Used vs. refurbished

What is the difference between refurbished and used electronics?

Published Jan 23, 2023 - It can be easy to get refurbished and used electronics confused. But there’s a big difference — we break it down, below.

Used vs. refurbished

Refurbished. Used. Pre-owned. Secondhand. It can get confusing. Aside from the syllable count, there are a lot of (important) differences between a used device and a refurbished one.

When you’re looking for tech that’s better for your wallet and the planet, you only need to look for one word — refurbished. That’s because a used device is sold to you “as is,” and a refurbished device has been repaired to like new quality.


What to expect when buying used devices

Used: Vintage is great for streetwear and your dad’s favorite band tees from the 80s, not so much for electronics. Buying “used” or “secondhand” devices means you’re buying the device in the condition the previous owner left it in. Battery damage? Scratches? Spicy photos from their ex-hubby? It’s all there. And while the person or place you're buying it from may tell you that it works, you really don’t know how well until you have the device in hand. By then, it’s too late to take it back. Used tech like this is typically sold without any sort of return policy or warranty. 

You also don’t know if the device’s electrical wiring is up to snuff — aka, that used MacBook Pro might burn your house down. That might sound a little dramatic, but the lack of safety enforcement for used tech is a big problem. You also might miss out on a manufacturer-issued recall for a faulty part. 

Sure, you might save the most cash when you buy used, but without a guarantee of battery life — or basic functionality — it can be a big risk, especially for a piece of tech that’s so integral to our everyday lives.

What does refurbished mean?

Does refurbished mean used? Technically yes, all refurbished devices have been used before. But a refurbished device doesn’t go straight from one hand to the next. Imagine that “used” device again — except with a serious glow up. Expert technicians have tested the battery, repaired major dents or scratches, and even taken it apart to replace damaged parts. Broken camera? Fixed. Battery? Replaced. Scratches? Buffed out to shiny-smooth. (Those high school reunion pics? Wiped — sorry, class of 2005). Once the reconditioning process is complete, the refurbished phone, laptop, tablet or any other device functions just like new. It’s also been tested for safety, to avoid the risks that used tech brings. 

These are the kind of devices you can find on Back Market. And even though we know they’re great, we also make sure that they come with the sort of guarantees you need to know, too. Things like a 1-year warranty, 30 days to change your mind, and free shipping. If something does go wrong, you have real humans to talk to, 6 days a week.

Back Market’s special sauce: How we ensure quality

That’s refurbished in general. What about refurbished… at Back Market? Not to toot our own horn (just kidding, we’re tootin’), we’re a cut above the rest. We have our own set of rules and procedures for the devices we sell. We’ve developed stress testing for device packaging, and make recommendations so our sellers know how to best package devices, so your device will arrive ship shape and scroll ready.

Devices undergo procedures like flash and tactile tests to make sure touch screens and cameras are fully functional.  We continually monitor our sellers through secret shopping, onsite visits to refurbishment centers, and of course, our customer’s reviews. We also know that most problems with tech surface only after constant use — which is why every device we sell comes with 30 days to change your mind and a 1-year warranty, all for the price of free 99. Finally, our Innovation Lab, at the heart of these operations, even develops new refurbishment processes that have become the industry standard. 

Watch how, below:

How Back Market categorizes refurbished devices

We also categorize devices on Back Market by their cosmetic grades, to make sure you know exactly what you can expect your device arrives. Depending on the grade of the device you purchase, you can expect either a little bit of cosmetic wear and tear or none at all.

Grade: Fair

  • Screen: May have micro-scratches which could be slightly noticeable when the screen is turned on.

  • Body: Has visible scratches and/or dents.

Grade: Good

  • Screen: Perfect condition

  • Body: May have micro-scratches visible from 20 inches away.

Grade: Excellent

  • Screen: Perfect condition

  • Body: May have barely visible micro-scratches, not noticeable from 8 inches away.

No matter the cosmetic grade, every device functions like new.

The extra mile: Why refurbished is better than new

Is refurbished better than used? It’s a pretty resounding yes. But refurbished is also better than new. When you purchase a smartphone from Back Market, you’re not just getting a like new device for significantly less than like new price. Your environmental impact also shrinks. On average, a refurbished smartphone has 91.6% less carbon emissions compared to a new smartphone. It also uses significantly less water, raw materials, and e-waste (learn more about sustainability at Back Market). Refurbished tech is not just guaranteed to work like new, it’s better for the planet, too. 

Now that you know the difference between refurbished and used, you’re ready to take the plunge. Browse our bestsellers, or if you need a second opinion, read our reviews.