Important to read this article first
Apple’s range of phones, tablets, and laptops is excellent but rather expensive. The good news is that you can get an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook that’s refurbished to almost new condition for a sizable discount on the price of a new product.
Several retailers specialize in refurbishing Apple products and reselling them at competitive prices. If you live in the USA, we’ve rounded up some of the best places to find and buy refurbished iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks.
What Does It Mean to be “Refurbished”?
Before considering a refurbished Apple product, the first thing you should understand is what the term “refurbished” means. Refurbished products are used, which means they were sold to someone who then traded them in or sold it.
However, the device is tested, and any faulty components are replaced or repaired. Generally, refurbishment also means the device has been cleaned, but minor cosmetic damage such as scratches or scuff marks may be present. However, in terms of functionality, they should be as good as a new product.
Refurbished devices are not the same as “open box” products. Open-box products have been opened but never used. So they are essentially new, might have missing accessories, and only carry a modest discount.
Refurbished devices are usually sold with a 1-year warranty, which further sets them apart from buying a plain used device. The warranty period may be shorter than for a new product or have special terms and conditions that exclude certain things. Still, you have the assurance that if something serious goes wrong within the warranty period, you have some recourse.
Before You Buy a Refurbished Product, Read This
While refurbishment broadly means the same things, there may be significant differences in the fine details among dealers. It’s important to read each company’s refurbishment process and policies to make sure that the amount of risk you’re taking on is reasonable.
First, pay attention to how they test devices and then repair faults they find. Pay special attention to how batteries are handled. Replacing batteries in Apple products has been an issue for some time. The batteries are glued in when it comes to iPhones, iPads, and some MacBooks. They can be replaced, but it’s not a simple job.
If a given company doesn’t replace batteries in their refurbished devices, try to find their acceptable policy for batteries in refurbished products. Devices like iPhones and MacBooks can report on their current battery health, and you will want to know how much life is left in this component.
The other major area that needs your attention is the warranty policy. We think that a 1-year warranty is a good minimum warranty. Any period less than one year and there may not be enough time for more serious hidden problems to manifest.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with what each warranty covers. Remember that no warranty can override consumer laws. In some places, there are consumer protection laws that let you return products under certain conditions regardless of what a given return policy says.
Finally, be sure that the Apple product you buy refurbished isn’t too old at this point to be useful. For example, you can get great refurbished deals on an Apple iPad Air 2, but it’s a tablet from 2014. While iOS 15 still supports it, we’re getting close to the end of its lifecycle and potential incompatibility with apps. So unless you have a very specific use for it, it’s probably better to look for something a little newer.
For further reading, have a look at Should You Buy a Refurbished Mac: Pros & Cons.
Apple itself is quite possibly the best place to buy a refurbished iPhone, iPad, or MacBook. This is one of the few places you can get any Apple product in a refurbished state. That includes the Apple Watch, Mac Mini, and the big desktop Macs.
They are (obviously) the experts at repairing their products. They only use genuine parts and offer almost the same warranty and after-sales support you get with a new product.
The main drawback when buying refurbished products from Apple itself is that the discounts aren’t quite as steep as other options. However, you can trade your old Apple stuff for store credit, sweetening the deal even further.
An example of a great deal is an unlocked iPhone 11 Pro Max 512GB. It’s nearly $300 less than the retail price for a new model and includes a new battery and outer shell.
Amazon has a special category of products known as “renewed” products, including pre-owned, refurbished, and open-box products.
Amazon uses third-party refurbishers who comply with their requirements. These products must have at least 80% of their battery capacity left or 90% in the case of “Renewed Premium” products. Renewed gadgets must also have no visible imperfections when held 12 inches or further from the eye. If you’re buying an iPhone from the Amazon Renewed Store, you should also be aware that they don’t guarantee the original waterproof rating, if any.
Except for Amazon’s own devices, all renewed products are covered by a special limited warranty. The standard warranty is only 90 days, sadly. However, if you buy a “renewed premium” product, you’ll get a one-year warranty instead. Apart from theft, accidental damage, and tampering, Amazon is pretty generous with their returns, and you’ll almost certainly get a refund if there’s something wrong.
Here’s an example of a great deal on a MacBook Pro. For less than $700, you could have a 15-inch MacBook Pro with at least 80% of its battery capacity left and more than enough performance from its Core i7 CPU for most users.
Best Buy is one of the largest retailers in the USA, but most of its customers probably don’t know that they deal in refurbished electronics and new items. Their refurbished computer products are certified by GeekSquad, and as Best Buy describes it, the products have been restored to “like-new” condition.
