Shopping for the latest smartphones and laptops can be expensive. If you’re trying not to dent your bank account, the easiest way to save money is by buying a refurbished device, which is one that is “returned, repaired or restored to a like-new condition,” says Ozzy Russell, operations manager at Back in the Box, a New Jersey tech refurbisher and seller.
Below, we highlighted some of the biggest refurbished marketplaces and detailed their return policies, warranties, the types of products they offer and more.
Our top picks
- Best for buying Apple products: Apple Certified Refurbished
- Best product selection: Amazon Renewed
- Best shopping experience: Back Market
What is a refurbished product?
Refurbished products are often found on the same online store page as used, pre-owned and open-box products, making them harder to shop. Even among refurbished products, there are different categories to consider such as factory refurbished, certified refurbished and more. Below is a brief explanation of the differences between these categories, according to Russell.
- Used and pre-owned: These items are returned by a previous owner and may show signs of wear and tear. Typically, they do not come with a warranty, and often have not been tested to see if they work perfectly.
- Open-box: Near-new products with little or no signs of wear. These products are quick returns from customers, display models from stores or products with damaged packaging. They may or may not include accessories or warranty.
- Refurbished: Returned products that are repaired or restored to a like-new condition through part replacement and inspection. Refurbished products are often tested by professionals to make sure they perform as advertised, and typically come with a warranty.
- Certified refurbished: These are returned products that are repaired or restored with a more intensive inspection and certification process. Certified refurbished products are sold by the original manufacturer or an authorized partner or the manufacturer. They often come with extended warranty and return periods.
How we picked the best sites to shop refurbished tech
We focused on marketplaces selling certified refurbished products because they “meet strict quality standards set by the manufacturer and are often indistinguishable from new products in terms of performance and appearance,” says Russell. When considering certified refurbished marketplaces, we put emphasis on the following perks:
- Warranty and returns: We highlighted marketplaces that offer a warranty period or return policy in case of any unexpected issues with the product.
- Product selection: Most popular marketplaces sell a variety of certified refurbished electronics, including smartphones, gaming consoles, home goods and cameras.
- Accessories: We only chose brands that include necessary accessories like charging and power cables.
Where to buy refurbished tech in 2023
Our top sites to shop certified refurbished mostly come from large online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Back Market. Below, we listed our favorites to shop good quality refurbished tech.
For Apple products: Apple
What we like: In-house testing and customer service
If you’re looking to save money on Apple products, look into Apple’s certified refurbished storefront. Buying directly from Apple means the device has been refurbished and tested by Apple’s team, according to the brand. All Apple certified refurbished products come with a new battery, new outer shell and relevant accessories in the box. “These iPhones typically have the highest level of quality assurance and customer support,” Russell says.
All Apple certified refurbished products come with free shipping and returns. Apple’s certified refurbished storefront has a limited stock of products, and is often more expensive than other refurbished storefronts.
Product offered: Apple products | Warranty: 1 year | Return policy: 14 days | Shipping: Free | Conditions offered: Mint | Accessories: Manufacturer included
Biggest product selection: Amazon
What we like: Wide product selection; great prices
Amazon Renewed has a huge selection of certified refurbished electronics including smartphones, earbuds, office products and cameras. All products sold on Amazon Renewed are professionally inspected and tested to ensure they work as expected by an Amazon performance-managed supplier, according to the brand. Amazon Renewed hosts many third-party sellers, but Amazon ensures that their third-party sellers meet certain criteria to sell on Amazon Renewed.
Amazon Renewed products do not come with manufacturer warranty. Instead, they come with either a one-year or 90-day return policy, depending on the item's condition.
Product offered: Electronics, home goods, outdoor tools | Warranty: N/A | Return policy: 1 year for premium condition products, 90 days for all other conditions | Shipping: Varies | Conditions offered: Premium, excellent, good, acceptable | Accessories: Generic or original manufacturer included
Easiest shopping experience: Back Market
What we like: Easy to navigate the website
Back Market is an online storefront that only sells certified refurbished tech products, which means you never run the risk of accidentally navigating to a used or open-box storefront. I worked with the team at Back Market to try out a refurbished iPad Air (4th generation) from one of their sellers. Labeled as “excellent” condition, it felt like a brand-new product. It had no visible blemishes, knicks or scratches, had a healthy battery and performed as expected when using apps, taking photos and streaming TV shows.
