When buying a refurbished product—whether that be a refurbished iPhone or a refurbished MacBook—one of the most important factors is the cosmetic condition. You want to be confident that the refurbished device you’re buying doesn’t look beat up, and that it won’t completely fall to pieces the minute you open the box.

Good news is, there is an entire grading scale in place regarding the cosmetic quality of a refurbished iPhone or MacBook. We'll get into the specific definitions below and cover all the key information you need to know.

Keep in mind that a good refurbished product has:

  • been treated right by its previous owner;
  • been repaired properly by the retailer or manufacturer;
  • gone through a rigorous testing process before going on the market.We’ve already addressed the question “Do refurbished phones have scratches?” on the RefurbMe blog, but this question only scratches the surface (no pun intended!) of the topic of the cosmetic condition of a refurbished product.

Refurbished Grades: What Are They?

A refurbished grade is a grade which denotes the quality of a refurbished product or device. Refurbished products are graded depending on 3 factors:

  • how many cosmetic imperfections they have (e.g. scratches, scuffs, and other marks);
  • how much the product has been used by its previous owner;
  • what packaging it comes in.

Refurbished grades are designed to give you a better idea of what to expect from a refurbished product. It’s unlikely that refurbished retailers will count exactly how many tiny scratches you can see on the lid of a refurbished MacBook. Still, this grading system is designed to give you as much information as possible so that you can be confident in your purchase.

The standard system of refurbished grades runs on a scale from Grade A all the way to Grade C, with Grade A offering the best quality and Grade C offering the lowest quality refurbished device. Let's dive into the definitions of each of these grades.

Refurbished Grade A, B, C, and D definition

What Does Refurbished Grade A Mean?

Refurbished Grade A is the very best quality that you could expect from a refurbished MacBook or iPhone. Grade A refurbished devices are in near-mint condition. Their cosmetic aspect is excellent and they show next to no signs of previous use.

With a refurbished Grade A phone, you will see very minimal amounts of scuffing on the case. A refurbished Grade A laptop will look (almost) like new, with very minimal amounts of scuffing and marks and the lid, keyboard and other areas of its design. Grade A devices will likely show typical signs of light usage (e.g. slight marks on the keys) but you shouldn’t expect to see any scratches, chips or significant blemishes.

What Does Refurbished Grade B Mean?

Refurbished Grade B is the second-best quality you can expect from a refurbished device. Refurbished Grade B products feature some light scratches or scuffs. Bear in mind this is only a cosmetic condition difference with Grade A devices; Grade B laptops and phones are tested thoroughly and are perfectly functional.

Because of these small signs of use, Grade B products are more affordable than refurbished Grade A devices. Something to keep in mind if your budget is restricted.

What Does Refurbished Grade C Mean?

Refurbished Grade C is the lowest quality of a refurbished phone or laptop that is still in working order. Although refurbished Grade C devices have been tested and are confirmed to work, they do show signs of heavy or even excessive usage by their previous owner.

You will see very noticeable cosmetic issues with a refurbished Grade C device including more significant scratches and signs of wear and tear on the case or lid. Grade C devices are cheaper than Grade A and Grade B products, making them ideal for those who need a new phone or laptop but have very little money to spare.

What are refurbished grades A, B, C, and D

What About Refurbished Retailers Who Use A Different Grading System?

Refurbished grade A, B, and C are the most commonly used ways that refurbisher retailers tell you about the quality of their products. But not all retailers use this lettered grading system.

How RefurbMe grades their refurbished devices

Because our refurbished retail partners use so many different terms, on RefurbMe, we list three different cosmetic conditions: “Fair”, “Good” and “Excellent.” Excellent devices are like new (equivalent to Grade A) and Good devices are in working condition but have some light cosmetic issues (equivalent to Grade B). Fair devices have light but plainly visible scratches on the body.

All of the devices that we list work perfectly. Our “Fair”, “Good” and “Excellent” rating is there to make buying refurbished products more accessible and intuitive than the grading system.

How BackMarket grades their refurbished devices

Refurbished retailer BackMarket uses five different grading terms: Stallone, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Shiny, with Stallone being poorest quality and Shiny being the best. Shiny is equivalent to refurbished Grade A, as Shiny products will look “brand new,” while Stallone is like Grade C as there will be “visible scratches” and some dents. We recognize that this can be confusing; that’s why at RefurbMe, we simplify it with 3 separate grades.

How Gazelle grades their refurbished devices

Meanwhile, refurbished retailer Gazelle lists three different grading terms: Excellent, Good, and Fair which are equivalent to refurbished grade A, B, and C, respectively. Mac of All Trades, on the other hand, lists five cosmetic conditions for its refurbished MacBooks: Fair (only available on clearance), Good, Excellent, Mint, and New–Open Box which is a device in mint condition that comes with all of its original packaging and items from Apple.

If you’re curious about the testing process of refurbished MacBook/refurbished iPhone devices, head over to our helpful guides: Refurbished MacBook testing guide and Refurbished iPhone testing guide.

Do Refurbished Products Come With a Warranty?

The answer here should be: yes!

When buying a refurbished product—of any grade—it’s important to get a warranty. While refurbished devices are typically tested thoroughly, a warranty will protect you if anything goes wrong or if the refurbished device you’ve purchased isn’t the cosmetic quality you expected.

It’s worth noting that every device listed on RefurbMe (including refurbished iPhones, MacBooks, Apple Watches, iPads, and iMacs) comes with a minimum 30-day warranty. Many retailers will also have no-hassle money back or return policies, allowing you to return a device or get a replacement if need be.

Warranties and the refurbished grades help you feel confident that you're getting a quality product along with a good discount. These indicators let you know that you’re paying for a reliable device—and the refurbished device warranty will support that.

In Conclusion

  • Refurbished Grade A: The best quality of refurbished device. Near-mint condition, excellent cosmetic level, and little signs of previous use.
  • Refurbished Grade B: The second-best quality of refurbished device. Light scuffing on the bezel and light scratches on the case or body as a result of gentle use.
  • Refurbished Grade C: The lowest-quality of refurbished device. 100% in working order but will have more scratches and signs of wear and tear as a result of heavy, daily use.

Did you find this article helpful? Sign-up to the RefurbMe newsletter for the latest refurbished deals, new product announcements, and top money-saving tips. (We have a no-spam guarantee.)