The warranty for these products varies on a per-product basis, so be sure to check the terms individually. Their refurbished products benefit from the same return and exchange policy as new products.
Here, an example of a great deal is this Space Gray 64GB Apple iPad Mini 4 Wi-Fi.
Other World Computing is a specialist refurbisher and probably one of the best-known sellers of refurbished Macs. Their technicians are Apple Certified, and they can even do custom upgrades to Macs so you can get something better than new when it comes to performance or SSD space.
Be sure to check the warranty for each product, but as an example, the Apple factory refurbished computers we looked at on the OWC site come with a one-year limited warranty from the date of purchase. You also get a 14-day money-back guarantee, as long as the seal (if applicable) isn’t broken. Otherwise, there’s a 15% restocking fee.
OWC also offers an extended warranty option called OWC Eclipse, so for an additional fee, you can have a little more peace of mind.
An example of a great deal from OWC is this 27-inch iMac 5K Retina Display model.
Mac of All Trades is another specialist Apple product refurbisher in the business for more than 25 years. They use certified technicians to refurbish their products, offer free shipping within the contiguous USA, and a free hardware warranty.
The selection of products on offer is staggering, and the turnover rate seems to be quite fast, so if you don’t find what you want, check back regularly. Their refurbished products include a one-year warranty, but you do get the option of adding a two-year “Platinum Coverage” option for an additional amount.
We do like that Mac of All Trades lets you quickly add accessories and other optional extras right there on the product page, so you get a clear idea of what it will cost to buy everything you need.
An example of a great deal from Mac of All Trades is this 5th Generation 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro Wi-Fi 128GB. It’s a factory-sealed refurbished iPad.
At the time of writing, this is the latest model for about $100 less than a new model. Considering you’re getting pretty much the same thing, that 10% saving isn’t to be sniffed at, and you can get an even better deal by trading in your old Apple stuff first.
Refurb.me is a little different from the other stores listed here. They don’t refurbish anything themselves. Instead, the company curates a list of products from certified refurbishers and lets you quickly compare deals.
One downside of this is that there’s no blanket warranty, so you’ll have to check each product individually. However, Refurb.me only allows products with a minimum 30-day warranty. They’ve also handily brought together all the warranty information from the biggest resellers on a single web page.
This is by far the fastest way to compare refurbished Apple products available for order. You can also set up an email alert, so you know the minute a product matching your needs becomes available. That’s a crucial feature for all you Rose Gold fans out there since there never seem to be any Apple products in that color available for very long.
Refurb. It is also great because it’s not just limited to the mainline Apple stuff. You can also search for things like AirPods, Pro XDR Displays, HomePods, Apple TVs, and anything that has an Apple logo on it.
When you select a category like “Mac,” you can also choose from standard search parameters like “MacBooks Under $500” or “Scissor Keyboard.” It’s really simple to find exactly what you’re looking for.
For example, here, we’ve searched for a 2020 MacBook Air in excellent condition.
As you can see, the results show us products that match this description from different manufacturers. We particularly like that you can see exactly how much you’re saving compared to the current new price for that MacBook Air.
7. Back Market
Back Market (an apparent play on Black Market) is a site with a hip sense of humor, but most of all, it’s got lots of great deals on refurbished technology. It’s not just limited to Apple products. Back Market offers products from Samsung as well, if you want to hop over to the Android side of the fence.
They also renew Apple AirPods, which is a relative rarity given that they go inside people’s ears. If you’re looking for a refurbished MacBook or iPad, then you’re in Back Market’s comfort zone, and they have great deals. As a nice little touch, each product listing also tells you how much e-waste you’ve saved the planet, so you get to feel extra good about yourself.
A great example of a good deal is this 2020 MacBook Pro, which the site helpfully indicates sells 24% less than its retail price.
Decluttr is a general used goods online store where you can easily sell your stuff or buy used stuff. They have a dedicated certified refurbished tech section which includes iPhones, MacBooks, iMacs, iPads, and even iPods.
These refurbished products come with a one-year limited warranty against technical defects and improper workmanship. There’s also a 14-day “no questions asked” return policy in case you feel burned soon after receiving your product.
We love that Decluttr lists the complete set of checks that they do for their products, such as this extensive iPhone testing list.
They also use PhoneCheck to calculate the health of an iPhone’s battery and replace batteries that fail.
An example of a great deal from Decluttr is this pristine-grade 64GB iPhone X.
Good as New!
With all these great sources of refurbished Apple products, you almost have to wonder why anyone buys them new. Then again, there wouldn’t be anything to refurbish without those people buying a new iPad!