Coming to common question, is refurbished phone better than used phone? It depends. If the condition of the used phone is bad, with a lot of scratches and stains and damage, the refurbished phones are better since they look more like the new phone. 

But if you are getting a used phone which is in good condition directly from the seller, without the refurbishment and the added cost, then used phones are always better. 

Remember that there are no hardware changes or improvement when the phones are refurbished. This means that the phone just looks good but inside the phone is the same, old used phone.

The warranty on these phones are usually very short, if there is any in the first place. The average warranty for refurbished phones in the US is from 3 to 6 months.

infographic showing the benefits of refurbished phones
Benefits of refurbished phones


This is a completely different and far more complicated process than refurbishment. Reconditioning can be truly called a renewal process where the phone is changed substantially. 

When a phone has a defective part, or some hardware issues that needs complete replacement, the process is called reconditioning. 

Reconditioning is mostly done by the manufacturer of the phones (or any electronic device) since they need to replace it with original equipment. Defective phones are reconditioned and either sent back to the customer or sold at a lower price.

Since the phone was faulty, manufacturers have to sell the phone at a lower cost, even if it is in mind condition. So even though the price difference between new phone and reconditioned phone is not as much as new and refurbished, you are getting a great phone for a lower price. Much better than any refurbished phones in the market. But this is where things get interesting.

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Reconditioned vs new phones

While people will tend to buy phones and other appliances that are new rather than reconditioned, buying reconditioned phones or appliances is better. 

Reconditioned phones have all their faulty parts replaced with original, new parts. So basically, it is a new phone that you’re getting a good discount on. Plus, reconditioned phones also have 1 or even 2 years of warranty, just like brand new devices. 

But on the downside, you have to pay a bit more than what you pat for refurbished phones.

Sometimes you may see that the phone has been reconditioned by certified partners, sometimes it is factory reconditioned and sometimes it is just reconditioned. Which one’s the best? 

The best and most reliable is factory reconditioned, which means that the replacement of the parts has been done in the factory. This ensure a great quality and better longevity.

Authorized reconditioning means the parts of the phone have been changed by someone who has been certified to change it and the company of the phone trusts their process. Since the company has vouched for them, it is safe to buy reconditioned phones from certified people.

The third category is just “hacks” taking defective phones and changing the parts to turn it into working conditions and then sell it at a great price. Never trust these people because they want to make a great profit and cost-cutting comes from using inferior parts. The phone most certainly will turn into a brick after a few months.

infographic showing the benefits of reconditioned phones
Benefits of reconditioned phones

Reconditioned vs refurbished

I think it is very clear which phone is better. If it isn’t, then let me make it clear; Refurbished phones are just polished cosmetically, while reconditioned phones are renewed completely. They have new parts with the original warranty. Refurbished phones have none of that.

The problem with refurbished phones is that they are used phones, with used parts such as the screen, processors, hard drives, etc. Refurbishers buy only working phones but there is no guarantee how long it’s going to last.

So you might buy a refurbished phone that looks great and works perfectly, but it can turn out to be faulty after a few months. Before buying a refurbished phone or even a reconditioned phone, always make sure that you check the guarantee.

And that concludes this article about reconditioned and refurbished phones. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. While reconditioned phones are more reliable, they cost more. Might as well add a few bucks and buy the new device.

Refurbished phones look appealing and that’s the problem as well. They just look good on the outside. On the inside, they are still the old, used phone that could give up any time. But they are cheaper to buy. Choose the devices wisely.

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