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(Pocket-lint) - Mobile phones have increasingly become more sophisticated and powerful. And, funnily enough, they’ve also got more expensive at the same time. One clever way to save money is to buy a refurbished handset. But where should you go and what do you need to look out for?

Refurbished phones don’t mean worn handsets with poor battery life and dog-eared corners. At least, they don't’ have to. You may have to manage without the original packaging, but you should definitely see a charging cable with the phone. Sometimes there’s a charging plug, too, but realistically if it doesn’t come with that, you’re likely to have an old charging plug knocking about, right? Companies use a scale to decide whether a refurbished phone is near-perfect or rather less than that. Often, it’s a scale from A to D, say but not always.

But there are definitely savings to be made, especially if choosing the very latest handset isn’t your top priority.

1) Quick Mobile Fix

One of the advantages of buying a refurbished phone, Quick Mobile Fix points out, is that you’re not locked into a particular network. So, if there’s suddenly a cheaper tariff on a different network you can switch and save money. Your phone needs to be unlocked for this, of course, but most of the phones it sells are. Every phone it handles has been fully tested by its in-house team of testers, then cleaned and repaired, if necessary - all of which differentiates refurbished from simply used. You can choose between a basic bundle (includes phone, charging cable, sim card tool) and a full bundle which adds the charging plug and sometimes a screen protector. Quick Mobile Fix only uses top quality parts if repairs are necessary.

2) Mobile Phones Direct

Mobile Phones Direct points out that a refurbished handset could be one that’s been returned just because of a change of mind within a cooling off period. As such, they can’t be sold as brand new but make terrific refurbished phones. The company says that in every case, phones are inspected and tested. The warranty lasts six months on Apple, Motorola and BlackBerry handsets, and there’s a year’s warranty on all other brands. Products are either in the original packaging or a new white box, with battery and charger. But Mobile Phones Direct says most phones also include extra accessories such as headphones.

3) Carphone Warehouse

Carphone Warehouse has a bold claim about its refurbished phones, saying, “We challenge you to tell the difference”. It also says the average saving over buying brand-new is 40 per cent. You can buy a refurbished phone on contract or sim-free, though in both cases these are currently limited to handsets from two brands, Apple and Samsung. The company says that all its refurbished phones have been returned by customers very soon after purchase, so are in near-mint condition, all Grade A. Phones come in a plain white unbranded box, with charger and charging cable. Carphone Warehouse says headphones are not included for hygiene reasons. It also says all its refurbished phones are unlocked and come with a year’s warranty.

4) Envirofone

This company has been going for a while, since 2005, in fact. It does a 100-point check and says it allocates the grade just on its physical appearance. These grades have names like “New boxed” when it comes in original packaging, and “Refurbished excellent condition” if there’s minor, isolated wear and tear, for instance. The website has a useful advice centre page with information on choosing the right phone and what to do if you drop your phone in water. And if that’s something you’ve done, unlike some companies, Envirofone accepts damaged handsets! All the refurbished phones it sells are contract-free and come with a 12-month warranty. Oh, and there’s a 30-day cooling off period to change your mind.

5) Buy Mobiles

This company has been selling phones for even longer: 21 years, and has a reputation for good service. Refurbished iPhones come with the abbreviation CPO, that means it’s official Apple Certified Pre-Owned, with a one-year warranty and brand-new battery, plus a new outer shell, all contained in a white box. There are also headphones, power adapter and Lightning cable. Phones are available on contract or as a sim-free purchase. Buy Mobiles focuses on iPhones for its refurbished handsets.