Used, Refurbished, or Pre-owned: Which one is better?

Used, Refurbished, or Pre-owned: Which one is better?

A Mint Canada Consumer Advice Article

If you don’t need the latest version of your device or can’t afford the high cost of buying new, you can find great deals by searching for “Used”, “Refurbished”, or “Pre-owned” phones or tablets. Each description offers discounts, but what exactly does each term mean and what compromises do you have to accept? Here are the differences, the advantages, and the risks of each:



The “Used” label covers a wide range of conditions from almost-new to almost-dead. You’re probably dealing with a private seller, which means you’re accepting a phone or tablet as-is. Most private sellers offer a limited warranty, although details aren’t clear on when/how it applies.

Sound vague? It is. Because of the uncertainty, used devices usually offer the greatest discounts as well as the most risk. There is no standard for quality or reliability, and little recourse should the phone or tablet not work.

Check the seller’s reviews and don’t be shy about asking questions and requesting pics.



“Refurbished” means the device has had work done before being resold, either by the vendor or manufacturer. That could mean it’s simply been cleaned, or a screen or battery may have been replaced. These types of straightforward upgrades will leave you with a device that’s almost as good as new. In other cases, defective parts were repaired or replaced. Check the company doing the ‘refurbishment’. Is the device certified? What warranty is offered?

Apple and Samsung are two companies that sell certified refurbished devices that are brought back to good-as-new condition. Independent repair companies also offer high quality refurbished devices. Most of these licenced sellers offer warranties that cover a full year.

Because they’ve gone through rigorous upgrades and testing, certified refurbished phones and tablets don’t offer the same discounted prices as pre-owned or used. You can find greater savings on refurbished devices by purchasing from private sellers, but the condition is harder to verify and warranties harder to enforce.



“Pre-owned” usually refers to a device that’s been well-maintained and in good condition, but with no work or upgrades done to it. The term is used when a phone or tablet was used lightly and still within its original warranty period. Keep in mind, “Pre-owned” is not the same as “Open box”, which refers to a new device that was opened but not used.

The catch with “Pre-owned” is the term is sometimes interchangeable with “Used”, creating a false impression of the device’s condition. There’s no legal dividing line between the two terms. Nor is there a standardized guide for product descriptions. A device described as “Excellent”, “Very good”, or “Good” might mean different things to different sellers. You’re probably safe with “Excellent”, but there is plenty of grey area between “Very good” and “Good”.

In all cases, check reviews of the seller, along with their rating.

Mint Canada offers Fully Guaranteed Certified Pre-Owned Phones and Tablets at great prices – click here