Disappointed by Black Friday phone deals? Refurbs could be the answer

If you're looking for premium phones without the high prices, refurbished phones could be the way to go

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
(Image credit: Apple)

If you were hoping to get a really cheap iPhone in the Black Friday deals, you might have been disappointed – especially if you wanted to buy SIM-free. While there were certainly deals to be had, some of them were less impressive than others. For example, I'm looking at a Black Friday deal on the iPhone 13 here and the discount is just 3% – and when I look at its price history, even after the discount the phone is more expensive for Black Friday than it was a week previously.

That doesn't mean good deals weren't out there, but if you were hoping to get a big discount on a flagship SIM-free phone, it might be worth considering an alternative – such as eBay Certified Refurbished (opens in new tab). The refurbished iPhone 13 Pro I'm looking at just now is the 128GB model, which has an RRP of £949. The refurb is £594.

What are the pros and cons of buying a refurbished phone?

I've bought a lot of refurbished devices over the years, ranging from Macs and iMacs to iPhones. I think we're on our fourth refurb iPhone now, and every one of them has been significantly cheaper than any discounted deal.

Certified refurbished products have been returned for various reasons: the customer changed their mind, they've been traded in, they were returned because of a fault and so on. The refurbisher fixes any problems, tests the device to make sure it's okay, and offers a guarantee – usually between three months and a year depending on the seller.

The thing about refurbs is that they're second hand, and that means you need to pay close attention to the description. Many refurb sellers grade their devices A, B or C; A is pretty much factory-fresh, B will have some minor cosmetic imperfections and C has been run over by a bus. 

eBay isn't the only place to get refurbished phones (and it's not just phones; I've bought refurbished kitchen appliances and musical kit too). Apple has a decent refurbished programme too, and there are lots of third party retailers who sell refurbished items. Apple is at the more expensive end of the market but you can still expect to save around 15%, and every refurbished phone Apple sells has a new battery and shell.

If you're careful and make sure you know exactly what the retailer is offering, you can save a lot of money on high-end kit – and unlike Black Friday, these deals are available all year round.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).