Apple’s current tablet line-up includes the iPad mini (6th gen), iPad (9th gen), iPad Air (5th gen) and M1 versions of the iPad Pros. With so many options, the refurbished iPad market has expanded, too.
But which is the best way to buy an iPad: new, pre-owned, or refurbished? And what’s the difference? In this article, let’s walk through your options and point to some of the best refurbished iPad deals around.
What does ‘refurbished’ mean?
Refurbished or reconditioned Apple products are pre-owned/second-hand devices. But they have been rigorously tested and repaired to work just like new.
In contrast, buying an iPad that is pre-owned but not refurbished–from eBay or GumTree, for example–means you’re buying the device “as is,” with no post-purchase protection, which makes it slightly riskier if you don’t know the seller. If the previous owner has forgotten to dissociate their Apple ID from the device, you may potentially be locked out from the device. Apple’s customer service won’t be able to help you unlock it without the original Apple ID details because of their strict security policies.
To avoid such troubles, buying refurbished is a nice halfway house between new and second-hand.
If the device is factory refurbished or certified refurbished, as in the case if you buy an Apple-certified refurbished iPad, you can be confident the quality and reliability will match a new device–yet you will make a decent saving. Prices are up to 15 percent cheaper at the Refurbished Store compared to the standard Apple store.
Apple refurbished products undergo a rigorous cleaning, testing, and repairs process. Parts that don’t work or are damaged are replaced so that the final product works just like new.
Some of the pre-owned iPads at the Apple Refurbished Store may have been used only once. Perhaps it’s a unit that was loaned to a journalist, or it was returned promptly by a customer who decided they wanted a different model, or maybe there was a minor fault with it, but Apple has now rectified this as part of the refurbishment process.
Best refurbished iPad deals
Apple 11-inch iPad Pro (M1, 2021, 128GB)
From: Amazon US
Amazon has a handy $120 off the latest M1 iPad Pro. It’s backed by Amazon’s 90-day guarantee. Also give Back Market a look: it may be even cheaper.
Apple iPad mini (2021, 64GB)
Apple iPad mini (2019, 256GB) Wi-Fi + Cellular – Refurbished
The fifth-gen iPad mini has been superseded by a newer model, but this discount on an Amazon Renewed model could make it more appealing.
Apple iPad 10.2in (32GB, 2020, Refurbished) Wi-Fi + Cellular
MusicMagpie has £127 off the 2020 iPad (8th gen) with cellular connectivity in ‘Pristine’ condition.
Apple iPad Air 4 (64GB, 2020) Wi-Fi Only – Refurbished \"Very Good\"
From: Music Magpie
Music Magpie has £139 off a refurbished iPad Air 4 (2020) in “Very Good” condition. It includes a free 12-month warranty for peace of mind and free delivery too.
Apple iPad Pro 11 (Wi-Fi + Cellular, 512GB) – Refurbished
From: Apple Refurbished Store
Pick up the last generation iPad Pro 11 with 4G and 512GB storage directly from Apple but with £260 off the RRP. Delivery is free.
Apple iPad Pro 12.9in (Wi-Fi, 512GB) – Refurbished
From: Apple Refurbished Store
You can also save an incredible £320 on the 12.9in iPad Pro (2018) from the Apple Refurbished Store!
What’s the difference between a refurbished iPad vs a brand-new iPad?
If you buy a refurbished iPad from Apple, you’ll get the same one-year warranty as if you bought a brand-new iPad, all of the manuals and accessories that come with a new iPad, a brand new battery and outer shell and a new white box for it, too.
The new box is not the same as the box you would get if you purchased a new iPad, and we assume this is to prevent people from buying a refurbished iPad and attempting to sell it as new. However, we think you’ll struggle to spot anything different about the contents of that box.
Apple promises that all refurbished iPads it sells are in full working condition, and they have each been fully tested to ensure this. Any parts that were defective when the iPad was returned by its previous owner will have been replaced, and the entire iPad will have been cleaned and inspected to make sure it’s in top-notch condition.
If you’d prefer to have a longer warranty than the one-year version that’s included, you can buy AppleCare+ for your refurbished iPad. AppleCare+ extends your warranty to two years and allows additional technical support, 24/7 access to Apple experts, and hardware coverage for up to two accidental damage incidents. Each damage claim will cost an additional $49/£39, though.
