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Buying a Used Phone: A Comprehensive Guide for Deal Hunters

Updated: May 09,2022

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Mobile phones are constantly being upgraded with the latest features and more accommodating designs that pack plenty of horsepower into small smartphones. But not everyone can afford a shiny new phone. A growing number of consumers are keeping their costs down with great deals on used versions of older models and refurbished phones.

Of course, buying a used phone doesn’t mean you aren’t getting a great device. Some of the best phone deals involve older handsets. If you’re looking to bag a used phone, here are a few things to keep in mind while weighing your options.

Used Cell Phones: Yay or Nay?

If you don’t mind a few scratches that you can cover up with a new screen protector, you’ll love this affordable and eco-friendly option. Sure, there is always a risk of getting ripped off, and it’s only fair to ask: is buying a used phone safe?

As long as you’re taking the necessary precautions, you should be able to avoid any hiccups. For starters, make sure you find a trusted site or a legit online retailer. You should have some idea of what you’re looking for to help you narrow down the long list of options. Once you’ve decided which phone to hang your hat on, make sure it isn’t damaged and that it hasn’t been reported lost or stolen.

Now let’s walk you through all the tips and tricks for buying a used phone.

Know Where to Buy From

If you want to avoid scams and getting fleeced, you’ll have to do your homework. Before you get going, make sure to have a handle on what model you are looking for and the amount of cash you’re ready to spend. Among the many online retailers, there are definitely some that we can vouch for as they have a near-spotless reputation.

  1. Swappa is the first option on the list. Why? Because it’s the most secure website for good phone deals. If you choose this online marketplace, you’ll quickly see why it has a reputation as the best place to buy used phones. All its sellers have to verify that the phone actually belongs to them and that it isn’t stolen. Swappa asks them to take a picture of the device they’re selling with the identification number written on a piece of paper. This enables you to check if the phone is blacklisted by a carrier. In addition, your payments are processed by PayPal, so you can easily ask for a refund if you’re not satisfied with your purchase. But the lower risk comes with its own price tag: the mobile phones being sold here cost more than on other platforms.
  2. If you’re thinking of buying a used cell phone on Craigslist, you’ll find a vast array of models to choose from. However, there are a few rough edges to keep an eye for. One notable downside is the fact that the selection is filled to the brim with cheap phones. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which phone is the right fit.
  3. Those who decide to contact eBay about their offers may get a little overwhelmed. Make sure to read up the detailed descriptions of the phone you want to buy and check the photos. The good thing about buying a used phone on eBay is that you can chat with sellers and get to know all the info firsthand. Also, eBay offers a money-back guarantee, so you’ll get a full refund in case something goes wrong.
  4. Cheap cell phones can be found on Amazon as well. Moreover, you can buy refurbished phones directly from the manufacturer. If you want a used iPhone from Apple, Samsung, Motorola, or LG, you can get them for low prices and with a 90-day guarantee. You can also get smartphones from a third-party reseller, but make sure to go through the reviews and ratings from other buyers.
  5. Buying a used phone on Amazon isn’t that risky. But if you want to be on the safe side, purchasing a refurbished phone from a carrier might be the best option. Verizon phones for sale might be more expensive than those from online retailers, but you can be sure the phone isn’t stolen. The device will work with this wireless network operator, and you’ll have a limited warranty.

Inspect the phone thoroughly

OK, so you’ve got the perfect phone that suits your needs and fits your budget. You did your research and made sure the seller is trustworthy, and the online marketplace isn’t dodgy. But that’s not enough. We’ll tell you what to check when buying a used phone to ensure you’re not being scammed.

Once you get your hands on the phone, whether you’re meeting the seller in person or receiving the device in the mail, make sure to inspect it carefully; you’ll want to check whether it matches the seller’s description and the photos on the website. Remove the covers or screen protectors and search for any scratches, dents, or cracks. Check the camera lens to make sure it isn’t damaged.

When buying a used phone, you’ll also want to plug it in to charge. If you have one of those old-school phones with a removable battery, pop off the rear cover and check if there is any damage underneath. Try to activate your SIM card and perform a factory reset. This will help you ensure that the smartphone isn’t locked to the seller’s Google account or iCloud.

Water damage might be a deal-breaker, but it isn’t always easy to spot. That’s why you’ll need to inspect the device for moisture indicators, which are usually found behind the battery or in the SIM card tray. Buying a second-hand phone can be a daunting task, but if you stick to these practices, you’ll be able to avoid some of the common problems.

If the device you receive doesn’t match the description in the listing, you have the option to call off the purchase and get your money back or open a dispute with a seller. You can also try and renegotiate if you want to keep the phone but for a lower price.

Is Buying a Used Phone a Good Idea?

While most people are itching to upgrade to the latest cell phones, some of us don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for a flagship phone that’ll be outdated as soon as the new generation comes out. You might want an affordable phone for your grandparents, or maybe you decided that your children are old enough for the first phone. Or you might believe in sustainable living, and you’re mindful of your carbon footprint.

Whatever your reasons, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a usable and decent-looking phone that’ll definitely be better than your previous one. Some retailers offer a limited guarantee. Meanwhile, refurbished phones that are unlocked are also a good option because you can buy them directly from the carrier or from the manufacturer, which gives you an extra layer of protection. These are all great options for getting that used iPhone or Android that you’ve had your eye on for ages.


Is buying a used phone worth it?

If you’re not into fancy and shiny brand new phones and you consider yourself to be a deal hunter, then yes, buying a used cell phone is worth it. You can get an excellent model with great features at a reduced cost.

Is it bad to buy a used phone?

Buying used phones is both an eco-friendly option and it’s great for your wallet. These devices have impressive features, and they don’t come with price tags that’ll make you regret your purchase.

What to look out for when buying a used phone?

For starters, you’ll have to decide what model you are looking for. The next step is researching online retailers and websites, checking the seller’s background, and comparing the prices and ratings. Buying a used phone can be tricky; once you’ve decided which one to buy, ask for the serial number to check if it’s blacklisted by the carrier.

Is it better to buy a phone or pay monthly?

It depends on the amount of cash you’re willing to part with. For those who are on a tight budget, monthly plans are probably a better option. Those who can afford to pay for a phone upfront benefit in the long run.

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With a degree in humanities and a knack for the history of tech, Jovan was always interested in how technology shapes both us as human beings and our social landscapes. When he isn't binging on news and trying to predict the latest tech fads, you may find him trapped within the covers of a generic 80s cyberpunk thriller.

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