Most items on Back Market are sold through third-party sellers who pass Back Market’s screening process. Back Market also has a specific certified renewed page for products that are refurbished and sold directly from manufacturers.
Product offered: Smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles | Warranty: 1 year | Return policy: 30 days | Shipping: Free | Conditions offered: Excellent, good, fair | Accessories: New, but varies depending on the product
Longest warranty: eBay
What we like: Huge selection of products
While I used to associate eBay with bidding on used items, the storefront now has many new ways to shop, including its certified refurbished program, which sells electronics, household tools, camera, sporting goods and more. These items come with a two year Allstate SquareTrade warranty, a third-party warranty, but the longest of our top picks. EBay also has a lengthy 30-day return policy.
All of its certified refurbished products are in “pristine, like-new” condition, according to the brand.
Product offered: Electronics, home goods, auto parts, etc. | Warranty: 2 years, third party | Return policy: 30 days | Shipping: Free | Conditions offered: Pristine like-new | Accessories: Original or new, generic included
Other sites to shop certified refurbished
Samsung sells older generations of their popular Galaxy smartphones refurbished via its certified Re-Newed page. Like Apple certified refurbished, these smartphones are refurbished by Samsung, in a Samsung facility, with Samsung parts, according to the brand. All Samsung Re-Newed products come with a one year warranty and a 28-day free return period.
Product offered: Samsung smartphones | Warranty: 1 year | Return policy: 28 days | Shipping: Free | Conditions offered: N/A | Accessories: New, included
All of Best Buy’s Geek Squad certified refurbished products are refurbished by Best Buy staff. The retailer sells electronics like Apple products, headphones and computer peripherals and you can ship items to your address or a nearby Best Buy store. Restocking fees may apply depending on the type of product you buy and the state you live in.
Product offered: Electronics | Warranty: 90 day | Return policy: 14 days | Shipping: Free | Conditions offered: N/A | Accessories: New, but varies depending on the product
Similar to Amazon Renewed, Walmart Restored sells certified refurbished products that have been handled by third-party sellers who are accepted and managed by Walmart. Only a select group of Walmart sellers can participate in the program, according to the brand’s FAQ page.
Through Walmart Restored, you can shop for smartphones, TVs, kitchen appliances and more.
Product offered: Electronics, kitchen, etc. | Warranty: N/A | Return policy: 90 days | Shipping: Free | Conditions offered: N/A | Accessories: Varies depending on the product
How to shop for refurbished tech
One of the main reasons we focused on certified refurbished tech is confidence. According to our experts, certified refurbished tech undergoes a more intensive repair and inspection process than returned, open-box and other used conditions. “Certified options give consumers the peace of mind they need when purchasing used models,” says Brad Akyuz, a mobile analyst at NPD Group, a global market research company.
When shopping for certified refurbished products on any of our recommended platforms, Russell recommends keeping the following factors in mind:
- Choose a reputable seller. Many marketplaces host third-party sellers with customer reviews you can read. Look for sellers with lots of positive, recent reviews.
- Check the item’s condition. Most marketplaces sell items in different conditions ranging from fair to excellent, although the specific wording may vary. Research what these cosmetic conditions mean for each marketplace.
- Check the age of the product. Old tech products, especially smartphones that rely on software updates, can experience support and compatibility issues running current day software and hardware, according to Russell. This might lead to reduced longevity and more everyday issues over time.
- Verify details like warranty and return policy. Both policies can be helpful if you need to return or exchange a refurbished product for any reason, similar to how you would at a normal retailer.
- Inspect your item on arrival. When you receive your refurbished item, be sure to look it over thoroughly. If you find issues that were not mentioned in the listing, contact the seller as soon as possible, says Russell.
Is buying refurbished better for the environment?
Shopping refurbished may be a little more complicated than buying new, but there are plenty of savings and environmental benefits to help outweigh some of the cons. “Remanufactured products save up to 98% of CO2 emission compared to equivalent new products,” according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a UK-based charity focused on promoting a zero-waste, circular economy. It makes sense: that replacing the battery in a used phone uses less material than producing a new phone entirely.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Ozzy Russell is the operations manager at Back in the Box, a New Jersey tech refurbisher and seller.
- Brad Akyuz is a mobile analyst at NPD Group, a global market research company.
Why trust Select?
Harry Rabinowitz is a reporter at Select, and has covered consumer tech for over three years. For this piece, he spoke with refurbishers and market analysts to better understand refurbished tech and online retailers that sell them. He also used a refurbished tech product from one of our top picks for over three months.