What iPad models can I buy from Apple’s Refurbished store?
The products in Apple’s Refurbished Store can change quite frequently, so you’ll want to check back regularly if the particular product you’re after isn’t available. Stock may vary depending on whether you’re buying from the US or the UK, too.
At the time of writing, we can see the following offers on the US Refurbished Store. Note that these are all previous-generation models.
While the following bargains can be found on the UK Refurbished Store:
Should I buy a refurbished iPad?
It’s absolutely worth considering buying a refurbished iPad. Even if you don’t buy it directly from Apple, there are plenty of other retailers offering refurbished iPads that are worth checking out. If you’re happy with an older generation of iPad, you may find you can get a bigger capacity model or a Wi-Fi + Cellular model for less money.
There are just a few things to keep in mind before your purchase, especially if you do opt for a third-party reseller.
First off, look at the refurbished grade. Often you’ll see this noted as Grade A, Grade B, or Grade C. As you’ve guessed, this correlates with the condition of the device. It’s not an exact science, as each retailer will have its own standards for each grade, but it generally indicates what to expect (especially if you’re buying online).
Grade A refurbished devices should look just like new or have very, very faint signs of use. Meanwhile, Grade B devices may have minor scratches or wear, while Grade C devices will show obvious signs of wear.
Second, ensure the refurbished iPad comes with a warranty. This shouldn’t be too difficult as most resellers will offer coverage for at least one year. A warranty allows you to get repairs and other technical help should the device have any issues.
Pros and cons of buying a refurbished iPad
- Significantly cheaper than buying new
- Includes after purchase warranty services (vs simply buying second-hand)
- Some retailers, including Decluttr in the US and Music Magpie and Handtec in the UK, offer money-back returns within 14 days
- Refurbish quality can vary from retailer to retailer
- Might be difficult to get additional tech support after the warranty expires
- Resale value of a refurbished device won’t be very high if you want to sell the iPad later
Best places to buy refurbished iPads
While the Apple Refurbished Store is an excellent place to buy a reconditioned iPad, you may find stock is limited; and in some cases, other retailers offer newer models second-hand or refurbished at better prices too. Here are a few retailers worth checking out (in alphabetical order):
- Amazon: Amazon has a rigorous refurbishing process (see Tech Advisor’s explainer) which ensures that devices look and work just like new. Most importantly, all devices from Amazon Renewed are backed with a one-year guarantee, which means you can get a refund or replacement within a year of receiving the iPad.
- Back Market: There are some big discounts here. The site says its mission is “to build trust and desire for renewed devices.”
- Best Buy: It’s important to check the grade of pre-owned iPads on Best Buy; some are certified by the site’s Geek Squad subsidiary and others aren’t. You can lower the price by trading in your old device.
- Decluttr: This is the US version of MusicMagpie, an excellent destination for refurbished tech. Not only does it often have competitive prices, you can also reduce prices further by trading in your old tech, books, CDs, and other media.
- Mac Of All Trades: Despite the name, this site has iPads, too. And you can sell used Apple products to make a little money.
UK readers should try the following retailers:
- Amazon: As on the US site, Amazon’s refurbished devices look and work like new and are backed with a one-year guarantee.
- MusicMagpie: A great place to pick up refurbished tech, with competitive prices and the option to trade in your old stuff.
- The iOutlet: The iOutlet is similar to MusicMagpie: you can trade-in your old gadgets such as gaming consoles, phones, tablets, or watches to earn cash towards other purchases. You may not find the absolute latest iPad models, but the iOutlet has an extensive range of Apple products and prices that are pretty much on par with MusicMagpie.
- Envirofone: Envirofone also buys your old phones and tech, including damaged devices. If you choose to get paid in Envirofone credits called “Envirocash“, you can get an extra 12 percent back to spend towards a refurbished device.
- 4Gadgets: 4Gadgets often has sales on refurbished tech including iPads. You won’t find the 2020 models but you can find options from 2018 and 2019 at competitive prices.
We’d also suggest checking out the following refurbished retailers:
All being well, the advice above has helped you reach a decision about how to buy your iPad. If you’re still not sure which model to go for, take a look at our iPad buying guide, as well as our guide to the best iPad deals.
We look at the process of selling an iPad in far more detail in a separate article: How to sell an iPad.