How to avoid a refurb when buying a used iPhone

A quick check can ensure you are buying what was once a new, retail model and not a refurbished or replacement unit.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
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When you are kicking the tires on a used iPhone , there is no Carfax report you can turn to for the iPhone version of a vehicle history. You can inspect the iPhone for signs of damage, but you can't know if the current owner bought it new just by looking at it. Perhaps the seller is trying to pass off a refurbished or replacement model. Knowing this bit of history about a second-hand iPhone might sway your purchase decision. At the very least, it can help you negotiate a fair price.

Watch this: Here's how to replace the battery in an Apple iPhone 6S

Is that iPhone new or refurbished?

Thankfully, there is an easy way to check the status of an iPhone (or an iPad ) to determine if it's new, refurbished or a replacement model. There's also a fourth category for models that have been personalized with Apple's engraving service.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

To check the status of an iPhone, go to Settings > General > About and take a look at the line for Model. More specifically, take a look at the first letter of the Model number. Here's your key:

  • M: new
  • F: refurbished
  • N: replacement
  • P: personalized

So, if you see a model number like FQCP2LL/A or NLY72LL/A, then you might find yourself with a bit of leverage to negotiate a better price. Or a reason to walk away from the deal.

If you are not a buyer but a seller, then here are the best ways to sell or trade in your iPhone.

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