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Thinking About Picking Up A Used Phone? Things to Think About Before Buying a Used Phone

Everyone loves the feeling of unboxing a brand new smartphone and removing the factory plastics from it. However, you always lose a lot of value the moment you remove it from the box. Buying a second-hand device is a great way to save some money on the product you’re interested in. The first owner covers most of the depreciation and you can find some great deals even on recent smartphones.

Buying a new flagship phone or first-of-its-kind from a big-name brand is expensive. The Samsung Galaxy S20 could cost you upwards of $1,000 or more, and its Galaxy Fold F900 runs $1,380.

Having the latest and greatest is nice, but truth be told, most users can get away with a phone that’s one or two generations behind. They’re plenty powerful enough and often cost a fraction of the price of something brand new. Buying a good used phone is an excellent way to save money and yet still end up with a device that’s better than your current one. The decision to purchase is not just about price; here are some factors to ensure you get the most out of your new phone.

In order to ensure the best outcome, being careful is important before buying a used phone. Here are some important things to check before making your decision!

NOTE: Read the following article "What You Should Know Before Buying a Used Cell Phone" This guide will help you minimize the risk to find a great phone at a great price!

When To Buy

The best time to buy a used phone is just after its successor arrives. This is when the early adopters dump their handset as they look to pick up the newest and fanciest model.

In most cases, phones are sold in an annual cycle, but it could vary by a month or so. The Samsung Galaxy S line is often introduced in the spring while its stylus-centric Galaxy Note sibling arrives in the fall. LG tends to split its models in a similar manner.

Google historically releases its Pixel phones in the fall but it did also introduce the low-cost Pixel 4A in the middle of the year. Apple, for its part, debuts its phones in the fall.

If you can time your purchase around the release of a key phone, it could give you something that’s not all that old.

Research The Price

Research The PriceIf you have a particular phone in mind, do a little bit of homework. Find out what others are selling the phone for and get a feel for its price. Browse places like SwappaeBayGlydeGazelle, and Amazon and you’ll get an understanding of what the current value is for a phone. If you’re checking eBay, look for items sold (not just listed) as that’s more indicative.

Pay particular attention to specifications like memory and storage. Many phones do not come with one storage capacity.


Understand The Phone

It doesn’t matter how good a price is for something if it doesn’t work. The most important factor in purchasing a new handset is ensuring that it will work with your current, or prospective carrier. Note whether it is locked to a particular service provider or if it’s unlocked. offers a variety of cellphone unlocking services for phones worldwide regardless of the carrier.



When possible, try to avoid older phones that run software that’s a couple of generations behind. You might find the experience lacking and slow. More importantly, this could mean the phone may no longer receive security updates and patches.

Battery Life

Does your new phone have a removable battery? If not, consider that the battery life might not be as good as it was when the device was new. Lithium-ion batteries tend to lose a very small bit of capacity every day.

Should the new phone be two years old you could be looking at less than desirable battery life. Or, you might have to rely on an external battery more often.

NOTE: More than 36 million Americans have switched to MVNOs, which can save as much as $1,000 or more per year on wireless costs. You can save even more if you bring your own unlocked device. Many MVNOs offer BYOD plans, but they don’t offer cellphone unlocking service if your device is locked to your previous carrier and they don't always offer the best (or any) insurance coverage when you bring your own phone. That’s where third party cell phone insurance providers can help.

most important factor in purchasing a used Cellphone is ensuring that it will work with your current, or prospective carrier

Condition is Key

What are you willing to tolerate? Are you okay with a few scrapes and scratches? Do you mind a dent or two? The more you’re content to overlook, the lower the price goes.

If you’re buying from a friend or co-worker, you probably have a sense of how the phone has been treated. A stranger on the internet? Proceed with caution and make sure you’re protected with a good return policy.

On the other hand, don’t bother with phones with chips and cracks in the glass unless you know what you’re up against. It might be $100-$200 to completely replace the glass. At that rate, you may as well look for something that has its screen.

What Else is Offered?

Are you just buying a phone or are you getting other items with it? The original charger, for instance, could add a little bit of value. Many Android phones offer fast charging and come with a compatible charger.

Does your prospective phone have a screen protector on it? Is there a protective case or two thrown in the bundle? These might save you a few bucks down the road or at least buy you some time.

If your seller has the original box, that’s also a good indication that you aren’t dealing with a stolen phone.

Look Your Phone Over

You’ve pulled the trigger and made the purchase. Congratulations, you have a new (to you) phone!

As soon as you get your phone, start evaluating it. Look it over, check for the imperfections that were, or were not, called out in the sale. Is there anything here that surprises you? 

Check for water damage. On older phones or those with removable batteries, you can look for a red stripe on the battery. If it’s blurred and shows evidence of water, that could pose problems in the long run. Newer models can show water damage through the nano-SIM card slot.

If you find that the phone is not what you expected, move quickly to contact the buyer. The sooner you deal with any problems, or at least call attention to them, the better your chances of a positive resolution.

Know Your Rights

Almost more important than the condition of the used phone, is what kind of return policy they haveAlmost more important than the condition of the used phone, is what kind of return policy they have and the kind of long-term protection they’re offering you. Return policies are usually short, ranging anywhere from two weeks to 30 days, so you’ll want to read the fine print before you buy. If you’re buying a phone from SwappaeBayGlydeGazelle, Amazon, or an online retailer, get a sense of your return policy. What happens if the phone you’re sent doesn’t match up to the description? Can you get your money back? 

Warranties also vary, but it’s almost always worthwhile to look for one that’s bundled in with the sale of the phone and offered by the original manufacturer or refurbisher. It streamlines the process if you do need to send in your phone for repair because you’re dealing with the same place that sold you the phone. You’re also less likely to be sold a protection plan that’s not the right fit, or even invalid, for the device you’re buying.

SAFETY NOTE: Many online sellers don't always offer the best (or any) insurance coverage when you buy a used cellphone. That’s where third party cell phone insurance providers can help.

Most physical damage is easy to spot as soon as you receive your phone, but it can take some time to identify malfunctioning hardware or problematic software.

Make a note of the final day you’re allowed to return your phone and exercise the option if you need to.

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